Lions Provide Encouraging Update On Key Defensive Piece In Week 15

Yardbarker

A big reason why the Detroit Lions have experienced a little bit of a slide in recent weeks has been the performance of their defense. The Lions started off the season hot on that side of the ball, complementing their explosive offense well. But, over the last weeks, they have begun regressing, looking more like the unit that struggled in 2022.

At 9-4, the Lions are still in control of the NFC North with a two-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings. But, with two matchups remaining this season, that lead could disappear without the defense getting back on track.

Luckily for Detroit, they look like they will get an unexpected boost defensively very soon. Versatile safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson was medically cleared to return this week, according to head coach Dan Campbell via Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

Gardner-Johnson was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn pectoral in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. It was an injury many expected to sideline him for the entirety of the season, but his 21-day practice window is expected to be opened sometime next week.

“He’s one of the X-Men, he’s got these mutant genes because he has healed extremely quickly, and he’s gotten his strength back. It is secure,” Campbell said. “So, yeah, he’s going to be ready to go here pretty soon.”

Gardner-Johnson’s return could not be coming at a better time. The Lions have surrendered at least 25 points in five straight games. That is the longest active streak in the NFL and one they would like to snap as soon as possible.

Signed away from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason, the Lions had big plans for Gardner-Johnson. Listed as a safety, he can also be deployed as a slot cornerback, providing defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn with some flexibility when it comes to his lineups. That talent was on full display in the first two games he played in, as he registered 13 tackles with two passes defended.

“[Lions general manager Brad Holmes] and I need to talk about it, but it’s good news, and certainly the plan will be, let’s get him going ASAP to get him practicing, get his legs back under him, get him in shape … football shape,” Campbell said. “But that’s great news. That’s a credit to him, too, now. He’s been working.”

The Lions will host the Denver Broncos in Week 15 before heading on the road for a two-game road trip. The first, of which, will be a massive game against the Vikings before visiting the Dallas Cowboys. Their regular-season finale will be another matchup with Minnesota, and the team hopes to have Gardner-Johnson back before that point.

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