Detroit Lions: Rising/Falling

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Quin
S Glover Quin: He had the game-clinching interception Sunday against Chicago -- the fourth straight game Quin has picked off a pass. He has a league-leading seven interceptions this season and in a good sign for Detroit, the Lions have won every game where Quin has picked off a pass.

RB Reggie Bush: He hasn’t been healthy for the majority of the season, but Bush showed he still has some pop as the 29-year-old had one of his most productive games of the year against the Bears. He had 98 total yards -- 54 rushing and 44 receiving -- and scored his second touchdown of the season. He gave a spark behind featured running back Joique Bell.

Calvin Johnson: Another week, another 100-yard game for the Lions' stalwart at receiver. He’s put together three 100-yard games in the past four and once again went over 1,000 yards in a season despite missing three games due to injury and being limited in two others.

FALLING:

C Dominic Raiola: He is going to miss one of the biggest games of his career this Sunday against Green Bay after he was suspended following his stomping of Ego Ferguson’s ankle on Sunday. Raiola appealed the suspension but it was upheld, meaning he’ll miss his first game since 2008. In his place, the Lions have to turn to rookie Travis Swanson.

QB Matthew Stafford: The sixth-year pro completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the first time since Week 12 and threw for less than 250 yards for the second straight game. He also was sacked four times and while a lot of that wasn’t his fault, it was the seventh time this season Stafford has been sacked four times or more in a game.

DT Nick Fairley: His health continues to improve, but time on the season is beginning to run short for the 2011 first-round pick if he’s going to play again this season. Lions coach Jim Caldwell was coy on a timetable for Fairley’s return, but he hasn’t practiced since injuring his knee in Week 8. That he isn’t on injured reserve yet is a sign there is still some optimism about a potential return.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Quin
Safety Glover Quin: The man who went off on Pro Bowl voting a week ago continues to put up a season worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. He picked off his sixth pass of the season Sunday, including one for third straight game. He may not have the name recognition of Ndamukong Suh or the tackle numbers of DeAndre Levy, but the 2013 free agent signing from Houston is a crucial piece to Detroit’s defense.

Lions playoff chances: This is as close as Detroit has been to the playoffs since 2011. The scenarios, most of which are outlined here, are simple. Win Sunday at Chicago and the Lions are in the playoffs. Win Sunday and the NFC North title and a potential first round playoff bye -- and the home game that goes with it -- would also be in play. That’s big for a Lions franchise that isn’t in the playoff picture every season.

Running back Joique Bell: By snap count and yardage, Bell has become Detroit’s lead back. The 28-year-old has career highs in carries (197) and yards (726) with two games left in the season. While he likely won’t become Detroit’s second 1,000-yard back in as many seasons, he has established himself as the Lions’ main back of the present and immediate future. For his age, Bell also has remarkably fresh legs. He’s only played in 53 career games and had 445 career rushes. This bodes well for his future.

FALLING:

Running back Theo Riddick: Once Reggie Bush came back from injury, Riddick’s snaps and role in the offense decreased exponentially. Known primarily as a pass-catching running back, Riddick hasn’t run a route since Week 13 against Chicago, when he had six catches for 54 yards. In the past two weeks, Riddick played one offensive snap -- the first one against the Vikings. Other than that, he’s only been seen on special teams.

Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle: The second-year pro had an injury-riddled season come to a close after a knee injury against the Vikings on Sunday. It finished off a season where he played in 10 games but suffered two concussions, a calf injury, an ankle injury and now the knee injury. This offseason will be big for his healing.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we'll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Stafford
Stafford
QB Matthew Stafford: He completed over 75 percent of his passes for the second week in a row and Detroit has scored 34 points in back-to-back weeks. He also looks more comfortable with his decisions in Joe Lombardi’s offense than he has at any point this season. If this continues, it’s possible the step the Lions have been waiting for him to make has finally happened.

S James Ihedigbo: The 2014 free-agent signing turned out to be a good one. Ihedigbo has interceptions in three straight games and four of his past five games. Already a good run stopper and valuable complement to Glover Quin, Ihedigbo is showing his playmaking side as well. The four interceptions are a career-high and more than he had in all of his other NFL seasons combined.

