NFC North: Emil Igwenagu

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – As the Detroit Lions' secondary returns to closer to full strength as James Ihedigbo plans to play, another position group is now feeling a numbers crunch.

The Detroit Lions, for now, have two healthy tight ends: Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron. They were only carrying three on their roster, but the ankle injury to Joseph Fauria during an off-field activity Wednesday night leaves the Lions light at the position.

And it could change the dynamic of a Detroit offense trying to discover its rhythm.

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioRookie Eric Ebron is certain to get more snaps with Joseph Fauria injured.
While Fauria isn’t a massive loss on paper – he only has three catches this season and his touchdown production is way down from his rookie season – it does shift what the Lions are likely to do on offense. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said Friday that Fauria’s absence will likely force the Lions to use different positional groupings on the field.

Considering Detroit has enjoyed using two-tight end sets often this season, this could mean a shift to more three-receiver looks, at least in the immediate term. This would seem to benefit both Jeremy Ross – the team’s de facto slot receiver – and potentially Ryan Broyles, who has been inactive for the first three games.

This would seem to be how Detroit would likely handle things this week, even if they choose to bring up tight end Jordan Thompson or fullback Emil Igwenagu, who has played tight end, from the practice squad. While looking at fullbacks, Fauria’s injury could mean an increased role for either Jed Collins or Montell Owens if the team needs another blocker or route-runner with some size.

Positionally, those are the likely ways Detroit will replace Fauria on Sunday. Depending how long he is out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team look at the free agent wire for tight ends as early as Monday.

For Sunday, though, Fauria’s absence ensures a larger role for first-round pick Ebron, who has been splitting reps with Fauria as the No. 2 tight end behind Pettigrew the past three weeks. Those snaps, theoretically, are now all Ebron’s.

On Thursday, Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said at some point he expected Ebron to eventually have a big role in the Detroit offense.

Now, the Lions have little choice but to use him.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A few hours after Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said his running back, Reggie Bush, had missed the past two days of practice due to "rest," Bush eliminated any doubt about his status.

Bush
Bush
Bush returned to practice Tuesday with the Lions, leaving the team with just three players not practicing: Don Carey (hamstring), linebacker Kyle Van Noy (abdominal) and defensive end Jason Jones.

It is likely this was just a veteran's day of rest for Jones, who was in the locker room prior to practice.

Some other nuggets from the short media practice viewing:
  • Both of Detroit's waiver claims from Monday -- Emil Igwenagu and Michael Egnew -- were at practice. Egnew is wearing No. 49 and working with the tight ends. Igwenagu is wearing No. 44 and working with the running backs. How cruel is the NFL world sometimes? Jacob Maxwell, who was cut Tuesday, wore No. 49 on Monday and Chad Abram, who was cut Monday, wore No. 44.
  • Linebacker Shamari Benton continues to not have a nameplate with his No. 44 jersey (on defense). Considering he was signed over a week ago, typically the Lions have been pretty good about making sure names are on jerseys.
  • Tight end Brandon Pettigrew had guests from the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit at practice on Tuesday.

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 10/2
Sunday, 10/5