It’s not unlike the Lions to be struck with unluckiness that rivals Tennessee wide receiver Kevin Dyson in Super Bowl XXXIV. Well maybe not that extreme but nonetheless just a few days into training camp and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the 13th pick of the draft went down and out with a foot injury. The reason to mope is that the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time with players remembering how to play football again after the lockout and needing every precious second of camp to gel and perform at peak level for the season. The injury was a broken foot suffered during a special teams drill that will require Fairley to rest at least four to five weeks. The reason to hope is this statement released by the team.
“The examination of Nick Fairley’s foot today by Dr. Bob Anderson resulted in a diagnosis consistent with that of Lions’ team physicians that surgical correction was required. Accordingly, surgery was successfully performed this afternoon in Charlotte, N.C., by Dr. Anderson. Nick is expected to miss a significant portion of training camp.”
For one, the surgery was successful so healing can begin and two, the statement said he would miss “training camp” and didn’t specifically say games. MOre “good” news is that it has been reported by ESPN’s John Clayton that it was not a Lisfranc injury which is a sideline minimum of 6-8 weeks. Now being realistic, the Lions will not want to rush Fairley or his foot into game action so the time period is probably very flexible.
So what now? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and I’m sure there are other defensive linemen ready to step up. It’s not like we were depending on Fairley to make an immediate impact but let us profile other possible defensive tackles who could do damage up the middle in the rookies absence.
Corey Williams #99
Williams (6’ 4”, 320 lbs.) is an eighth year pro that can play both end and tackle. He totaled 37 tackles last year second only to Suh (among DT’s). Although he was hampered with a shoulder injury last season, he didn’t miss any time. Acquired in 2010 from the Cleveland Browns, Williams will see plenty of time if not start along side Suh and is expected to make his presence known in opposing backfields similar to what he did last year.
Sammie Hill #91
Sammie (6’ 4”, 329 lbs.)out of Stillman College is a load. He is the team’s biggest defensive lineman but can still move quick for a big man. Hill lost his starting job to Suh last year (big surprise) but actually performed better as a reserve in 2010 than a starter in 2009. He had no sacks his rookie year but last year recorded 2.5 sacks along with 30 tackles (both career highs). Expect him to once again make an impact off the bench.
Andre Fluellen #96
The young tackle (6’ 2”, 302 lbs.) out of Florida State will provide good, experienced depth at the this position. He can penetrate gaps and close on the ballcarrier to make impressive tackles behind the line. This type of play play should allow Suh and Williams much needed breathers. He did scratch a sack and 10 tackles last year and expect the production to go up depending on the length of Fairley’s absence.
With those bigs in the interior and high-energy defensive ends such as Kyle Vanden Bosch and Lawrence Jackson coming off the edge, the line should hold steady and remain dominant giving Fairley plenty, even too much time to heal.
With a shortened training camp (the first pre-season game against the Bengals is slated for August 12th and the regular season opener is September 11th) one of the Lions main goals will be to establish a solid starting core (probably DE Bosch, DT Suh, DT Williams, DE Jackson) and make sure their meshing. Fortunately, Fairley is not in a position where his return is dire for the team’s success or Silver Crush’s congruency.
Instead, he will be carrying a clipboard containing the one page playbook for the team’s defensive tackles. Head coach Jim Schwartz said the page contains two words, “kick butt”.
Schwartz also mentioned after Wednesday’s practice that they had sent him to Charlotte for further diagnosis.
Don’t worry Lions fans, Fairley will kick butt, it just might be a little later.