It's not unfair to say the Lions' season has reached an early crossroads.
They let a win slip through their fingers last week against the Cardinals, and now they come home to face an undermanned Chargers team. With a pair of games looming against the Eagles and the Chiefs, not to mention a visit to Green Bay on Monday Night Football, the Lions are in danger of falling behind before the race really begins.
They need a win on Sunday. And they need a handful of things to happen to ensure they get it.
The season-opener couldn't have gone much worse for Taylor Decker. Overwhelmed by Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones, Decker was complicit in seven pressures and allowed two sacks, both of which resulted in fumbles. ProFootballFocus ranked his pass-blocking last in the league out of 67 offensive tackles. Now he gets to face the Chargers duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and he'll likely have to do it at less than 100 percent. Decker was limited at practice both Wednesday and Thursday with a back injury. The Lions need the 2016 version of Decker, an All-Rookie left tackle who looked like a foundational piece of the O-line, and they need him now.
"Just like no offense is perfect, no defense is perfect," Johnson said on Thursday. "If (Mack) can do it, we can do it as well. If they can do it, we can do it as well. And that’s we plan to do."
It's no secret the strength of this team is the defensive line. Particularly inside, the Lions have a wealth of playmakers. While that unit played well for most of the season-opener, it wasn't as dominant against the run as many had hoped. The Lions gave up 4.9 yards per carry to the Cardinals, after allowing just 3.4 in the final eight games of last season. It won't get any easier this week against a Chargers rushing attack that averaged 6.0 yards per tote last week. The core of Matt Patricia's defense is based on stopping the run, and the Lions need to get back to that on Sunday.
It's a pretty safe bet the Lions wouldn't have crumbled last week had co-captain Jarrad Davis been on the field. But Detroit's starting middle linebacker was out with an ankle injury he suffered in the preseason. Davis has been a bit more active at practice this week -- though still a limited participant -- and there's a chance he makes his season debut on Sunday. Against that Chargers rushing attack, the Lions could use him. Davis is poised for a big season, whenever he does return, playing behind Detroit's stout defensive front.