Lions without 3 starters on O-line in must-win game at Bengals; complete info on inactives for both teams

Running backs Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington are inactive

OK, it’s musical chairs time again on the Lions offensive line as they play a must-win game today against the Bengals at Cincinnati.

It’s the 10th different configuration for the Lions’ offensive line in their 15th game, all due to injuries.

Three typical starters are out.

Center Travis Swanson will miss his second straight game with a concussion. He was declared out on Friday.

Right guard T.J. Lang (foot) will not play after being listed as doubtful on Friday.

Right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) was questionable and indeed will be inactive.

Once again, Graham Glasgow will start at center with Joe Dahl expected to go at left guard just like he did last week. We’ll have to see who will start at right tackle and right guard.

Seriously the Lions are running out of healthy offensive linemen. Tackle Brian Mihalik is active but missed practice all week with an illness. Healthy linemen are Corey Robinson, Don Barclay and Emmett Cleary.

Other Lions inactives: defensive tackle Rodney Coe, wide receiver Bradley Marquez, along with running backs Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington.

Bengals inactives: WR Cody Core, DB KeiVarae Russell, RB Jarveon Williams, DT Josh Tupou, OL Cedric Ogbuehi, OL Justin Murray and DT Andrew Billings.

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Five things to watch as the Lions face the Bengals in must-win game

Protecting Matthew Stafford os key

If ever there was a game the LIons should win it’s this matchup on Sunday at Cincinnati.

The Bengals (5-9) have no playoff hopes, so all they’re playing for is pride.

The Lions (8-6) must win to keep their playoff hopes alive, plus they need help.

Cincinnati has been the only focus for the team this week. They seriously do not look ahead.

“We try to encourage them just to focus on what we can control, what we do. And there’s 16 games in the season, you play them out no matter how they fall. You take a look at it at the end and see where you are, and I think that’s where we are at this stage,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

If they finish 10-6 and do not make it to the postseason they can only blame themselves.

Five things to watch against the Bengals:

1. Keep Matthew Stafford from being touched. Two more sacks and he’ll have 45 for the year which ties a career-high which is pathetic. Stafford was sacked zero times by the Tampa Bay Bucs two weeks ago, the only game this season he hasn’t gone down. Stafford is good at avoiding sacks, but he should not be put in so many potential sack situations.

“We have to protect the quarterback better, it starts with me. Could be play calling, could be scheme, could be game plan for the week. But at the end of the day, we do not want our quarterback hit as much as we have been so far this year and that’s a major point of emphasis for us moving forward,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “We believe in protecting our quarterback and that’s really important in offense football I believe, so we got to do a better job and I’ve got to do a better job.”

2. Pressure Andy Dalton who has had an up-and-down season. Last week in the 34-7 loss to the Vikings, he had two interceptions and zero touchdowns. In the season opener, he was worse with four interceptions and no touchdowns. In-between he’s been so-so. The defense has has issues with pressuring quarterbacks, but no excuse here. Dalton has been sacked 35 times. Of course he does have a top wide receiver in A.J. Green. “I expect he’ll give us all we can handle,’’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said of Green.

3. Run the ball. Seriously.  If Lions can’t find success against the Bengals, who rank 32nd in rushing defense (allowing 131.5 yards per game), then their run game is worse than we thought. Theo Riddick should be back after he left Saturday’s game with a wrist injury. Ameer Abdullah is healthy except for his hurt feelings that his role has diminished. Tion Green appears to be a playmaker but needs to get the chance.

4. Stopping the run should not be much of a challenge for the Lions. The Bengals are the worst team in the NFL in rushing averaging just 77.0 yards per game. Top running back Joe Mixon has been in concussion protocol, but has practiced this week and is expected to play. He has 157 carries for 518 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns.

5. It’s so much easier to win with a good start. Look at last week when the LIons had a 13-0 lead in the first half before the Bears kicked a field goal in the waning seconds. Even against a bad team like the Bengals, a good start is essential.

PREDICTION: Lions 31, Bengals 17

Pride will be on the line for Glasgow brothers when Lions play at Bengals

Graham said he’d have no trouble cutting Ryan

ALLEN PARK — Brothers Graham and Ryan Glasgow will face each other — literally — when the Detroit Lions play at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Graham Glasgow will start at center for the Lions while his younger brother, Ryan, will rotate in at defensive end for the Bengals.

It’s not unprecedented that brothers stand on opposite sidelines in an NFL game. But it has to be rare when they stand across from each other on the field.

It’s also something different for the brothers who both played at the University of Michigan. Graham Glasgow was a third-round pick by the Lions in 2016 while Ryan was drafted in the fourth round this year by the Bengals.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“We were never on different teams it was always like stuff on the driveway of our house or just little things, nothing really like this,’’ Graham Glasgow said on Thursday.

