NFC North: James Ihedigbo

Ndamukong Suh missed the first practice of his career Thursday. He was limited Friday. But the illness he apparently has is starting to get better, as the defensive tackle is listed as probable for Detroit on Sunday against Minnesota.

Suh
Prior to Friday’s practice, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell couldn’t completely rule out Suh missing Sunday’s game.

"I don’t have an indication that it will happen," Caldwell said. "But it’s not out of the question."

The illness is going around Detroit’s locker room. Linebacker Josh Bynes is probable after dealing with the illness, and safety James Ihedigbo appears to have caught it as well. Ihedigbo missed practice Friday with an illness and is also probable.

Two Lions, running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (shoulder) are listed as questionable. The only player ruled out is defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

In better news for Detroit, right tackle LaAdrian Waddle returned to fully practicing Friday after being limited earlier in the week with a concussion. He is also listed as probable.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – This all started way before the season, back when James Ihedigbo decided to become a Detroit Lions safety during free agency. He couldn’t have necessarily expected then what has happened since.

But when he met fellow safety Glover Quin, the two clicked immediately. They spent the offseason working out together in Houston, hoping the time spent in Texas in the spring would translate to success in Detroit in the fall.

And it has.

Quin and Ihedigbo might be the best safety tandem in the NFL and could be the best pairing of safeties not many people outside of Detroit know much about.

[+] EnlargeJames Ihedigbo and Glover Quin
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonJames Ihedigbo congratulates Glover Quin after an interception against the Saints on Oct. 19. The Lions tandem has become one of the best in the NFL.
The evidence?

Based on Pro Football Focus’ safety rankings, only two teams – Cleveland (Donte Whitner/Tashaun Gipson) and New England (Devin McCourty/Patrick Chung) – have a duo of players ranked higher than Quin (fifth) and Ihedigbo (13th).

While PFF is an admittedly subjective rating, they are the two starting safeties on the best run defense in the league, the best QBR defense in the league and the second-best overall defense in the NFL. Quin is tied for second in the league in interceptions with five. Ihedigbo is tied for fifth, with four. Both have more than 55 tackles.

Despite their play and Detroit’s defensive success, neither Quin nor Ihedigbo is in the top 10 in fan voting for the Pro Bowl. While this might seem like a small metric by which to measure, it clearly irked Quin enough to go off earlier this week about wanting to change how the Pro Bowl voting works.

Ihedigbo listened in, nodding in agreement a good portion of the time.

This is just another way the two Lions safeties have worked and communicated so well together this season. They understand each other extremely well. They are similar in mind and in style. Even their wives have become close friends.

So the success is not a surprise to them.

“I don’t know if 'surprised' is the word because you never know, but we put a lot of work into it,” Iheidgbo said. “So if it was something where we didn’t work at it and it just happened, then you could say we were surprised, but we put the work into it.

“It’s not even just us, it’s our whole secondary. Me and Glover communicate, but [Rashean Mathis], [Darius] Slay, we spend so much time doing it that it’s a product of our work ethic. So it doesn’t come as a surprise.”

This has been what both players envisioned from Ihedigbo’s signing – even if it took a while for them to get on the field at the same time. Quin missed part of Detroit’s spring workouts. Ihedigbo missed parts of training camp and then the first three weeks of the season.

But while Ihedigbo watched Quin, he also saw that everything they worked out would fit in nicely.

“I’d watch him during practice and just the things he did,” Ihedigbo said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, this can be a really good thing.’"

It’s maybe been better than good. Detroit’s front four get a lot of attention and praise. So does linebacker DeAndre Levy. But the Lions probably don’t have as strong a defense if Quin and Ihedigbo don’t work as well together as they do.

“When you have a good front and you have a good secondary, as I’ve seen, the safeties will shine along with other people,” Mathis said. “You have a good front and the safeties, if they are good at their jobs, then the quarterback is on a clock. He doesn’t have all the world to just sit back there and relax.

“That’s when it gets tough on the back end and the safeties. Our front is one of the best in the league if not the best so it all ties in hand in hand.”

Now, more people just have to notice.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions' Glover Quin is rated fifth among safeties in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He's tied for second in the NFL with interceptions among defensive backs, with five.

