After losing cornerback and All-Pro return specialist Jamal Agnew to a knee injury, the Detroit Lions must find his replacement.
The Detroit Lions may have won their matchup against the Green Bay Packers, but in the process, they have lost a key playmaker on their team. Cornerback, return specialist, and situational offensive weapon Jamal Agnew went down in the fourth quarter with what is feared to be an ACL tear.
Agnew immediately earned his place with the Lions after being selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The speedy defensive back became the team’s starting punt returner and excelled in that role, taking two punts back for touchdowns in his rookie year.
The All-Pro return man came back this season with an increased workload, emerging as the starting slot cornerback, starting punt returner, and even taking some reps on offense. But now that he’s down with an injury, Detroit must look for Agnew’s replacement.
There are several candidates on the team who can take over the return specialist role. Wide receiver Golden Tate once fielded punts for the Lions but has not seen much action there in the last few years. Receiver T.J. Jones also has had some experience as a returner, but he has not seen much success in that role.
The one player who could benefit the most from Agnew’s injury is undrafted rookie wide receiver, Brandon Powell. The 5-foot-8 slot receiver was the only undrafted rookie to make the Lions’ squad this season, all due to his strong preseason campaign.
Powell has been inactive in all five games this season, but he could see some playing time now that the Lions are in need of a dynamic punt returner. He is similar to Agnew in size and can be used in the same roles on both special teams and offense. The Lions have kept him stashed on the roster for a reason, and now that decision might pay off for them.
On defense, Detroit will need someone to fill the slot cornerback role. Luckily, they have some options there.
Cornerbacks Nevin Lawson and DeShawn Shead could see some time there as they have several seasons of experience playing from that spot. The Lions could also turn to Quandre Diggs, who converted from slot cornerback to safety last season. The defensive back is a playmaker for Detroit regardless of where he lines up, so it’s possible that we could see him shift back into his old role.
Losing Jamal Agnew will have a big impact on the Detroit Lions regardless of who they find to replace him, but fans should stay optimistic knowing that the team kept more depth than usual at both wide receiver and cornerback. If the ACL tear is confirmed, we can expect to see Agnew back on the field next offseason.