The Detroit Lions have seen their first real shred of adversity hit them before the 2021 season has even gotten underway on the field with the health of offensive tackle Taylor Decker.
After being limited on Wednesday and missing on Thursday, Decker’s hand injury has now been revealed to be something that will keep him down for a while. That was according to head coach Dan Campbell, who admitted that news before practice on Friday, September 10.
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Speaking to the media before practice, Campbell revealed the bad news that Decker’s health situation could be complicated in the short term.
“Taylor Decker had a hand injury early in the week and it looks like he’s going to be down for a little bit. So we’ll adjust from there and we’ll move forward,” Campbell said to open up his availability on September 10.
When pressed on the specifics, Campbell admitted that the injury occurred in practice during a drill, and the team would know more about the long-term effects, but wasn’t likely planning to have Decker for Week 1.
“It was a hand injury, like he does it was just in a pass protection, Threw the punch, threw the hand and the injury took place. He’ll meet with the doctor later today and we’ll know, but it doesn’t look good for this weekend,” Campbell admitted.
At this point, it seems as if Decker will be lost perhaps for a few games early on, but the definitive announcement will likely come after the team gets a better idea of what they’re dealing with in terms of the injury.
How Lions Can Account for Taylor Decker’s Absence
For Detroit, if there can be a silver lining, it comes in the fact that the team has some versatility at the tackle spot on their roster. Not only does rookie Penei Sewell have left tackle experience, the lions have others on their roster who have played tackle before, including a player in Matt Nelson who has played at tackle before and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who has done the same with 30 career starts.
Chris Burke of The Athletic outlined some potential options the Lions could be weighing on Twitter in terms of who to start where.
For Detroit, it will take some time and some juggling in practice to see how the team wants to roll this unit out. On the outside, it would make sense for the team to move Sewell over temporarily, see how he fares and start Nelson at right tackle. Dating back to last season, Nelson has experience doing such a thing when he played in an emergency role against the Chicago Bears and held his own against Khalil Mack. It wouldn’t seem the Lions would want to move Vaitai over to tackle when he could be better suited for guard, but that will be a decision for the team to make in time based on how guard Logan Stenberg might look in practice. He could be hungry to find a role.
At the very least, the Lions might not be in a desperate spot in terms of depth and has some things to try in Decker’s absence.
T.J. Hockenson Believes Matt Nelson Ready to Play
If it indeed is Nelson that is called on to step up, there are no worries with the team because it’s next man up and that man is someone the Lions feels as if they can count on. Speaking with the media on Thursday, September 9 in an interview posted to DetroitLions.com, tight end T.J. Hockenson admitted that while Decker would be a key loss, he has faith in Matt Nelson stepping up and playing a big role.
“Taylor (Decker’s) one of those guys, he’s been a captain the last few years. Just a guy you feed off of. On the same hand, it’s next man up. Matt Nelson’s a good player. He’s been in it with us the last couple years so I think he’s ready for a challenge,” Hockenson told the media. “Football is one of those games where it’s next man up and you can’t really think about stuff like that. You have to move on. Taylor’s a great player and we’d love to have him. When he comes back whenever that is we’re going to keep rolling. That’s not something you can really think about or hang your hat on.”
Not only might the Lions have questions about Nelson, but Penei Sewell as well. Hockenson isn’t worried about any of that, or his own role for that matter.
“Rookie left tackle, but (Penei Sewell’s) a baller. Matt Nelson blocked Khalil Mack last year so I think we’ll be alright up front. I’m not really worried about it. Yeah I’m going to be blocking, but that was already a given,” Hockenson said.
Whatever changes occur, Hockenson seems more than ready, and has faith in the players set to play, no matter who it is or where they line up. That will be important with this new new on Decker’s health.