His safety-mate, James Ihedigbo, is tied for fifth in the NFL in interceptions among defensive backs, with four. Yet neither one is in the Top 10 in Pro Bowl balloting by fans at either position.

Quin
So Quin, when asked about the Pro Bowl balloting on Wednesday and changes he would make, he asked if there were television cameras, if they could be turned on. He wanted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to hear his message. And here it is:

"How would I change the voting? First of all, in my opinion, why do the fans need two months to vote in my opinion? So I would say, I also feel like, something should be said about playing in the majority of the games. How can you have a Pro Bowl season if you only played in 10 games, right? So I wouldn't start the fan voting until after Week 13. Vote 13, 14, 15, season's over with but you've had 12 games. Everybody had their bye and played in 12 games by Week 13 so the fans had 12 games to see who is playing well, who has been on the field. You've got two weeks to fan vote and then you let the media and everybody else vote. Why do they need two months to sit there and vote 500,000 times. And they are probably just voting for Tashaun Gipson, which he had a great first half of the season but he's been hurt for the last four or five games. I think you move that back, you give fans time to say OK this guy has performed a certain way for 12 games and he's been out on the field, he's been trending the right way and you give them two weeks to get their votes in. If you can't your votes in in two weeks, what's the difference between having a million fan votes and 400,000 fan votes, you're still going to be a leader.

"Scouts in the NFL should create the ballot. I don't feel like everybody, like a Grammy nomination, it's an honor to be nominated for a Grammy. Whether you win or not, it's an honor to be nominated. It's a major thing. So if we're talking about the ballot, why is everybody on the ballot and they haven't had close to a Pro Bowl year. It should be an honor to be on the Pro Bowl ballot. So now the fans don't have to choose between 35 free safeties. It's only seven. These are the only guys who are having Pro Bowl years. Why you got everybody on the ballot that ain't even Pro Bowl-worthy?

"...It should be an honor. They want players to play hard in the Pro Bowl? It should be an honor to be on the ballot. Period. It should be an honor, like, 'Man, I'm on the Pro Bowl ballot.' You know what I mean. How do you have a guy on the Pro Bowl ballot who has 10 tackles and a pass breakup."

In the midst of his loud, forceful rant about the Pro Bowl, he drew a small crowd of players as well. Ihedigbo joked he sounded like he was preaching to a church.

And when Ihedigbo was asked if he agreed with what Quin was saying, he smiled and said, "100 percent."

The Lions only have five players in the top 10 of fan voting at the respective positions: Golden Tate is 10th among receivers with 188,526 votes; Ezekiel Ansah is seventh among defensive ends with 97,074 votes; Ndamukong Suh is third among defensive tackles with 189,102 votes; DeAndre Levy is ninth among outside linebackers with 108,417 votes and Isa Abdul-Quddus is 10th among special teamers with 36,510 votes.
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.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – They had miscommunications that led to open receivers. Against a Hall of Fame quarterback, that was a crippling blow to the Detroit Lions' chances of beating the New England Patriots.

The Lions had the top-ranked scoring and overall defense entering Sunday’s game. New England and Tom Brady dissected what the Lions have been able to do and exploited Detroit like no team has this season.

Caldwell
Caldwell
Typically, no matter how much Detroit has struggled on offense or in special teams, Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been able to point to his defense as a bright spot. Not Sunday, after 34 points allowed and a second straight game without a sack.

“They were able to move the ball, score touchdowns on us and we got a little settled down there for a while right after the half,” Caldwell said. “But they still were able to handle us pretty well.”

New England essentially abandoned the run until late in the game, rushing only six times in the first half and 20 times overall. They instead trusted their Hall of Fame quarterback, who completed 38 of 53 passes for 349 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

On those touchdowns, the Lions lost tight end New England tight end Tim Wright, who was incredibly wide open on both plays. Communication breakdowns, safety James Ihedigbo said, led to some of the issues.

“They run a fast-paced offense. They schemed us up pretty good,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “We didn’t execute our defense.”