TE Eric Ebron: He isn’t putting up big numbers, but he is establishing some consistency within the Lions' offense as a short-field option. He’s caught three or more passes in three of his past four games and has remained between 22 and 28 yards per game. Those aren’t big numbers, but consider that he’s also had at least 15 yards after the catch in three of the past four games. That shows he is turning short passes into longer gains. Progress.

FALLING:

Riddick
RB Theo Riddick: The return of Reggie Bush has meant a nonexistent role in the offense for Riddick, who has made multiple big plays for Detroit throughout the season. Coach Jim Caldwell essentially said with Bush in the lineup, Riddick’s role will lessen. The reason is likely that Bush offers more versatility than Riddick, who has been more of a receiver than a rusher in his two years in Detroit.

NFC North title hopes: This has little to do with how Detroit is playing. Green Bay continues to win games and essentially the Lions will have to beat the Packers in Wisconsin to win the division title and get the home playoff game/possible first-round bye that will go with it. Only problem? Detroit hasn’t won in Wisconsin since the early 1990s and Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home in two years.

WR Corey Fuller: His role continues to diminish with the continued good health of Calvin Johnson -- and that’s fine with the Lions because of Johnson’s skills. Fuller ran seven routes Sunday against Tampa Bay and didn’t record a catch -- same as his stats against Miami and Arizona. He saw a little bit more of a role against New England and Chicago, but has not had a multi-catch game since Week 8 against Atlanta, the last game Johnson missed.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Bell
RB Joique Bell: Even when Reggie Bush returns, Bell has done enough to become Detroit’s featured back. When he is in the game, he is the Lions’ most productive and decisive runner. He continually fights for tough yardage and has enough instinct to bounce outside quickly if the initial hole he’s supposed to run through is closed. Bell has averaged 3.96 yards per carry or more in three of the past four games and is coming off the second multi-TD effort of his career.

DE Ezekiel Ansah: He has been improving every week but last week against Chicago he hit a new pinnacle, hurrying Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler nine times according to Pro Football Focus (initially credited with 10). He already has more tackles in 12 games this season (40) than he did in 14 games last year (32) and with 6.5 sacks and four games left, is on pace to pass his rookie mark of eight. Ansah rates fourth among 4-3 defensive ends according to PFF and is tied with Carlos Dunlap for second among 4-3 defensive ends with 13 quarterback hits.

Detroit’s run defense: The Lions are so good against the run teams are actively scheming against bashing into the Detroit front four at this point because opponents know it might be a futile exercise. Despite having Matt Forte, the Bears only had eight carries Thursday, the second straight game a team has actively planned to avoid running against the Lions.

FALLING:

Palmer
LB Ashlee Palmer: This doesn’t have much to actually do with Palmer, but rookie Kyle Van Noy is slowly starting to creep into Palmer’s time on the field. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Monday “the more the merrier” when it comes to being able to play Palmer and Van Noy at strongside linebacker. So why is Palmer falling then? Well, in the first half of the season, Palmer was the main 4-3 player on the strong side after Tahir Whitehead got hurt. So his snaps are going to continue to drop a little bit as long as Van Noy stays healthy.

Detroit's NFC North title chances: The Lions still have some control here, but likely have to win out to claim the NFC North crown. That would include a win at Lambeau Field in the regular-season finale and that’s a place they haven’t won since the early 1990s. Green Bay is on a roll now and like the Lions have a fairly light schedule -- other than going to Buffalo -- before that Week 17 meeting.

DT Nick Fairley: Jim Caldwell once again said he isn’t sure if the defensive tackle is going to make it back this season. He continues to leave the door open, but he made it pretty clear right guard Larry Warford, who also has a knee injury, is on a different path to return than Fairley. Each week Fairley is not on the field at least practicing leaves more questions about where his status for the season truly lies.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Bush
Bush
RB Reggie Bush: Yes, he’s said it before and not played. And yes, trusting Bush’s ankle without seeing him play in a full game first is a dicey situation at best. But the running back said Tuesday he believes he will play Thursday in the Lions’ Thanksgiving game, the first time he will play since Week 10 if he ends up being good to go Thursday. Considering Detroit’s offensive woes this season, the Lions could use a healthy Reggie Bush in the lineup to be a potential game-breaker.

