On Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, the Detroit Lions will have a bit of revenge on their minds after a bad loss at Carolina last Christmas Eve. When the defense takes the field, they will also be facing a couple familiar faces among the Panthers' pass catchers.
In an effort to add some experience to their wide receiver corps after trading D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears, the Panthers added Adam Thielen and DJ Chark in free agency.
Chark of course spent last season with the Lions, catching 30 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns over 11 games. He was a significant contributor late in the season when he was fully healthy, as he averaged 18.5 yards per catch over the final six games and made some clutch catches.
As he lingered available for a bit, there seemed to be a chance Chark would come back to the Lions. But it became clear there was no interest from the team's side when we saw the deal he got from Carolina (one-year, $5 million).
Chark has missed one game this season, with seven receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Detroit Lions facing a very familiar foe in Week 5 against the Panthers
Adam Thielen has been very productive for the Panthers so far this season, clearly leading the team in receptions (27), receiving yards (287) and targets (33). Over the last three games, he has 25 catches (on 31 targets) for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions of course know Thielen plenty well from his nine seasons (2014-2022) with the Minnesota Vikings. In 17 career games against Detroit, he has 58 receptions for 687 yards and four touchdowns (feels like those numbers would've been higher). In last season's two matchups he had 13 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while drawing multiple penalties on now-former Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye in the Week 3 matchup.
The absence of rookie Brian Branch (ankle) will add to the challenge of covering Thielen on Sunday. The veteran receiver has lined up in the slot on 67.4 percent of his snaps so far this season (h/t to Pro Football Reference and Player Profiler). But the Lions have options, with Emmanuel Moseley set to make his Lions debut and safety Kerby Joseph set to return after missing the last two games. Cameron Sutton or Jerry Jacobs could shift inside at times, or Chase Lucas could get some opportunity to play in the slot.
On the Panthers' sideline will also be two former Lions' assistants, running backs coach/assistant head coach Duce Staley and defensive line coach Todd Wash. So there will be plenty of familiarity at Ford Field on Sunday.