It was lined up to be that way anyway, but Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has confirmed the team’s immediate plan to replace Tracy Walker.
It’s never easy, and in fact it’s impossible in most cases, to replace a team captain and one of the leading tacklers on a team. But in the wake of safety Tracy Walker’s season-ending Achilles’ tear in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings, that’s what the Detroit Lions are left to do.
JuJu Hughes replaced Walker against Minnesota and played the remaining defensive snaps in that game. Rookie Kerby Joseph got some run on special teams again, and he has yet to play a defensive snap in three games. Second-year man Ifeatu Melifonwu, who missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury as he makes the transition for corner to safety, is likely to be in the mix to replace Walker too.
A trade for anyone worthwhile to replace Walker is unlikely, and any free agent available as the calendar nears flipping to October is available for a reason. Poaching someone off another team’s practice squad might be a better avenue, but likely not all that much better.
Aaron Glenn confirms Lions initial plan to replace Tracy Walker
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn spoke to the media on Thursday. He confirmed the obvious, that Hughes, Joseph and Melifonwu will compete to replace Walker opposite DeShon Elliott. None of the three have started an NFL game at safety.
Via Pride of Detroit:
All three of those are going to get a chance,” Glenn said. “And I’ll be honest with you and tell you listen: we’re going to see who’s going to be the best one this week, and we’re going to put that guy into play. One of those guys has to step up.”
Hughes drew praise from Glenn and head coach Dan Campbell for his work against the Vikings, as he finished with eight tackles. He is likely to start, and make his first career start, Sunday against the Seahawks. But Joseph, a raw prospect who showed a nose for the ball in one full season playing safety at Illinois, could certainly assert himself. And Melifonwu will be an intriguing size/speed blend until proven otherwise.
At least for now, the Lions will replace Walker internally and try to find the best option in an open competition. It’s still pretty unlikely that plan changes, but if one of the current trio fails to emerge there should be a re-evaluation of options.