The Lions defense: This might seem odd a week after Detroit allowed 34 points to the New England Patriots, but the Lions will not face a better quarterback or offensive system until Week 17 at Green Bay. They hung around for the most part and still are in the top five run defenses, total defense and points allowed per game. Every team is going to have a game like Detroit did defensively. The Lions just happened to have it against a Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady.

FALLING:

WR Calvin Johnson: The top receiver in the NFL insists he’s feeling pretty good, but his production the past three weeks has been a bit concerning. He’s caught less than 50 percent of his targets and had two drops. He’s still an impact receiver but if Johnson isn’t at close to full speed, the Lions offense is definitely altered.

Lions playoff chances: A week ago, Detroit appeared to be in good shape for the playoffs and even if they didn’t win the NFC North, a good candidate for the wild-card spot. There is still a lot of game left, but the Lions’ playoff hopes took a little bit of a hit over the weekend when they dropped one game behind Green Bay in the division and are now tied with Seattle and San Francisco at 7-4. The bigger problem? If the Lions and Seahawks have the same record at the end of the year, Seattle already owns the tiebreaker.

The Lions offense: Yes, they played two of the better teams in the NFL and yes, they say they are still trying to find both the consistency and rhythm that they need to crave, but almost three-quarters of the way through the season, Detroit’s offensive identity is inconsistency. This is a group, with their next four opponents under .500, that has to find something to aid their 21st-ranked offense fairly fast.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING

Ebron
TE Eric Ebron: The rookie caught all four passes thrown his way and appeared more comfortable in the offense during his return from a hamstring injury. He’s still a growth project for the Lions – as most rookie tight ends are – but Sunday was a good step forward for him. The way Detroit broke down snaps, too, showed Ebron might have usurped Joseph Fauria as the primary pass-catching tight end. That should mean more snaps and looks in the stretch run of the season.

RB Joique Bell: This will be discussed below as well, but Bell finally appears to have rediscovered the power running game he had last season. Sunday against Arizona was his best effort of the year – 85 yards rushing – but it was the way he ran that was as important as his yardage. He was decisive, difficult to bring down and looked fast. The Lions are better when he is getting the carries.

DE Ezekiel Ansah: He didn’t have any sacks Sunday against Arizona – nobody on Detroit’s defense did – but he hit Drew Stanton twice, made three tackles and was a general nuisance for the Cardinals. It is sometimes difficult to tell the impact of a defensive lineman in a game, but he has continued to play well and is a good complement to Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line even with Nick Fairley’s injury at tackle.

FALLING

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi: His game plan against Arizona was ineffective and predictable – from the long-developing short yardage runs on third down to what Detroit would do with two tight ends on the line of scrimmage in the game. His inability to have Golden Tate involved in the offense after the first quarter was also difficult to explain, as he entered the game in the top five in the NFL in receptions and receiving yards.

Bush
Bush
RB Reggie Bush: When he comes back from his long-lingering ankle injury, it’s possible he’s going to see a shift in roles. Bell has run extremely hard the past two weeks and has given Detroit a semblance of a running game that had been nonexistent for the majority of the season. Bell should be the option right now, with Bush and Theo Riddick acting as receivers, change-of-pace backs and backs used in two-back formations. This should turn into Bell’s job.

Lions’ NFC North chances: Detroit is tied with Green Bay atop the division this week and still has to go to Lambeau Field in Week 17. There are players on the Lions who were not alive when Detroit last won in the state of Wisconsin, so this is an issue. History aside, Green Bay has been decimating opponents in the past month, including a destruction of another potential playoff team, Philadelphia, in Green Bay. While the playoffs still look good for Detroit, unseating the Packers in the NFC North does not.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we'll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

WR Calvin Johnson: The star receiver returned to the lineup Sunday and also returned to form with seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. He even added a signature-type of play with a 49-yard touchdown reception over Miami cornerback Brent Grimes. If there were any questions about Johnson's health, he answered them against the Dolphins.