It has been an all-around stingy defense all season, ranked in the top 10 in essentially every major defensive category entering Sunday. And even after they were beaten handily for the first time this season, the Lions’ defense remained among the best in the league in all of those categories – including points allowed (17.3 per game) and run defense (70.73 yards a game and 3.15 yards per play).

“They just executed at a high level,” Ihedigbo said. “You have to give hats off to New England. They came out. They went up-tempo. They did what they did well and just, they executed.”

DETROIT – A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions’ 20-16 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Ford Field.

What it means: If it happens once, it might be luck. Twice? Curious. But three straight come-from-behind wins in the final two minutes for the Lions? Well, that happened Sunday against the Dolphins, pushing the Lions to 7-2 for the first time since 1993, during the revered Barry Sanders years.

This gives Detroit four straight wins and an immense amount of confidence heading into the toughest three-game stretch of the season for the Lions: games at Arizona and New England followed by a short week to prepare for one of their biggest rivals, the Chicago Bears.

This is a Lions team clearly playing with confidence and the belief that they can win any game in any situation right now after comeback wins over New Orleans, Atlanta and now Miami.

Stock watch: Rising: Calvin Johnson. Detroit’s top option looked much more like himself Sunday, burning Brent Grimes for a 49-yard touchdown and making seven catches for 113 yards overall.

Rising: Travis Swanson. Forced into action because of an injury to right guard Larry Warford, Swanson played fairly well at first glance, not making too many mistakes. Considering this was the rookie’s first extensive action, that’s a bonus.

Falling: Reggie Bush. He might have aggravated an injury, and he is clearly losing ground to Joique Bell as the Lions’ lead rusher. Bush will have a role in the Lions’ offense, but it seems to be becoming smaller by the week.

Bell the lead back: The Lions will never hand their running back workload over to one back as long as they have both Bush and Theo Riddick in the offense, but Bell looked the part of a No. 1 back in the offense Sunday. He made smart decisions, decisive cuts and hit the magical 4-yards-per-carry mark Jim Caldwell likes. He had 10 carries for 44 yards and also caught two passes for 37 yards for the Lions, some of his best work of the season. He was also the running back in for the entire last drive of the game.

Game ball: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He received his primary weapon back in Johnson and again led a come-from-behind win in the final two minutes. His game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass to Riddick was all Stafford. He created time with his feet after being pressured, rolling to the left side of the field and threading a perfect throw to Riddick, hitting him in stride. Stafford completed 25 of 40 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. That's four straight wins for the quarterback.

What’s next: The Lions are on the road for two straight weeks, first at NFC West-leading Arizona and then at New England.
DETROIT -- Sam Martin lined up to punt, looking like he has so many times during his first two years with the Detroit Lions.

Except two of the first three times he lined up to punt Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, he ended up not punting at all. Martin completed two fake punt passes in the first half Sunday, a 24-yard completion to Jed Collins that extended the first drive of the game and a 3-yard completion to Isa Abdul-Quddus that didn’t get enough to get a first down.

It is the first time a punter has thrown and completed two passes in a game since Nov. 11, 2012, when St. Louis’ Johnny Hekker completed two passes in a 24-24 tie against San Francisco.

Martin had never attempted a pass in his career before Sunday and was involved in one fake before that -- the Lions’ failed fake field goal at Pittsburgh last season, where Martin got crushed trying to run for a first down deep in Steelers' territory.

Miami also tried to get in the fake punt game, but illegally shifted on its converted fake punt run, eliminating the play and forcing the Dolphins to actually punt.

It was all part of a crazy first half that saw a 49-yard one-play drive by Detroit with a deep post for a touchdown to Calvin Johnson.

There were also interceptions on back-to-back plays in the second quarter: A James Ihedigbo pick of Ryan Tannehill that was returned 70 yards into Miami territory. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford tried to take advantage of Brent Grimes on Johnson on the next play, but Grimes leaped up and made a one-handed interception in the end zone to give the ball back to Miami.

Oh, and in the first quarter, Detroit held Miami to 1 total yard.
video
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Detroit Lions safety Glover Quin receives his news about Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy and Ray Rice just like everyone else, but the team’s NFLPA player representative just wants to see one thing out of the entire process.

