Allen Park — The Detroit Lions had been relatively healthy heading into the second game of the season, but the injuries piled up during the team’s overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. As it currently stands, the team will likely be without edge rusher James Houston and starting guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai for multiple weeks.
Lions coach Dan Campbell said Houston suffered an injured fibula. The NFL Network reported earlier Monday that the defender suffered a fracture, which will sideline him for six to eight weeks. The injury occurred during a kickoff early in the third quarter when Houston had his leg fold under him while pursuing Seattle’s return man.
That injury is a blow to Detroit’s pass rush, which has struggled to get to the quarterback through the first two games of the season, recording just one sack. Houston, a sixth-round draft pick in 2022, racked up 8.0 sacks in seven games as a rookie.
The Lions entered the year deep on the edge, but Houston is the second player they’ve lost in the past few days, after Josh Paschal landed on injured reserve because of a knee injury suffered during Thursday’s practice.
Starters Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris have been shouldering much of the early-season workload, with Hutchinson on the field for more than 92% of the team’s defensive snaps through two weeks. The remaining rotation is rounded out by John Cominsky and Romeo Okwara, who was a healthy scratch in Week 1, but figures to have an increasingly larger role in the next few weeks to backfill Paschal and Houston’s snaps.
The Lions are also scheduled to get Julian Okwara back in the coming weeks. He began the season on injured reserve, but will be eligible to return to action for Detroit’s Week 5 game against Carolina on Oct. 8.
In the short term, the Lions could promote Raymond Johnson III from the team’s practice squad. The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder appeared in 15 games for the New York Giants in 2021.
As for Vaitai, he exited because of a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Campbell said the early expectation is that Vaitai would avoid a stint on injured reserve, which would shut him down for at least four weeks, but the team wouldn’t know for sure without further medical evaluation.
Detroit implemented a contingency plan at guard this offseason after Vaitai missed the entire 2022 campaign because of a back injury that required surgery, signing experienced veteran Graham Glasgow. He finished the game for Vaitai on Sunday. In terms of depth, the Lions have rookie Colby Sorsdal and would likely promote Kayode Awosika off the practice squad after temporarily elevating him from that unit for Sunday’s game.
In addition to Houston and Vaitai, Campbell said running back David Montgomery is day-to-day because of the thigh injury that sidelined him in the second half. If the backfield bell cow is unable to go against Atlanta this Sunday, the Lions are expecting to lean on a committee approach, with rookie Jahmyr Gibbs seeing expanded playing time.
Gibbs went from 19 snaps in the season opener to playing 32 against Seattle, finishing with seven carries for 17 yards and seven receptions for 39 more.
“He got a little bit more (against Seattle), and there was some plays he made and there were a lot he left out (on the field),” Campbell said. “That’s part of being a rookie. He’ll get better from those the more exposure he gets and we need him to grow. He will.”