Who was the better basketball player?

“I think I was, he’d say he was. That’s how it is with almost everything,’’ Glasgow said insisting that it really was him.

Their parents will be at the game and he’s not sure how exactly they will divide their support. He’s thinking they might wear a Lions shirt with a Bengals hat or vice-versa.

Who do his parents like best?

“I think I’m the favorite, he actually might say that too,’’ Glasgow deadpanned.

The older brother said he will have no trouble treating his younger brother like he treats any NFL opponent. Even a cut-block?

“Yeah I’d cut Ryan,’’ Glasgow said.

The brothers talk every day, even this week.

“You see what everybody does on film. I know what Ryan did in college. The last time I played against him at all was two years ago (in practice at Michigan). He’s gotten better since then and I’ve gotten better since he played me,’’ Glasgow said. “So it’s just something where you need to gauge where he’s at on the tape.’’

Smart remarks aside, Glasgow said he’s proud of Ryan.

“I’m very happy for Ryan, I think he’s done really well for being a rookie tackle. It’s something that I’m very proud of him and I know our family is proud,’’ Glasgow said.

He thinks it will be fun (although he said to ask him about it after the game) but he’s not so sure his parents and grandparents want to see the brothers go against each other.

They also have a younger brother, Jordan, who plays at Michigan.

Graham Glasgow is the only Lions’ offensive lineman who has been healthy enough to start in every game. He started the season at left guard, but has filled in at center when Travis Swanson (concussion) has been out.

“I’m not going to say it’s easy but I think it’s something that I’ve learned to get better at, I still have to improve on it,’’ Glasgow said. “I still have things I need to get better at center, and a lot of things I need to get better at guard, but it’s something I try to improve on every day every week.’’

After Pro Bowl snub, Lions Glover Quin offers a solution for selection process

Quin suggests a Pro Bowl nomination committee

ALLEN PARK – Glover Quin couldn’t be happier that Darius Slay has been voted to his first Pro Bowl.

“Very deserving, playing great for us all year, he’s been working hard throughout his career and to see it finally happen for him is good,’’ Quin said on Wednesday.

However, Quin is not happy with the process of how players are selected to the Pro Bowl.

That includes another snub for him. It’s not sour grapes, it’s an honest look at who deserves the honor and who doesn’t. Quin was elected to the Pro Bowl only once and that was in 2014.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“I told you guys this a couple years ago and I mean if I don’t lead the league in interceptions I don’t make the Pro Bowl. It doesn’t matter how good I play,’’ Quin said. “I have more turnovers than any safety in the NFC, I don’t know if I gave up a touchdown this year I don’t know. It is what it is. Just continue doing what I do.’’

NFC safeties who were elected to the Pro Bowl as starters are Seattle’s Earl Thomas, Giants’ Landon Collins and Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins.  They each have two interceptions while Quin has three.

“I have more picks than Earl, I have more picks than Landon, I have more picks than Malcolm so I can’t even say they just look at picks …. There’s just certain things that kind of bother me about the whole situation,’’ Quin said.

“I’ve stood here in front of you guys for five years, I tell you every year when a safety has a good year. I’m the first to be like, ‘Hey he played good, he deserved it.’ Even myself if I don’t have a good year I’ll tell you …. The guys that made it, I don’t feel like either one of those guys had a better year than I did. The alternates? I don’t feel like anyone of those guys had a better year than I did. I don’t know.’’

He has a solution. Instead of putting everyone’s name on the ballot a nominating committee should narrow it down to who is having a good season.

“There’s no reason why you should be on the ballot if you haven’t had a Pro Bowl worthy season. You shouldn’t be eligible. No disrespect, Kam Chancellor (Seattle) played nine games. Seriously? You’re an alternate. I’m not being a hater, I’m just saying he played nine games. Kam Chancellor would probably look at you and say, ‘I didn’t have a Pro Bowl year.’ But you’re on the ballot, people see your name and they vote for you, he made alternate,’’ Quin said.

Wait, there’s more.

“I’ve been saying it for years, the NFL there’s no way you can tell me they can’t come up with some type of selection committee and have a release show of guys who are eligible for the Pro Bowl, who should be nominated for the Pro Bowl,’’ Quin said. “Why do you put everybody on the ballot? Everybody is not a Grammy nominee, it’s an honor to be nominated. Just being real. It’s an honor. You don’t get to get voted for best song if you’re not nominated. You get nominated, now you’ve got the opportunity to win the Grammy. You shouldn’t be able to go to the Pro Bowl if you’re not nominated. That’s the way it is for all all-star stuff.’’

