HomeTrade RumorsLions Bring C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Alim McNeill Back from Injured Reserve (IR)

Lions Bring C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Alim McNeill Back from Injured Reserve (IR)

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Ahead of their regular season finale, the Lions will receive reinforcements on the defensive side of the ball. The team announced on Saturday that defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and defensive tackle Alim McNeill have been activated from injured reserve.

The former returned to practice December 20, opening his three-week activation window. Gardner-Johnson was in line to make his return to the lineup in time for Week 18, so today’s move comes as little surprise. The free agent addition is now cleared to see regular season action for the first time since suffering a torn pec in September.

The Lions’ secondary has seen a number of changes during the season related to health and performance. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said earlier this week that second-round rookie Brian Branch will remain Detroit’s starting slot corner. As a result, Gardner-Johnson will be used at safety when on the field. The 26-year-old will rotate alongside Ifeatu Melifonwu and Kerby Joseph on the backend as the Lions look for needed improvement against the pass on defense.

The NFC North champions rank 25th in passing yards allowed per game entering Week 18, allowing 240 yards per game through the air. That has weighed down the team’s overall defensive showing (23.4 points per game allowed, 23rd in the league). A healthy Gardner-Johnson could help in that department if he manages to showcase his level of play with the Eagles last season (something which would also, of course, help his free agent market in the offseason after he came to the Lions on a one-year deal).

McNeill had his practice window opened earlier this week, a sign that he would be able to suit up for the regular season finale. The move allowed Detroit to part ways with fellow D-lineman Isaiah Buggs, who appears to have asked to be let go. McNeill had been sidelined for one month, interrupting his breakout third season in the league. The former third-rounder has posted a career-high five sacks and 12 QB pressures in 12 contests while remaining a full-time starter. He will provide an interior pass-rush presence in the postseason as part of a defensive front which ranks fifth against the run.

As a result of Saturday’s moves, the Lions have two IR activations remaining. One of those will be needed if edge rusher James Houston — who returned to practice December 28 — is to be brought back into the fold at some point this year. At any rate, Detroit’s defense will be in better shape from a health standpoint ahead of the team’s playoff game next week.

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