ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions’ faint playoff hopes could get a boost this week.
All-Pro return man Jamal Agnew is eligible to be activated Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. He’s been on injured reserve since suffering a knee injury in a Week 5 win against Green Bay.
Per the new NFL rules, each team is allowed to bring back two players from IR once they’ve sat out eight games.
“He’s kind of working his way back as far as that’s concerned, and we’re just day-by-day with that,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “So we’ll work through the week like we have been with him and see how it goes and see where we’re at when we get to Friday, and then toward game time we’ll make an appropriate decision as we get closer.”
Agnew, a fifth-round pick last year, burst onto the scene by leading the league in punt return yardage. He scored twice and was named first-team All-Pro.
He added to his workload this year by opening the season as the top man at slot cornerback. He certainly has the athleticism to play the position, but lacks experience. He allowed 10 catches on 14 targets for 141 yards and no touchdowns. Quarterbacks had a passer rating of 103.6 when targeting him.
So getting him back on the field, even if the Lions playoff chances are hovering below 2 percent, would be a valuable experience for the young corner heading into 2019.
Nevin Lawson, usually an outside corner, has replaced Agnew in the slot. That’s forced undrafted rookie Mike Ford into the starting lineup opposite Darius Slay on the outside.
At returner, the Lions have cycled through TJ Jones, Bruce Ellington, Quandre Diggs and Ameer Abdullah (now cut). They average 24.3 yards per kick return (eighth in the NFL) and 6.1 yards per punt return (28th) as a team this season.