With upwards of 90 players set to appear for the Detroit Lions in their upcoming preseason opener, it can be overwhelming to keep track of what players are most worth following. Today we are taking a look at the five players who will have the most interesting storylines to watch in the return of Lions football.
If you have been actively reading or listening to content at the Pride of Detroit over the past month then first, thank you for keeping us in business, but second, you are probably well aware of safety Miles Killebrew’s precarious roster situation. The strong safety earned himself a reputation as a great third down stopper in his 2016 rookie season. He fell out of favor in Detroit midway through 2017, though, and his future has been in question ever since.
Killebrew struggled in OTAs early this summer. He has lost second team reps to surprise competitor Rolan Milligan in training camp so far. The addition of Tracy Walker in the third round of last spring’s draft also put his presence on the roster this season in doubt. Things are not looking good for the safety but a good performance in preseason could help him lock up a roster spot. It will also be interesting to see whether he or Milligan get second team reps against the Oakland Raiders as it will give us a much better look at how the Lions coaching staff currently ranks the players.
Undrafted receiver Teo Redding, who I previewed earlier this week, has captured a lot of attention with a few flashy plays in training camp. The rookie is still in the running to capture a spot as the roster’s fifth receiver. He still has a lot to work to do as his small frame and inconsistent play probably have him on the outside looking in at the moment. If he can prove his worth as a playmaker and show utility on special teams this month then it will be hard for the Lions to justify letting go of him, though.
Kerry Hyder Jr.
Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder surprisingly emerged to be the best pass rusher on the 2016 team. He followed that season up by suffering a season ending Achilles injury in the first defensive series of 2017 preseason. There are two main questions surrounding him entering this month of football. First, how well has he recovered from the torn Achilles? Second, was his surprise emergence in 2016 just a fluke or is it success that he can replicate again? Detroit is currently lacking in pass rushing talent and they will hope Hyder can answer to both questions.
Bob Quinn received mixed reviews when he chose to select Florida’s Teez Tabor in the second round of the 2017 draft. The cornerback had an up and down rookie season. He was inactive for many of the Lions early season games and didn’t get regular playing time until the latter stages of the year. 2018 should be different for him. He has a legitimate chance to win the starting role at CB2 over the likes of Nevin Lawson and Deshawn Shead, and an impressive preseason could help him silence critics and prove that he can live up to his draft billing.
Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock
It might be cheating to place two players here, but the backup quarterback battle may be one of the most interesting contests in Lions preseason. Jake Rudock is the incumbent. The former Michigan Wolverine was selected in the sixth round of the 2016 draft and beat out Dan Orlovsky and Brad Kaaya to win the role in back-to-back preseasons.
Rudock’s competition this year will be harder than ever. Matt Cassel famously led the New England Patriots to an 11-win season after Tom Brady tore his ACL in 2008 (but it technically doesn’t count because the NFL didn’t happen that year). He later took on the starting role in Kansas City but never was able to recapture the magic of that season. The now journeyman quarterback is entering his 14th year in the league and has proven that he can at least be a decent back up if called upon.
Cassel might be the favorite but Rudock has youth and the potential of future development on his side.