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Without Nick Fairley, Detroit Lions’ Defensive Line Has Plenty of Solid Options

September 12th, 2013 at 5:48 PM
By Max DeMara

Detroit Lions' defensive tackle Nick Fairley missed practice again on Thursday, casting some serous doubts about his availability for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

'Justin Bannan' photo (c) 2010, Jeffrey Beall - license:

Dealing with a shoulder injury, Fairley finished last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings but has been struggling enough this week to cut down on his practice time. Yesterday, the possible implications of his injury were discussed, but what about the skill-set of the reserves who'll be pressed into duty if Fairley can't play?

Fortunately for the Lions, the team has a well stocked defensive line with plenty of interchangeable contributors. Fairley injuries have previously proved devastating for the past few years, but only because Detroit didn't have the right reserves for different roles. Thanks to plenty of offseason additions, that's changed a bit. Here's the roles several reserves could play Sunday in the absence of Fairley.

Run Stoppers: Justin Bannan, C.J. Mosley, Jason Jones.

  • If the Lions want to stop the run, they will likely turn to the 310-pound Bannan, who's specialty is being a space eater with 310 career tackles. Mosley can do this as well with his big body, and Jones has previous experience as a defensive tackle. As Dave Birkett reported, expect Mosley to be the starter opposite Ndamukong Suh in the absence of Fairley, but if the Lions want to stack the box, they can utilize any of these players, as all have the ideal skills to play quality snaps at defensive tackle against the run.

Pass Rushers: Israel Idonije, Mosley, Jones.

  • This is where Idonije could prove most valuable to the Lions. He has experience playing the middle and brings the agility of a defensive end to the tackle position. With 28.5 career sacks, he knows how to get to the quarterback as well as Fairley does, and can attack the pocket well. Mosley knows how to rush the passer as well, given he was the one who famously injured Matthew Stafford in 2009 with pure hustle. Jones also has shown a preseason knack for sacking the quarterback, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him getting after the passer, either.

Obviously, the Lions would prefer to have Fairley suit up himself and utilize the other players as rotational backups, much like they did last Sunday. Jim Schwartz isn't conceding the fact that Fairley won't play though, adding an interesting dynamic to Sunday's upcoming injury report.

"I'm just not going to comment on injuries," Schwartz said. "He was able to finish the game. We didn't get him on the practice field yesterday, but he's improving and we'll see where it is."

Add to that the fact that the Lions have a later start in the desert and Fairley might end up seeing some time, after all. If he doesn't, fans should take comfort in knowing there's finally plenty of reserves that can fill his role confidently and competently.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

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Tags: C.J. Mosley, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Israel Idonije, Jason Jones, Jim Schwartz, Justin Bannan, Ndamukong Suh, NFL, Nick Fairley

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