The Detroit Lions return to action Friday for the first time since New Year’s Eve. It will a be a time for some of the reserves to shine, as the usual stars will only play limited snaps. This week we get to take a look at a few players that may step up this month in their quest to make the 53-man roster.
The Detroit Lions grabbed UNLV’s Jeremiah Valoaga as a very late undrafted free agent two weeks after the draft. The defensive end spent part of last season’s training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but an impressive preseason saw him make the 53-man roster. He played a small part in the Lions pass rushing rotation and even earned himself a sack in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Valoaga fell out of favor in Detroit and began to see less use after the opening month of the season. Eventually the Lions decided to move on from him and was waived late in the season. He was later added to the practice squad, where he remained until he signed a futures contract with the team on New Year’s Day.
At 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, Valoaga is pretty large for a defensive end. As you would expect from a man of that size he does not have much speed, but he surprisingly has a great first step. He has decent burst when coming off of the edge and can punish linemen who may not have the best of reaction times. His ceiling as a pass rusher is not too high as he will always be limited by below average speed, but he has shown that he has the ability to contribute in the defensive line rotation. Valoaga is average against the run and is not as good at setting the edge as you’d expect from someone of his stature.
Detroit is very shallow at defensive end and Valoaga should have what it takes to make the roster. His spot is not guaranteed, though, and he still has some work to do this preseason. The Lions are currently lacking in effective pass rushers, and his contributions in the past should give him a leg up over the competition. Assuming he isn’t a disaster over the next month and none of the players beneath him on the depth chart make unexpected leaps in play, he should have a roster spot with his name on it.
In case he does lose his grasp on a roster spot, he is still practice squad eligible. It would be hard to imagine the Lions not giving him a practice squad spot, but if he is waived by the Lions, you could also imagine another team realistically nabbing him. Things are looking good for Valoaga at the moment, and there are not many scenarios where he does not make an opening day roster, whether it’s in Detroit or elsewhere.