Fairness. For everyone, when it comes to how those cases are handled within the NFL.

[+] EnlargeGlover Quin
ESPN.com Lions reporter Michael Rothstein Glover Quin used his grilling skills on Tuesday to help raise awareness against domestic violence.
“I just want it to be fair for everybody,” Quin said Tuesday before guest grilling at an event supporting the Ms. Molly Foundation, a group raising money for shelters and safe houses for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. “I don’t condone domestic violence. I don’t condone any other thing that’s going on. But obviously, everybody deserves a fair trial.

“But I wasn’t there. I don’t know what all was happening. I don’t know all that stuff. As long as it’s fair, I’m all for it. If it’s not fair, then I think something should be done about it. As long as it’s fair for the players, for the league and everything of that nature, then I am all for whatever.”

Minnesota running back Peterson pleaded no contest Tuesday to misdemeanor reckless assault and avoided jail time. He is one of three high-profile domestic violence cases in the NFL in the past few months. Rice has his reinstatement hearing this week, following his suspension after video surfaced of an altercation between Rice and his now-wife, Janay.

On Tuesday, Carolina defensive lineman Hardy’s assault trial was postponed until 2015.

Seeing all these things led Quin to want to become involved in a positive way, to bring awareness to the issue and try to stop it. He said he has never dealt with domestic violence in his family, but he knows it is a major issue in the NFL recently, and he wanted to do something.

“I don’t condone it, like I said, at all,” Quin said. “But at the end of the day, there are still issues out there. Domestic violence is still an issue, and in our league there is a lot going on with that, so being able to shed a positive light on that situation and try to bring some awareness to try and help it and stop domestic violence, I can be a part of that.

“And I can use, hopefully, my platform and whatever to try and help that. I think every little bit counts. Every word, everything you can do to try and help it counts and goes a long way.”

This is why Quin showed up at the BD’s Mongolian Grill in Ann Arbor to be a guest griller in the event for the Ms. Molly Foundation. The event raised money for the SafeHouse Center, which is a domestic violence and sexual assault center in Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Quin spent time preparing food for customers, signing autographs and raising awareness for the cause. He said he did not ask his teammate -- and amateur chef -- James Ihedigbo for advice on how to prepare the food. Quin said he figured Ihedigbo will grade his performance, though.

“It was a great thing,” Quin said. “I wanted to be a part of it, so when they told me about the event, I wanted to come out and be a part of it and spend some time, talk to some people, meet some people and have fun with it.”
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.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It took seven nickel cornerbacks and one defensive wrinkle, but the Detroit Lions appear to have finally found an answer in how to handle the slot on defense.

Use two different packages, each geared with different down-and-distance in mind along with varying tendencies for an opponent. The Lions brought both nickel packages out Sunday afternoon, essentially one on likely running downs and the other in probable passing situations.

When it appeared the Jets were going to run, Detroit used a defensive package with three safeties: James Ihedigbo, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Glover Quin. The Lions would play Ihedigbo, typically a strong run defender, at his traditional strong safety spot. Abdul-Quddus would handle the free safety role, and Quin dropped down to play the slot corner.

[+] EnlargeEric  Decker
Ron Antonelli/Getty ImagesThe Lions used a couple of different nickel packages with positive results against the Jets.
When the Lions went nickel in traditional passing situations, Detroit kept Ihedigbo and Quin back at safety and brought in Danny Gorrer to handle the slot corner, much like he did last week when Don Carey re-injured his hamstring against Green Bay.

“It worked,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “Kudos to the staff, they did a good job of having two guys ready to go, and we need that. We have a lot of versatility in our secondary and it’s showing.”

The Lions used the more traditional nickel package with Gorrer on the field and both Quin and Ihedigbo at safety on 27 plays. Abdul-Quddus played 19 snaps, so that meant 19 plays with Quin down in the bigger nickel.

Ashlee Palmer played 18 snaps, meaning the Lions were in the 4-3 personnel 28 percent of the time Sunday against a heavy run team.

The Lions did this because of New York’s preference to run out of any formation available. New York did rush for 132 yards and 4.9 yards per carry, but 63 of those yards came on the first drive of the game. After that drive, the Lions forced five straight three-and-outs.