Riddick
QB Matthew Stafford: The past three weeks have once again attached the name clutch to Stafford's performances. He has led three come-from-behind game-winning drives in the last two minutes over the past three games, capped with his touchdown pass to Theo Riddick on Sunday against the Dolphins. These are situations Stafford thrives in and he has shown his mettle there over and over again.

RB Theo Riddick: He didn't see a ton of snaps against the Dolphins -- just seven -- but was the target or ball-carrier for six of those seven snaps. That includes the 11-yard game-winning touchdown reception. He is gaining the confidence of his teammates and his coaches and is slowly going to siphon snaps away from Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

FALLING:

RB Reggie Bush: The starting running back just can't stay healthy. He missed two games with injury and has now been hobbled for two more, including against the Dolphins, when an ankle injury once again kept him on the sidelines more often than not. After a 1,000-yard season in 2013, he can't seem to get things going here in his second year in Detroit.

Bush
Bush
RG Larry Warford: The offensive lineman looks like he'll be out for a while. While it is believed his knee injury will not be season-ending, he is going to be sitting for the first time in his career. Prior to Sunday, he had played all but a handful of snaps since being drafted out of Kentucky last season. While his sophomore season wasn't as good as his rookie campaign, he was still Detroit's best lineman.

DT Caraun Reid: This is more a function of his snaps. He had to play in a pinch against Atlanta when Nick Fairley went out and C.J. Mosley was suspended. With Mosley back and the Lions with a plan to use Mosley, Darryl Tapp, Jason Jones and Andre Fluellen at tackle depending on the package, this pushed Reid back to his typical snap counts, which are under 10. He's still tracking to be a good tackle in the NFL, but is back to a developmental track unless there are more injuries.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Johnson
WR Calvin Johnson: The team’s best playmaker should finally return to the lineup Sunday against Miami after three weeks out with an ankle injury and a fourth week to rest with the Lions being off. He hasn’t played a game fully healthy since Week 2 against Carolina and if he is back to or close to full strength, this might be the healthiest he has been to start the second half of a season in his entire career. With teams seeing the possibilities presented by Golden Tate as well, Johnson may have more room to make plays than any time since his rookie year, too.

DT C.J. Mosley: He’s off suspension and likely in the starting lineup for Detroit with Nick Fairley out due to a knee injury. The veteran doesn’t have the natural ability Fairley has, but he has the experience and consistency Detroit will need to try to replicate some of what Fairley had been doing before he got hurt. At one point during training camp, Mosley was playing extremely well. He’s going to need to find that again now.

QB Matthew Stafford: He hasn’t done anything different, but he is starting to finally get his full complement of pass-catchers back for the first time since mid-September. Both Johnson and Reggie Bush should be good to go without setbacks and he already has Golden Tate, Joique Bell and newer options in Corey Fuller and Theo Riddick. The tight end situation is still a question mark, but there is no reason for Stafford and the Detroit offense to not have a strong uptick at the start of the second half of the season.

FALLING:

Palmer
LB Ashlee Palmer: Wrote this last week as well, but Palmer’s snaps could easily be cut down this week since the Lions have activated rookie second-round pick Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy, out of BYU, was initially thought to be the team’s starting strongside linebacker but then he had an inconsistent preseason before needing core muscle surgery. That kept him out for the first half of the season. The Lions are looking for ways to integrate Van Noy into the lineup and that will likely start with some of Palmer’s snaps in the team’s 4-3 base defense.

WR Ryan Broyles: With Calvin Johnson returning, snaps might be minimal and deactivation on game day once again becomes possible for the third-year receiver out of Oklahoma. Johnson coming back pushes everyone down the depth chart a little bit, from moving Tate into the slot on some plays to getting Corey Fuller on the field and having Jeremy Ross on the field in the slot in other situations. Considering Broyles barely played during the injury-plagued first half of the year, it doesn’t look good for him right now.

Detroit’s schedule: It only gets harder from here for the Lions, who face Miami (5-3), Arizona (7-1) and New England (7-2) over the next three weeks. Consider, too, where Detroit is playing these teams. Miami has gone 3-1 on the road. Arizona (4-0) and New England (5-0) have yet to lose at home. So it’ll be a rough, rough three-game stretch for the Lions that should say a lot about the team the rest of the way.
LONDON -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Tate
Tate
WR Golden Tate: Tate is second in the NFL among receivers in receptions (55) and third in yards (800) at the halfway point of the season and has really turned into a No. 1B option to Calvin Johnson's No. 1A (when Johnson is healthy). Tate showed it again Sunday against the Falcons when his 59-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter really got Detroit’s comeback going.

