Perhaps the worst part of the Detroit Lions‘ victory on Sunday was the immediate realization that offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle’s knee injury was a serious problem. When a cart was needed to help him off the field, there was no question things could be bad.
Quickly Monday, that fear was confirmed. Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell didn’t mince words. “It doesn’t look good,” he said, opening his weekly press conference with bad news. Hours later, Caldwell’s prognosis was proven true when Waddle was officially announced as finished with an ACL injury.
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The unfortunate injury situation puts a capper on a rough 2014 for the offensive tackle. Waddle had missed games with two separate concussions, ankle problems and calf problems. Health along the line has been a team-wide issue, with Corey Hilliard and Larry Warford each sidelined, as well. Now, Waddle joins them.
Hope should not be lost, however. Ready to fill in is Cornelius Lucas, a 6’9″ load who has proven he can stand up to the challenge of an NFL pass rush this season. Lucas has been an invaluable member of the line, considering he’s been asked to fill in at different times this season.
Now, Lucas will be the unquestioned starter the rest of the way for a Lions’ team that is depending on their offensive line to continue to jell in time for a playoff push. The team and the fans should be completely confident in the undrafted rookie because of his previous experience. He’s used to being called upon, and held the fort well after Waddle went down on Sunday afternoon. There should be no panic.
The team and fans should be completely confident in the undrafted rookie because of his previous experience. (Lucas is) used to being called upon, and held the fort well after Waddle went down on Sunday.
Lucas will have his chance to shine for the Lions and make a bigger name for himself. Coming out of training camp, nearly all of Detroit’s offensive line were unanimous in their praise of the youngster, commenting on how he could become a force given time and opportunity. Given his positive role early in the season, that praise has only continued.
Opportunity will never knock loudest for Lucas than it will this weekend, as he draws the start against the Chicago Bears. The Bears have an excellent pass rush, anchored by usual Lions’ tormentor Jared Allen, the versatile Stephen Paea, Willie Young and Jeremiah Ratliff. Expect Lucas to get a heavy dose of Young early and often. It will be a great immediate test for Detroit’s line.
Though the challenge moving forward will certainly be fierce, don’t discount the ability of Lucas to rise up and elevate his own play. The job is his now, and he undoubtably has the prior experience and tools needed to survive a massive NFL challenge.
Fortunately, he’s got good enough experience to rely on and a large enough set of shoulders to adequately bear this newest load.