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James Ihedigbo ready to have 'rocking' return for Lions

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.

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."