The Detroit Lions (1-1 straight up, 1-1 against the spread) will be without two of their best players on defense for an extended period of time.
LB James Houston suffered a fractured ankle and CJ Gardner-Johnson sustained a torn pectoral muscle in this past Sunday’s 37-31 overtime loss to Seattle. Houston is going to miss at least 6-8 weeks, while Gardner-Johnson is out indefinitely and possibly for the rest of the season.
Houston was a sixth-round pick out of Jacksonville St. (after transferring from Florida, where former DC Todd Grantham had a grudge against him and played less talented players ahead of him) with the No. 217 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As a rookie for Detroit last season, Houston was inactive in the team’s first 10 games.
However, he produced two sacks and a fumble recovery in his NFL debut on Thanksgiving Day when the Lions lost a 28-25 decision to Buffalo. Then he proceeded to record at least one sack in five of seven games, including a three-sack effort in a 41-10 home win over Chicago.
In just seven games and two starts, Houston ended his rookie campaign with 12 tackles, 11 QB hits, eight sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His eight sacks were second among NFL rookies behind only teammate Aidan Hutchinson, who had 9.5 sacks in 2022.
In Detroit’s season-opening win at Kansas City, Houston had one QB hit on 21 snaps. He logged 11 snaps before getting injured against the Seahawks, recording one tackle.
The 25-year-old Gardner-Johnson inked a one-year deal with the Lions in the offseason. The fifth-year veteran safety played his first three seasons with the Saints, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
New Orleans traded him to Philadelphia in August of 2022, and Gardner-Johnson played a key role for the Eagles in their run to the Super Bowl. He started all 12 regular-season games he played in last year, producing 67 tackles, eight passes broken up, six interceptions, five tackles for loss and two QB hits.
Gardner-Johnson added 12 tackles and one PBU in three postseason games. In two games this year with Detroit, he had 13 tackles and two PBU. In 57 career regular-season games, Gardner-Johnson has 241 tackles, 38 PBU, 20 TFL’s, 14 QB hits, 11 interceptions, four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Detroit will also be without backup defensive lineman Josh Paschal for at least several weeks. He was placed on IR before the loss to Seattle. Paschal had three tackles and one TFL in the win at Kansas City.
As a rookie last season, Paschal started four of 10 games he played in. He recorded 16 tackles, four QB hits and two sacks.
Three other Detroit starters are ‘questionable’ for its Week 3 home game vs. Atlanta. This trio includes OT Taylor Decker (ankle), RB David Montgomery (thigh) and CB Emmanuel Moseley (hamstring).
As of Tuesday morning, most books had the Lions installed as three-point home favorites with a total of 46.