“You think about it, they went 12 personnel, which is primary pass form and then they can do some running out of it,” Ihedigbo said. “So to have three safeties in there, it worked out great for us.”

The Lions have some experience with 12 personnel on their own roster, too, as the team has used a single-back, two -receiver, two tight-end set more often this season than last season. So they can practice against this set if necessary.

Detroit guessed right off down-distance pretty well, too. Pro Football Focus had Gorrer on the field for 20 pass plays and Abdul-Quddus for 10 rushing plays.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s newest wrinkle worked with Detroit’s defense, though, in part because Quin has experience playing cornerback. While he has not dropped down and played corner much since moving to Detroit prior to last season, he isn’t a complete neophyte at the position so he can provide some coverage if necessary.

He also has experience playing closer to the line of scrimmage so he can really be used anywhere the Lions would like at this point.

It is part of the flexibility of Detroit’s defense and being able to play veterans at both safety spots.

“It’s just the versatility of our defense,” Ihedigbo said. “With our defense, when you know the whole entire defense, you can implement guys in different spots.

“That’s what makes it so effective.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – James Ihedigbo was able to whip out his favorite celebration.

In his season debut against one of his old teams, Ihedigbo strip-sacked Geno Smith in the fourth quarter, ending a potential scoring drive and allowing Ihedigbo to make a big play for the first time in 2014.

Ihedigbo
“That’s the GraveDigger,” Ihedigbo said. “That’s the Digg right there. Lions fans can look forward to seeing that.”

Ihedigbo blitzed and overloaded the Jets offensive line. Smith held the ball like the Lions expected, allowing Ihedigbo to rush in and make the play.

Ihedigbo had waited three weeks for a moment like this as he recovered from a neck injury that ended up being more fickle than he expected. He was finally fully cleared earlier this week and practiced fully throughout the week.

At that point he knew he would play and said after he made it through the game feeling good, yet another positive sign in his progression this season. The five tackles and the sack certainly helped.

Earlier in the week, Ihedigbo said he was excited to face his former team, but didn’t want to make the week about him. That he made a big play definitely felt good, though.

Ihedigbo had spent his first three seasons with the Jets, playing on two of Rex Ryan’s teams that made AFC Championship games. He played mostly special teams then but had 20 defensive tackles between the regular season and playoffs in those three years.

“Been biting at the bit to be able to get out there,” Ihedigbo said. “To be able to get out there and play and have an impact, it’s just a solid day’s work.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- For three weeks, James Ihedigbo has been confident, saying that he planned on playing in games for the Detroit Lions.

And for three weeks, Ihedigbo has ended up watching those games from the sideline -- inactive as he recovered from a nerve issue in his neck that could be good one day and bothersome the next.

Ihedigbo
On Thursday, though, Ihedigbo could comfortably and confidently say that yes, he likely will make his debut Sunday against the New York Jets. Ihedigbo was cleared to practice fully Wednesday -- the first time he has fully practiced the entire regular season.

Then he woke up Thursday morning and "felt great," so barring a setback he is ready for his debut.

"Pretty much done everything that’s been asked of me," Ihedigbo said. "It’s a great sign to be back as close to 100 percent as possible and look forward to rocking."

Rocking, in tackling terms, is one of Ihedigbo’s biggest strengths with the Lions. He was signed to be more of a run stopper, a good complement to Glover Quin, who would now have the chance to roam the field more as a free safety.

While defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said nothing changed in the scheme when Ihedigbo went down and was replaced by Isa Abdul-Quddus, this wasn’t the safety tandem they envisioned when they signed Ihedigbo to replace Louis Delmas.

Now, they will show what they were hoping for from the beginning.

"We have good chemistry and great communication," Quin said. "With great communication, you have guys in the same spot, guys in the right areas knowing what to expect and allowing guys to make plays.

"If we can do a great job of making the right calls on the back end and communicating effectively, me trusting him, him trusting me, us working off each other, we can do a good job hopefully confusing the quarterback."

Sunday presents a good opportunity, as Jets quarterback Geno Smith has thrown four interceptions in three games and is completing 63.1 percent of his passes. In his first 19 games, Smith has thrown 25 interceptions.