RB Theo Riddick: Jim Caldwell said Tuesday that even when Reggie Bush gets healthy, the team is going to have to find ways to get Riddick some touches. Like Joique Bell and Bush, Riddick hasn’t had much success running this season, but he has 149 receiving yards and has shown a penchant for big plays when he’s gotten the opportunity -- including a big screen against Minnesota and two massive catches against Atlanta.

At least a winning season: At 6-2 halfway through the season, a .500 record the rest of the way would give Detroit a 10-6 final record and a potential playoff berth and/or divisional title. And at this point, only a total collapse -- one that would be worse than last season -- would keep the Lions from their second winning record since 2011. For some franchises, this is expected on a yearly basis. For the Lions, it is a rare sight over the past decade and a half.

FALLING:

Bush
Bush
RB Reggie Bush: If Caldwell is going to get Riddick more carries, that will likely come out of Bush’s total, not Bell’s. Bush and Riddick have similar roles in the offense, and Riddick continues to look like a player who could have an increasing role both this season and in the future. That doesn’t bode well for Bush, who has missed two games this season with an ankle injury and been limited in others.

LB Ashlee Palmer: If the Lions bring Kyle Van Noy off of short-term injured reserve -- and it seems like they will at some point before Detroit faces Miami in Week 10 -- Palmer could see his role in the defense start to decrease. The two had been competing, along with now-middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead, when Van Noy had core muscle surgery, putting him on IR for half the season. Now that he’s back, the Lions will at least work him into the lineup and might eventually have a split like Whitehead and Josh Bynes at middle linebacker.

WR Ryan Broyles/TEs Kellen Davis and Jordan Thompson: Grouping these three together because, as the Lions get healthier on offense during the off week, these three players are the most likely to be phased out of the offense or potentially off the team altogether. When the Lions were healthy, Broyles was a healthy scratch each week and could end up back there again. If Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron all end up healthy by next week, either one or both of Davis and Thompson may no longer be on the roster.
LONDON -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Johnson
WR Calvin Johnson: It is still unclear if the star receiver is going to play Sunday against Atlanta at Wembley Stadium, but he is clearly making progress on his injured ankle. He said he is feeling good and that he did a little bit of field work last week, which is a step up for him. He also told the NFL Network he has been running more than before, another good sign of his eventual return. It’ll likely be a decision between the coaches, doctors and Johnson as to whether he plays Sunday or waits until after the team’s bye, but it does sound like he is closer to full strength than a week ago.

LB Josh Bynes: He signed with the Lions when Stephen Tulloch tore his ACL celebrating a sack of Aaron Rodgers and has slowly moved his way into some snaps with the Detroit defense. He has played in 30 total snaps the past two weeks spelling Tahir Whitehead. But the Lions clearly have some trust in him as he was in the game on the second-to-last series against New Orleans, when Glover Quin picked off Drew Brees to set up the game-winning score.

The Lions free-agent defensive signings: Detroit made three moves critical to its defense during the offseason -- bringing in defensive ends Darryl Tapp and George Johnson along with safety James Ihedigbo. Ihedigbo was the team’s biggest defensive move and after missing three games due to a neck injury has become one of the Lions’ best defenders and a smart pairing with Glover Quin at safety. The more surprising play has come from Tapp and Johnson, both guys who were questions to make the roster at one point -- Tapp was cut and re-signed in August -- and have found roles in the Detroit defense. Tapp has been good against the run and Johnson leads the Lions defensive linemen in sacks (four) and is third among Detroit defensive linemen in tackles with 16.

FALLING:

Broyles
WR Ryan Broyles: Another week with the Lions decimated by injuries, another week where Broyles has little to no role in the offense. At this point, it looks like unless there is an in-game injury, Broyles just isn’t going to see the field much at all. He has one reception for 21 yards this season and has not run more than three routes in a game.

