In only two days the Detroit Lions will take the field for the first time since New Years Eve. While the recognizable stars will be around, it’s truly a time for some of the lesser known players to shine. This may be the last chance for many players to make a 53-man roster in their careers and they will be desperate to make an impact. Today we meet one of the most surprising players to emerge out of the early stages of Lions training camp.
The Detroit Lions quietly signed safety Rolan Milligan in February 2017 after he spent nearly the entire 2016 season as a free agent. Milligan declared for the 2016 draft out of Toledo but went undrafted before eventually joining the Dallas Cowboys as a UDFA. Dallas waived him with an undisclosed injury midway through 2017 preseason. Milligan spent the 2017 season in Detroit struggling to stay healthy, finding himself being placed on a PUP list before moving between the 53-man roster to the practice squad repeatedly over the course of the season. He has never played a regular season NFL snap.
Milligan was a member of the Lions preseason squad last season but failed to make a real impact. He totaled seven tackles and only got playing time with the reserves. There never seemed to be a legitimate chance for him to make the roster last year but things are different for him this time around.
Safety Tavon Wilson has been in and out of practice so far in training camp and Milligan seems to be the guy tapped to replace him for now. He started at safety the day that Wilson missed and has been practicing with the second unit for the most part.
Pride of Detroit’s Kent Lee Platte has watched the safety play at Lions training camp and had this to say about him:
Milligan has been repping behind Tavon Wilson at strong safety and plays a similar role in the defense. He will play both off the line and near, occasionally dropping deep or covering the slot. While he has no shortage of range, Milligan struggles to anticipate routes and his angles both during coverage and after the receiver has made the catch make him appear slower as he’s often out of position.
Defensive back is a really crowded position right now in Detroit. Glover Quin, Wilson and rookie third-round pick Tracy Walker are locks to make the roster at safety. Milligan doesn’t have any experience at corner, meaning his only realistic chance to make the 53-man roster is to win the backup strong safety role.
Despite his weak showing at training camp so far, he still seems to be the frontrunner to beat Miles Killebrew to win a final roster spot. Killebrew fell out of favor in the latter stages of 2017, and Milligan is still getting more valuable reps than him in practice. Both of them will be fiercely competing over the next four weeks to get ahead of the other and, most likely, at least one will have to go. If Milligan ends up losing the camp battle, then he is still practice squad eligible and will most likely find himself there.