But Ihedigbo's physical style and run-stopping capability is especially important this week because New York has the top-rated rushing offense in the NFL. Chris Johnson, who is the speed back, and Chris Ivory ,the power runner, are essentially splitting carries.

Johnson has 123 yards rushing and a touchdown. Ivory has 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Plus, having Ihedigbo back gives the Lions some depth at safety for the first time this season. He had 99 tackles last season for Baltimore and had a plus-8.0 run-defense grade for the Ravens last season, best among the team’s defensive backs.

"It’ll be good in the running game," Austin said. "He’s a big body. He is a good tackler. He plays well close to the line of scrimmage.

"So it’ll be good to get him back."

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson missed his first practice of the season with an ankle injury on Wednesday, but he is not yet concerned about missing Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

"I’m not concerned about it," Johnson said. "When those things happen, get in here and just work and work and work until things get right."

Johnson injured the ankle late during the Detroit Lions' 19-7 win over the Green Bay Packers. He didn't seem too concerned about the injury then, either.

Johnson
So far this season, Johnson has caught 19 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson played 14 games last season -- many of them with a busted-up finger and ailing knee, both of which required surgery after the season. He still caught 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns with the injuries.

Johnson was one of four Lions players to miss practice Wednesday, joining Travis Lewis (quad), Don Carey (hamstring) and Cassius Vaughn (ankle).

Five players -- including four starters -- were limited Wednesday: defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (knee), running back Joique Bell (knee), defensive tackle Nick Fairley (bicep), fullback Montell Owens (hamstring) and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf).

In better news for Detroit, safety James Ihedigbo practiced fully for the first time this regular season as he recovers from a neck injury. Pay attention to his status Thursday. If he practices fully then, it could mean he will end up making his debut with the Lions on Sunday.
DETROIT -- James Ihedigbo must continue to wait for his first game as a Detroit Lion.

Ihedigbo, who was signed in the offseason as a replacement for the oft-injured Louis Delmas, will miss his third straight game at safety with a neck injury. Ihedigbo, who came over from Baltimore as the team's biggest defensive free-agent signing, has been doubtful the past two weeks.

In his place, Isa Abdul-Quddus will start.

As expected, Garrett Reynolds is picking up his second straight start at right tackle in place of the injured LaAdrian Waddle.

In a bit of good news for Detroit, Ezekiel Ansah, George Johnson and Nick Fairley are all active -- and rookie Larry Webster is active at defensive end for the first time, likely because of the injuries during the week to the aforementioned three defensive linemen.

Lions inactives: QB Kellen Moore, CB Cassius Vaughn S James Ihedigbo, FB Montell Owens, LB Travis Lewis, OT LaAdrian Waddle, WR Ryan Broyles
The Detroit Lions will be without their third starting slot cornerback in as many weeks.

Cassius Vaughn, who was slated to take over for Nevin Lawson after he took over for Bill Bentley, is out Sunday against Green Bay with an ankle injury after missing practice Thursday and Friday.

He is one of three players ruled out for Detroit, joining linebacker Travis Lewis (quadriceps) and starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf). This is the second straight game Waddle has missed with the injury.

In Vaughn’s place, Detroit will do one of three things: Start recently-signed cornerback Danny Gorrer in the slot, start safety Don Carey in the slot or move outside cornerback Rashean Mathis into the slot, moving Gorrer to the outside.

The Lions also are planning to promote rookie cornerback Mohammed Seisay from the practice squad, according to his agent. Seisay was signed as an undrafted free agent from Nebraska.

Garrett Reynolds will likely start his second straight game at right tackle for Detroit.

The Lions’ secondary issues go beyond the slot corner. Safety James Ihedigbo is doubtful for the second straight game with a neck injury. Detroit’s biggest defensive free agent signing, Ihedigbo has yet to play a game this season.

Fullback Montell Owens, a special-teams stalwart, is also doubtful with a hamstring injury.

Starting defensive linemen Ezekiel Ansah (knee) and Nick Fairley (biceps) are questionable, along with rotational defensive end George Johnson (groin).

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