The Detroit running game: Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick have all had injuries this season, but it still doesn’t explain why the Lions have been unable to run with any success. Detroit is 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (82.43) and yards per rush (3.12). Neither Bell (3.5 yards per carry) nor Bush (3.3 yards per carry) are even close to Jim Caldwell’s stated preference of four yards per rush and other than brief spurts in second halves, the Lions just haven’t been able to move the ball on the ground.

S Isa Abdul-Quddus: The starter at safety when Ihedigbo was out, Abdul-Quddus has primarily become a special-teams player at this point. His snaps have decreased every week since Ihedigbo’s return, from 19 against the Jets to 15 against Buffalo, one against Minnesota and none against his former team, the Saints. He still has a role on special teams, where he is part of their core, but it looks like he won’t be remaining as a player in a defensive package for Teryl Austin unless there is an injury.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Riddick
RB Theo Riddick: In his first real action, the second-year back made big contributions early. He showed speed and hands in the screen game and that he could be an effective short-yardage receiver who can turn screens into big plays. Sort of like the guy he was replacing, Reggie Bush. Riddick could have been in line for a much bigger day, except his hamstring flared up again, taking him out of the game for the second half.

DE Ezekiel Ansah: The NFC Defensive Player of the Week continues to show his improvement in his second season. The defensive end has 21 tackles and 3.5 sacks this season -- and is on pace to surpass the marks he set his rookie year, when he led all first-year players with eight sacks. He is aided by the attention paid to Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but Ansah's strip-sack of Teddy Bridgewater Sunday was all his own work in single coverage. He’s getting better by the week.

Teryl Austin: The defensive coordinator once again showed his package and scheme versatility, flipping Cassius Vaughn into the big nickel package and even using linebacker Josh Bynes for a time at linebacker. Almost every move Austin has made during his first season coordinating an NFL defense has been a good one, as he runs the top-rated defense in the league.

FALLING:

Broyles
WR Ryan Broyles: Calvin Johnson didn’t play Sunday. Neither did Bush. Broyles still saw only two snaps and no targets against Minnesota in a game where the Lions desperately needed their secondary options to step up. He then tweeted what appeared to be frustration about his role -- and then tweeted a clarification -- and Lions coach Jim Caldwell said his door is always open for Broyles to chat about it. But if Broyles was not involved in the offense when Johnson and Bush were out, he might never get a true shot this season.

TE Brandon Pettigrew: This is through absolutely nothing Pettigrew has done, but his role is clearly changing with the Lions. He’s going to have a role as long as he’s in Detroit, but the Lions are viewing him as more of a blocking tight end than a receiving tight end. In six games, Pettigrew has been targeted only seven times and has five catches for 40 yards. His previous season low in targets was his rookie year, with 51.

S Isa Abdul-Quddus: After finding a specific role in the big nickel package once James Ihedigbo returned from injury, the former Saints safety was pushed down in role again when Vaughn came back this week. Abdul-Quddus played only one snap Sunday against Minnesota and it was late in the game. Austin likes to mix things up, though, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Abdul-Quddus have a bigger role against his former team this week.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

RB George Winn: The Michigan native received a call-up to the 53-man roster on Tuesday due to multiple injuries to the running backs on the roster. How much he plays this weekend will likely depend on the health of Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, but this is a big step for a player who has bounced around the league since going undrafted in 2013. He performed well at camp and this will be a potential big opportunity for him.

Stafford
Stafford
QB Matthew Stafford: He is once again starting off a season well. His decision-making has been fairly strong so far in 2014 despite facing more pressure than he did in 2013. He is completing 64.2 percent of his passes (on pace for a career-high) and is averaging a career-high 7.9 yards per attempt and his 1,176 yards in four games is fourth in the NFL.

Lions secondary: Entering the season this was a group that appeared to be a weakness for Detroit. Darius Slay was unproven. Rashean Mathis was in a battle with time. James Ihedigbo was injured. Then the Lions played seven different men at nickel corner in the first four weeks. Yet the secondary has been consistently strong for Detroit. Slay has turned into a budding star. Mathis has been consistent and the Lions are holding teams to 186.5 yards per game in the air – second-best in the league. Part of this has to do with a defensive front getting pressure, but the Lions are holding up in the back end.

