STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
G T.J. Lang is on track to return to action Sunday after missing the Lions' Week 5 game against the Green Bay Packers with the sixth documented concussion of his career. Lang, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, also missed a game earlier this season with a back injury. He's the only Lions' starting offensive lineman to miss a snap this year.
DE Ziggy Ansah practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and could return to action Sunday after missing the Lions' last four games. Ansah suffered a shoulder injury in the first quarter of the Lions' season-opening loss to the New York Jets. He's played just 19 snaps this year.
RB Theo Riddick (knee) did not practice Wednesday and his status for Sunday is unknown. TE Michael Roberts is expected to return to action after missing two games with a sprained knee.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: CB Teez Tabor. A second-round pick out of Florida last season, Tabor has been in and out of the lineup for the Lions this fall. He started a Week 2 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but was benched after some early struggles, and was back in the rotation in Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers before leaving with an injury. Tabor could see his role expand even more this week with Jamal Agnew on injured reserve. While Nevin Lawson remains the Lions' No. 2 cornerback, Agnew's injury could necessitate Lawson playing more inside in nickel and dime packages, which would leave Tabor to play opposite Darius Slay on the outside. Tabor isn't known for his speed, but he's improved his jam of late and has a big matchup ahead against Miami's speedy receiving corps.
The Lions sped up practices this week to try and account for the Florida heat, giving players less time between periods and plays, and they'll try their best to control tempo Sunday as head coach Matt Patricia said that's something the Dolphins do especially well at home. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson is averaging 5.7 yards per carry this season, and he should be a big factor Sunday against the NFL's 21st-ranked defense. Matthew Stafford has done his best to pick on opposing teams' No. 2 cornerbacks this year, and that means the Lions will go after Bobby McCain or whoever starts opposite Xavien Howard.
Defensively, the Lions need to force turnovers, as they have just two takeaways in their three losses but four in their two wins. They should have opportunities Sunday against the mediocre Brock Osweiler, so long as they don't get gashed in the run game. The Dolphins want to get their shifty receivers in space to create run-after-the-catch opportunities, so the Lions have stressed tackling this week. If Ezekiel Ansah returns, he should help a pass rush that doesn't have many players who win one-on-one battles up front.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Lions LT Taylor Decker vs. Dolphins DE Robert Quinn. The Dolphins rank near the bottom of the NFL in sacks and sack percentage, but they get enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks that they've forced a league-leading 11 interceptions this year. Quinn is a big part of that pass rush, and he should get plenty of one-on-one opportunities against Decker this week, especially if Cameron Wake returns at left end. Decker, coming off a rough 2017, has played well so far this year, but Quinn is easily the best pass rusher he's faced to date. Fortunately for the Lions, Matthew Stafford gets rid of the ball quickly and is one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league.
Dolphins RB Frank Gore vs. Lions run defense. The Lions have been atrocious against the run this year, and they'll have their hands full with Miami's 1-2 punch of Gore and Kenyan Drake in the backfield. The 35-year-old Gore is coming off a 101-yard game, and he'll have the added incentive this week of playing against a team that brought him in for a free-agent visit this offseason but decided to sign Blount instead. The Lions are giving up a hearty 5.3 yards per carry, and in the hot Florida sun, their defense could be in for a long day Sunday if Gore gets going.