Calvin Johnson: Check.
Matthew Stafford: Not yet.
As the Detroit Lions prep for Sunday's tilt against the 3-2 New York Giants, they'll likely employ the services of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who has been limited in practice this week after falling awkwardly on his shoulder in last weekend's win over St. Louis.
Given his impact on the team's first victory of the year, both as the world's most effective decoy and an actual receiver, that's a good thing.
"Everyday I’m around Calvin I’m encouraged by him," coach Jim Schwartz said Thursday. Per the usual, Schwartz didn't admit that Johnson would play, but all indications point towards the obvious: he'll start. Especially considering the team's most viable offensive weapon was running routes in practice.
He also has no structural damage to his shoulder, making it unlikely he could do further damage by playing.
Still, Schwartz remained non-committal.
"Anything that goes on during the week, you need to temper both optimism and pessimism and just try to get him through to Sunday and see where he is," said Schwartz.
Johnson and Nate Burleson combined for eight catches and two touchdowns against the Rams, but it was Johnson's presence that turned the middle of the field vacant for Detroit's pass catchers to run rampant. Essentially, for the first time this season, Detroit's weaponry executed exactly as the team's brass envisioned when the roster was compiled in the off-season.
Even if Johnson isn't 100-percent, there's the undeniable truth that No. 81 with one arm is considered more of a threat (see: decoy) than most receivers in the league, and still very capable of delivering damage to a defensive secondary.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Although Stafford has continued to throw occasionally in effort to test his injured throwing shoulder, he was again held out of practice all week.
Schwartz has made it a habit of naming his starting quarterback on Wednesday's since Stafford's injury, but refused to do the same this week.
However, the Lions have been somewhat formidable offensively under the direction of backup Shaun Hill, leading the conference in scoring with over 25 points per contest. And with the bye week looming, it seems almost nonsensical to rush Stafford's arm back into action -- especially with the sack-minded Giants having Detroit's quarterback in their crosshairs.
Detroit signed LB Vinny Ciurciu, who was dumped during the team's final roster cuts in September. LB Spencer Havner (hamstring) was released to make room for Ciurciu on the roster, but will be added to the injured reserve list should he clear waivers. Said defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham of Ciurciu, "He's a great guy, I’m glad we brought him back. We all felt bad when we had to release him, because of numbers. He’s a really good special teams player and a fine back-up linebacker, so I’m glad he’s back in the mix."
Ciurciu was added to Detroit's bleak depth at linebacker, which has been on life-support with injuries and illness affecting half the unit. The Lions will likely start two-year player Ashley Palmer at middle linebacker. Palmer recorded two starts at outside linebacker for Buffalo last year.
Cunningham is enjoying the progress of safety Louis Delmas, who had been nursing a groin injury since mini-camp. Delmas recorded five tackles against the Rams, including an outstanding, open field tackle on the Rams' Stephen Jackson. Delmas is the unquestioned leader in Detroit's secondary, and his emergence through a long recovery is paramount to the team's improved play in the defensive backfield.
Much of Delmas' improvement is attributed to increased repetitions on the practice field.
"After the Green Bay game, I felt it was a real urgency that we at least get him back there and shadow people," Cunningham said. "In other words, we had 11 guys out there and he was like the 12th guy way back and working. But the more we did that, the more he was ready to actually do the practice because it hurt him mentally not to be out there and see the plays.
"He’s a smart guy and feels the ball well; he understands the game, but getting him back on the practice field (has been important). His health is getting better every day."
LB Landon Johnson (concussion), LB DeAndre Levy (ankle/groin), DE Turk McBride (ankle), QB Matthew Stafford (right shoulder) and CB Nathan Vasher (nose/biceps) did not practice on Thursday, while RB Jahvid Best (toe), WR Nate Burleson (ankle), S Louis Delmas (groin), WR Calvin Johnson (shoulder/knee) and WR Stefan Logan (foot) were considered "limited." Best didn't practice on Wednesday, a strategic move to rest Best's sore toe.
Johnson, Levy, and Stafford are all expected to be out for Sunday.