When the Detroit Lions cut their roster down to 53 players, there were plenty of fans who went scrambling to look up who linebacker Trevor Bates was. The 2016 seventh-round pick by the Colts didn’t show up on many training camp observations, and he didn’t make any big eye-popping plays in the preseason. Yet the 25-year-old linebacker made the team over veteran Jonathan Freeny, who was regularly repping ahead of him in camp.
So why did Bates make the team? Pro Football Focus offered some clarity after they announced their 2018 NFL All-Preseason Team. Bates actually made the squad, but not as a linebacker. Rather, Bates earned a phenomenal 90.7 grade at special teams according to PFF.
“Bates saw playing time in five of the six special teams phases for the Lions this preseason, including 18 snaps on punt or kick coverage,” PFF’s Gordon McGuinness wrote. “From those plays, he registered four tackles, tied for second-most in the NFL this preseason.”
Midway through the preseason, the Lions lost Steve Longa for the year due to a torn ACL. Longa was one of the team’s better special teams players last season. Now it appears that role belongs to Bates, and based on his preseason performance, he may be a pretty darn good replacement.
UPDATE WELP: The Lions have waived Trevor Bates. However, he could return to the team’s practice squad.