We’re all excited to see the Detroit Lions take the field for the first time. Who in their right mind wouldn’t get giddy about Matthew Stafford slinging it to Marvin Jones, or Theo Riddick juking a linebacker out of his jockstrap, or Darius Slay breaking in the #SlayFingerWagCount.
But once the starters are done, a lot of people tune out. To which I say, “Why?” There are plenty of good storylines to be had in the second, third and fourth quarters of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, and some could be very important to the future of this team.
With that in mind, here are six players to watch once the first team is off the field.
1. CB Jamal Agnew (#39)
Agnew has a ton of hype surrounding him after his impressive performance during last week’s mock game. He wowed those in attendance with an impressive punt return touchdown. Agnew could get some early looks on Sunday at special teams, but don’t sleep on his defensive contributions.
Though Agnew has certainly looked like a rookie at times during training camp, he’s also shown that he could potentially compete for the nickel cornerback job down the line. He likely won’t win the job in 2017, but look for signs of potential against the Colts.
2. DE Jeremiah Valoaga (#78)
Valoaga was one of the lesser-known UDFA signings the Lions made post-draft. His college career at UNLV was marred by academic concerns (missed entire 2014 season) and injuries (missed six games due to a broken ankle).
But for a team desperately looking for some pass rushing help, Valoaga has stood out in training camp, specifically in the mock game. From our own Kent Lee Platte:
Valoaga went against Detroit’s top talents at tackle and routinely won. The first time I saw Rick Wagner get beat in camp was by Jeremiah Valoaga. Greg Robinson, who was finally starting to play well, was also beaten by Valoaga. He would have one terrible rep against Cyrus Kouandjio where the free agent acquisition threw him to the ground like a rag doll, but Valoaga got the best of Kouandjio later, forcing Cyrus to get flagged for holding.
Valoaga was activated from the PUP just a week ago, so he’s still getting his feet underneath him, but look for him to get into the Colts backfield at least once on Sunday.
3. DE Alex Barrett (#79)
Barrett is another undrafted defensive end rookie who has impressed in camp. In fact, the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett called Barrett “one of the Lions' best performing rookies, draft pick or not,” after eight training camp practices.
Barrett had an impressive, but understated, career in college at San Diego State:
The Lions have signed UDFA edge defender Alex Barrett from San Diego State.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 5, 2017
Slightly undersized, he posted strong CFB grades in 2016. pic.twitter.com/3QnSI8Sw7j
With the Lions hurting at defensive end, expect to get a long look at Barrett in the second half of the game.
4. S Alex Carter (#33)
Carter may be on his last leg with the Lions, but the former third-round pick has a big chance to resurrect his career. With his move from cornerback to safety this year, Carter has a chance to squeak his way onto the roster, and early returns on the transition have been positive.
He’ll still likely have to beat out the likes of special teamer Don Carey and underdog Charles Washington. However, Carter is still only 22 years old and could have a bright future if he adapts to his new position well.
5. TE Michael Roberts (#80)
Roberts was one of the Lions’ most popular draft picks this year. The local Toledo graduate was a touchdown machine in college, hauling in 16 scores in his senior year alone.
Roberts could get some early action with Eric Ebron not expected to play, but the fourth-round pick should also get plenty of looks late in the game, as the Lions try to figure out if he’ll have a role in 2017 or if he’ll be more of a future project.
6. C Leo Koloamatangi (#75)
Who doesn’t love watching some offensive line play in the second half of a preseason game?
Koloamatangi won’t ever likely win the starting job at center, but he certainly could find his way onto the roster this year. He has routinely taken second-team reps at center throughout training camp, and even though Graham Glasgow has slid over to center in the past, Koloamatangi has played well enough in camp to get consideration as the backup to Travis Swanson. And with Swanson playing on a contract year, Koloamatangi could provide some much-needed depth beyond 2017.