He would recommend, ex-coaches, scouts and/or TV analysts might be good to form the nominating committee.

They could wait until Week 13 or so to put out a ballot. Give fans two weeks to vote and then give the players and coaches a vote like they have now.

Hey Roger Goodell, sounds like a good plan.

Lions WR Marvin Jones on returning to Cincy, hitting 1,000 yards and the catch

Jones is close to reaching 1,000-yard mark for first time

ALLEN PARK — Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones spent the first four seasons of his NFL career playing for the Bengals. So it will be a homecoming of sort when the Lions play at Cincinnati on Sunday.

He downplayed the significance.

“I’m just going to see a couple friends I have there, but other than that there’s no significance,’’ Jones said. “Not nostalgic or anything, it will be cool to go there and just play.’’

Jones is just 30 yards shy of his first 1,000 receiving yards season. Since he averages 69.2 receiving yards per game, there’s a good chance he’ll reach that milestone on Sunday against the Bengals.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“It’s always a milestone for a receiver to go over a thousand, I’m looking forward to it,’’ Jones said.

After 14 games he has 54 catches for 970 yards (a career high) and eight touchdowns.

Since he signed with the Lions as a free agent in 2016, Jones and Matthew Stafford have developed a solid connection.

“Marv’s put a lot of work in. I think our system and the system he came from in Cincinnati is quite a bit different, and he did a great job of adjusting, putting the work in. And then, on Sundays he just goes out there and makes plays,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “I’m giving him chances on certain throws, and he’s going up and making me right more often than not. So, it’s nice to have.”

The most recent example was a 58-yard completion on third-and-18 in Saturday’s 20-10 win over the Bears. He wasn’t paying attention to anything around him.

“Just go get the ball, that’s it. Locating the ball, running as fast as I can to go meet it and just catch it,’’ Jones said.

“I wasn’t really worried whoever was behind me, I just said I have to get up and get it. I jumped early so I had to wait. That’s kind of what I thought. I jumped early I just had to stay up there for a little bit,’’ Jones said.

He said that was a ball only Matthew Stafford could throw.

“Whenever he breaks out of the pocket, I’m looking and I say, ‘OK.’ I just put my head down, I run, I look up and there it goes,’’ Jones said. “… I see his eyes and I just take off.”

Coach Jim Caldwell has commented through this season about how hard Jones worked to improve in the offseason.

“I think just precision and his route running has gotten a whole lot better, and with that has come separation at the top of routes and all that kind of stuff, the better you get at running them. And like I said, some of the routes that we’re asking him to run here are probably different than what he had done in the past, so it took some time, and some effort, and some concentration, and focus on those details and he’s done a nice job with that,’’ Stafford said.

So it just makes sense that Stafford has developed more confidence in Jones who had 55 catches for 930 yards and four touchdowns in 2016.

“I think the more and more you play with guys the more you understand their body language at the top of routes and whether or not they can win,’’ Stafford said. “And I’m getting that with all of our guys at the moment, so just trying to continue to put the ball in a good spot, let those guys go and make plays like they’re doing.’’

BONUS: Wide receiver T.J. Jones was placed on injured reserve after injuring his shoulder on Saturday. He’s being replaced on the roster by wide receiver Andy Jones, who spent time on the Lions’ practice squad. Of course, they join Marvin Jones. Apparently it’s key for the Lions to have two receivers named Jones.

Lions offensive line adjusts for personnel depending on who starts

Stafford has been sacked 43 times in 14 games

 

ALLEN PARK — If  Matthew Stafford is sacked twice in the final two games, it will tie his career record for being taken down.

Not exactly what GM Bob Quinn was thinking when he made the offensive line a priority last spring by signing veterans Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang.

Injuries happen and certainly the Lions’ offensive line has had more than its share in the first 15 weeks.

It’s difficult to keep track of who is where to start each game and then, typically, it’s not the same group that is on the field when the game wraps.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Graham Glasgow has been the only lineman to start all 14 games so far and he’s moved from left guard to center in two games.

Joe Dahl got his first significant playing time this season on Sunday, starting for Glasgow at left guard. He just came off injured reserve last week.

“Joe did some good things out there, and he hung in there pretty well,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said.

Center Travis Swanson (concussion) and right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) were out and it’s too early to know if they will return on Sunday at Cincinnati.

“I’ve got to give credit to Ron Prince who does a great job with them. I mean, we’ve had more guys in and out on our line than probably as much as anyone I would assume,’’ Caldwell said on Monday. “But what he does and what the rest of our guys do, they just face the challenge. They prepare extremely hard. Even though a guy may not have gotten a whole lot of playing time previously, we treat him as if he’s supposed to play well and supposed to handle whoever he faces like a guy like (Akiem) Hicks, who’s as good as they come up front last week. But I think it’s attitude, determination in terms of their preparation, and the fight of the young men who’s plays for us. So, I think all of those things play a part in it.”

