We often think of the NFL schedule as a 16-game grind, but it’s truly a war of attrition that begins in earnest during training camp and the four-game slate of preseason exhibitions.
And sometimes, those preseason games can result in unfortunate injuries.
Or, at least, that seems to be the case with the Detroit Lions, who opened their preseason schedule with a loss against the Cincinnati Bengals … and a pair of losses to key players on their depth chart.
First, Kerry Hyder suffered a torn Achilles in the preseason opener, an injury that will require surgery and reportedly keep him out the rest of the season. Hyder’s absence is a big one for the Lions, as he was the team’s leader in sacks (8) in 2016 – his age 25 season. Hyder earned a 77.4 grade from Pro Football Focus last season, making him the Lions’ top-graded edge rusher. Teammate Ezekiel Ansah’s 75.7 grade didn’t rate too far behind, and he’ll be expected to pick up some of the slack in his absence if he can make it onto the playing field.
Among the players listed behind Hyder on the Lions’ depth chart at defensive end is Cornelius Washington, who signed with Detroit in the offseason. If you’ll recall, Washington spent the first four years of his career with the Bears after being chosen in the sixth round (188th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. Washington played a total of 31 games during that four-year stretch, making a pair of starts (both of which came in 2016) and recording a grand total of three sacks and 21 tackles. The University of Georgia product played 364 snaps last season and earned a 70.7 grade from PFF.
Detroit’s depth took a bit of a blow, too, as linebacker Brandon Copeland tore a pectoral muscle in the preseason loss. Unfortunately, Copeland’s pectoral injury is one that will cause him to miss the entire season, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Copeland, who was originally picked up by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2013, has played in all 32 games since signing on with the Lions back in 2015. He’d since found himself a niche in Detroit as a special teams contributor who could also play linebacker and defensive end.
Copeland played just 140 snaps in 2016 and was given a 68.2 grade from PFF for his efforts.