FALLING:

Fauria
Fauria
TE Joseph Fauria: The second-year pro sprained his ankle last week, potentially opening up the opportunity for first-round pick Eric Ebron to earn Fauria’s share of snaps for good. Ebron was drafted to be a nightmare for opponents trying to cover him with a linebacker or a safety and he showed it Sunday against the Jets, catching his first career touchdown over a Jets safety. Fauria has the better hands and for now is a better blocker, but Ebron has elite athleticism and could hold onto those snaps for good.

Lions offensive line: This group has not been as good protecting Stafford as a year ago. The Lions are 26th in the NFL in sacks allowed per attempt at 7.4 percent. Part of this has to do with the team’s situation at right tackle, where LaAdrian Waddle is still trying to return from a calf injury. Detroit has rotated Cornelius Lucas and Garrett Reynolds in Waddle’s place but neither one has approximated the pass protection Waddle provides. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lions' line does once he returns.

Detroit’s run game: Bell likely has a concussion. Riddick is dealing with a hamstring. And the Lions have not been too productive running the ball anyway. The Lions are 30th in the league in yards per carry at 3.09 yards -- almost a full yard off Jim Caldwell’s goal of four yards per carry. The Lions are also 25th in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 87.25. The Lions have been successful in spurts here, particularly closing out games, but not on the whole.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we'll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Vaughn
CB Cassius Vaughn: The whole next man up cliché has been fitting well with Detroit's slot cornerback position, as injuries shelved starter Bill Bentley and top reserve Nevin Lawson for the season. This leaves the inside corner position to Cassius Vaughn or the outside corner spot if the team chooses to play Rashean Mathis inside. Either way, it's a starting opportunity this week for Vaughn against a tough Green Bay passing attack led by Aaron Rodgers. But the extremely confident fifth-year pro from Mississippi could be in a position to thrive.

RT Garrett Reynolds: He was signed last week and started against Carolina on Sunday at right tackle. Considering he is essentially a converted guard, Reynolds held up well against a talented Panthers front four and did enough to probably hold on to the starting role until LaAdrian Waddle returns from a calf injury. Right now, it is unclear when Waddle will be back, although it is expected he won't be out for too much longer.

CB Darius Slay: The second-year corner from Mississippi State had his second straight good game on Sunday against Carolina. The Panthers threw at Slay seven times according to Pro Football Focus and he had only three of those passes caught on him, including two by tight end Greg Olsen, who was always going to be a mismatch problem for him. Slay appears more confident through two games this season than he was at any point during his rookie year in 2013. He is slowly developing into Detroit's best cornerback.

FALLING:

Bell
Bush
Bush
Detroit's run game: Joique Bell and Reggie Bush have not been as effective as the Lions would like so far this season. Neither player has over 100 yards rushing and both Bush and Bell are under 4 yards per carry this season. The first halves of games have been particularly tough, as the Lions have 44 yards on 25 carries in the opening two quarters of games. Ball security is also an issue as Bell has two fumbles in his first two games.

CB Nevin Lawson: Rough situation for Lawson, who is out for the season after dislocating the toes in his left foot against Carolina on Sunday. The rookie was seeing his first planned significant action when the injury occurred on special teams. This could be a difficult injury to come back from, so it might take him some time.

Tight end reception production: Through two games, the Lions aren't using their tight ends a ton in the passing game. Combined, Joseph Fauria, Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew have six catches for 93 yards. Despite the Lions calling for balance, the tight ends seem to be at the very least the third or fourth option on almost every play behind Calvin Johnson (13 receptions, 247 yards), Golden Tate (11 receptions, 150 yards) and either Bush or Bell (combined 15 catches for 111 yards).
Each week, we'll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

CB Nevin Lawson: The rookie fourth-round pick out of Utah State was forced into the game when Bill Bentley tore his ACL early in the first quarter, and he handled his first action -- mostly facing Victor Cruz in the slot -- well enough. He allowed three receptions on four targets, but didn't get beat too bad too often. Now, with Bentley out for the season and the Lions signing an offensive lineman instead of a defensive back, it looks like Lawson could be the slot corner of the present after being picked as a developmental selection for the most part. The Lions could still make a secondary move here, but Lawson just became a lot more important to Detroit.

