The Lions will be without one of their key defenders for at least the next month, as Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) that defensive tackle Nick Fairley will miss four-to-five weeks after spraining his MCL and PCL. Detroit already used its injured reserve/designated to return slot on rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy, so that tag isn’t an option for Fairley. Even if the Lions did still have their IR-DTR spot available, they probably would’ve opted to ride it out with Fairley, as his timetable for return is sooner than that of the required absence (eight weeks) of an IR-DTR player.
Fairley, 26, has been a central cog in a Detroit defense that has been excellent by both traditional statistics (first in both yards allowed and point per game allowed) and advanced metrics (first in defensive DVOA). Although he’s registered just one sack and eight tackles, he grades out as the eighth-best defensive tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required); Fairley’s line mate, Ndamukong Suh, ranks fourth. Fairley, a first-round pick out of Auburn in 2011, is a free agent after the season due to the Lions’ failure to exercise his fifth-year option.
The next man up on Detroit’s depth chart is Caraun Reid, a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft out of Princeton. He filled in for Fairley on Sunday, but still has seen only 85 defensive snaps on the season. The Lions do not have another player listed as a defensive tackle on their active roster, although C.J. Mosley should return to the team in Week 10 following his two-game suspension. Though they would have to clear a roster spot, the club could look to add an external option at tackle, with Isaac Sopoaga, Derek Landri, and Antonio Johnson topping the list of veterans available, per Adam Caplan of ESPN (on Twitter).