The line is not responsible for all of the sacks, but the blame falls on their shoulders for plenty of them.

Stafford was sacked a career-high 45 times in 2014 and will match that mark with two more sacks.

Only Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been sacked more often — he’s gone down 49 times.

Only Tom Brady (4,163 yards) and Ben Roethlisberger (4,025) have passed for more yards than Stafford (3,920). Brady had been sacked 31 times, it’s only 21 for Roethlisberger.

In Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Bears, the LIons’ offensive line featured the ninth configuration of starters in 14 games with left tackle Taylor Decker, Dahl at left guard, Glasgow at center, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Corey Robinson.

The line also of course opens up gaps for the run game which has been another issue with the Lions this year.

Caldwell admitted that depending who is starting on the offensive line, they may adjust the play-calling.

“There’s certain things you do that you may not – I think what you have to try to do is try to make certain that you know thyself and then make adjustments accordingly, which we do,’’ Caldwell said. “I mean, that’s at a number of different spots. When you’re up front, there’s some guys that pull better than other guys, so how many times you pull a guy that depends upon how well he does his job. Now, it’s something that you’re always trying to improve upon, but we still try to make certain that we’re judicious and try to be prudent in selection of plays with certain individuals.”

The Bengals defense has sacked opponents 38 times which is tied for seventh most in the NFL. It will be another test for the Lions offensive line whoever it is that may play on Sunday.

Five thoughts from Lions Matthew Stafford after win over the Bears

Stafford has completed 81.8 percent of his passes in last 3 games

DETROIT — In the last three games, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has completed 85 of 106 passes for an 81.8 completion percentage.

That’s astronomical.

And Stafford offered a Stafford-like answer on his accomplishment.

“I’m throwing it, they’re catching it,’’ Stafford said.

Perhaps there is a little more to it.

“Matthew has been on a tear lately, playing well, he’s been playing well for a while. He hangs in there, delivers the ball. he’s got some receivers making plays for him,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “That catch by Marvin Jones and a couple of the guys making some things happen for him.’’

Jones was on the receiving end of a beauty of a Stafford pass that flew 58 yards.

Stafford was 25 of 33 for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Saturday’s 20-10 win over the Chicago Bears.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five thoughts from Stafford following the game:

1. The quarterback said trust is the key to the offense. I mean, I think that’s the key to success on offense, is having trust in each other. You know, I put a couple up to Kenny (Golladay) today, he made a great catch on one. He got called for OPI (offensive pass interference), but great play. And then the one to Marv was an exceptional play,’’ Stafford said. He completed passes to eight guys.

2. The Lions ran the ball for 77 yards in the first half, then just 14 in the second half. Still a decent effort for the Lions whose run game ranks at the bottom of the NFL charts.

“I think we plan to go out there and try and run it every game, you know? And our guys up front were doing a good job of moving them, our backs were finding some seams and just getting that extra yard. You know, we didn’t have any – I don’t think we had any big, big runs today, but guys were getting four (yards) on first down and, you know, getting seven there on second down, whatever it was,’’ Stafford said. “We did a nice job being efficient running the ball. Our guys did a good job. Like I said, getting hats on hats, letting our backs fall forward, all that is a positive for us.”

3. Tight end Eric Ebron, who has been playing well since the bye week, had another good game with five catches for 33 yards including an 8-yard  touchdown pass in the third quarter.

“The first one i overshot. I wish I had that one back, check at the line, I got a good check to him. I just missed it,’’ Stafford said. “Frustrated at that one and wanted to come back to him and give him a chance. I think you slide a piece of paper under his feet and he went up and got it.’’

4. Stafford was sacked four times in part because the offensive line was banged up and patched up. Center Travis Swanson and right tackle Rick Wagner were out. Right guard T.J. Land went out in the first half.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s a tough (defensive) front, too. I mean, those guys are big and physical on the inside. They make it tough to run the ball, they’re good pass rushers, too,’’ Stafford said. “So our guys did a great job, you know, hung together, hung tough, communicated well and we got the win.”

5. After four interceptions in the past four games, Stafford was able to protect the ball against the Bears. “It’s a tough balance. You know, I mean, there’s going to be times where there are going to be throws that I wish I had back and there’s going to be other times where I make great plays,’’ Stafford said. “So, you know, I think it’s just trying to be as calculated as you can with those chances that you’re going to take and understanding the game situation as much as possible helps.”