QB Matthew Stafford: Played arguably the best game of his career Monday night against the New York Giants, completing 22 of 32 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown using a nifty cutback move. This is the type of play Detroit is going to need from Stafford this season if the Lions are going to have a good year. He looked calm, confident and made the right reads over and over again. He appeared to be a quarterback who is ready to make a jump to another level.

CB Darius Slay: The second-year corner was another player who had a lot of questions surrounding him this preseason, and he played well. Pro Football Focus gave him a positive grade, charting eight passes thrown his way with only three of them being caught -- and none for more than nine yards. I'll preface this by saying the Giants were not a very good offense on Monday night, but this is encouraging for Detroit if Slay can keep this up. He'll get two tougher tests the next two weeks with Carolina and Green Bay.

FALLING:

WR Kevin Ogletree: He was playing with the starters for a good chunk of the preseason and even though he didn't have a great statistical preseason, he appeared to be solidly in the game plan each week. Then the Lions made Ogletree inactive Monday night in favor of Corey Fuller, who was on the practice squad last season. This doesn't send a great message for Ogletree or Ryan Broyles, who was also inactive. Jim Caldwell said the Lions had to go with the strategy to only keep four receivers active, but that Ogletree wasn't one of the four is an interesting situation worth watching.

Lions' run game: Yes, it was only one game. But the Lions sure didn't look like a team that would have a ton of success running early on. They averaged 1.2 yards a carry in the first half and 2.5 yards per carry in the game. Considering the tandem of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, this should get better in a hurry, but for right now it is certainly a concern for the Lions.

CB Bill Bentley: During the spring, Bentley was convinced he was going to have a breakout season. He felt Teryl Austin's scheme really suited him well and he understood what he was doing more in his third season with the Lions. He had a decent preseason, too, and held onto his starting job. Now, though, his season is over after tearing his ACL on Monday night. This has longer implications, though, because if Lawson plays well at nickel during the 2014 season, then Bentley could become expendable in 2015 if he isn't able to come back to the form he appeared to be in.
Each week, we'll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Whitehead
Tahir Whitehead: The third-year linebacker entered the preseason locked into a special-teams role and likely slotted as Detroit’s fifth linebacker. Now, he’s going to be a starter through a variety of circumstances. First, Whitehead played well throughout camp and always seemed to be around the ball. His lateral speed also helped there. He was also aided by an injury to Kyle Van Noy, giving him a chance to first back up and then overtake Ashlee Palmer as a strongside linebacker.

Nick Fairley: Not difficult for him to be on this list, especially since he is once again down 10 pounds and once again in the starting lineup for the Lions. The fourth-year defensive tackle has always been one of the most talented players on the roster but has been inconsistent. It appears his latest demotion might have finally given him the focus he needs as he begins his contract season.

Corey Fuller: The receiver won a roster spot and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in some sort of role within the offense at some point this season. He has an interesting height/speed composition that a lot of the other Lions receivers don’t have, so if he can continue to grow into the position, he could be a factor in the team’s offense before too long. But making the roster over Kris Durham, for now, merits inclusion on this list.

FALLING:

Kyle Van Noy: He’s out for half of his rookie season and won’t be able to practice for six weeks. He may pass Whitehead or Palmer at the strongside linebacker spot at some point, but he isn’t going to be the immediate starter the Lions drafted him to be. Even before his injury, he appeared to be inconsistent during the preseason, although that isn’t stunning for a rookie. He’ll be eligible to play in Week 10 against Miami.

Carey
Don Carey: The safety hasn’t practiced for a couple of weeks now and while he is on the roster, he is in a position to be passed by veteran Isa Abdul-Quddus and rookie Jerome Couplin both on the safety depth chart and on special teams. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger, so it is tough to know how long Carey will be unavailable.

Kevin Ogletree: The receiver has spent the entire preseason working with the first group, but his hold on the starting slot receiver position seems a bit tenuous. Ryan Broyles has had a very strong preseason and appears to be at least pushing Ogletree at the spot. Same with Jeremy Ross, who can play both spots, and possibly even Fuller, who would be an intriguing option there.

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