It certainly wasn’t a pretty preseason, but alas, it is over. The Lions finished 0-4, and I have to admit, entertainment certainly wasn’t a focal point of these games.
However, we got to see a lot of players fight for roster spots, and with the curtains drawn on the preseason and the regular season wait in the wings, who helped their case for the roster, and who might have sealed their fate?
Winner: Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson was a winner earlier in the week, when his primary competition, Zach Zenner, was released. Despite some modest stats, Thompson was clearly running well. He could use work as a receiver, but he runs with a lot of power and showcased some decent agility too. Coupled with a few solid runs that were called back, as well as an awful backup offensive line, Thompson did a lot to make cutting him a difficult decision. At the very least, he should be a shoo-in for the practice squad, assuming he goes unclaimed.
Loser: Backup offensive line
Speaking of the offensive line, whew. They did not do anybody on offense a favor. There were minimal running lanes. Pass rushers were in the quarterbacks’ face all night. Penalties were a significant issue. Nobody was playing well.
Tyrell Crosby has played quite poorly this preseason, and if it weren’t for his draft status, could be a cut. Beau Benzschawel shifted around a bit, including a few snaps at center—they weren’t good. The Lions rested plenty of linemen tonight, so this clearly won’t be their starting lineup, but their depth is terrifyingly poor. In the event of more injuries, look out Stafford.
Winner: Brandon Powell
I don't know if Brandon Powell is versatile enough. I don't think the starting kick/punt return jobs are up for grabs.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) August 30, 2019
But Powell is doing his best to make a case for himself.
There’s a logjam at receiver for the fourth or fifth roster spot, and Brandon Powell hasn’t done much as a receiver this preseason. However, he’s fortunate that no other receivers have shined this preseason, so the Lions might still envision him as their backup slot receiver. Where Powell shined against Cleveland was as a returner. He racked up over 100 yards on kickoffs, and while Jamal Agnew is entrenched as their punt returner, the kickoff returner position is up for grabs. The question now is whether or not they think Powell can contribute enough to warrant the spot.
Loser: Tom Savage
Coming into this game, Savage was essentially a lock for the QB2 spot. I still think he’s the favorite, but I’m down to 80 percent sure. Josh Johnson was able to orchestrate a few touchdown drives, and while I don’t think Johnson did anything special, Savage barely accomplished anything. Savage finished the night 5-of-9 for 33 yards in two quarters of work. Suddenly, there could be an argument for keeping Johnson over him.
Nonetheless, the reason why I still think he’s the favorite to claim the backup spot is simple: the offensive line sucked. Savage is a pocket passer, so with players in his face all night, he barely had a chance. Johnson, meanwhile, is more mobile and able to escape the pressure. However, he’s worse as a passer and had a few bad misses. In the event that Matthew Stafford gets injured, I would feel much more comfortable with Savage under center. With the Lions’ starting offensive line, Savage would play much better.
Winner: Backup secondary
After a pretty mediocre preseason, the secondary played quite well tonight against the Browns. Amani Oruwariye and Mike Ford especially were productive, notching some solid tackles and pass breakups. Johnathan Alston and Jamar Summers, two players on the outside of the roster bubble, both nabbed interceptions. C.J. Moore, meanwhile, played well on special teams. Along with the likes of Dee Virgin, Tavon Wilson, Andrew Adams, and Charles Washington, the Lions will have some tough decisions to make in the secondary.
Loser: Teez Tabor
So it's probably safe to assume at this point that Teez Tabor won't play at all this preseason, which means I have no idea what is going to happen to him this weekend.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) August 29, 2019
I have zero idea what to expect from Tabor. Is he safe? Is he hurt? Is he cut? We can speculate, sure, but we probably won’t know until cut down day. The biggest reason that Tabor is listed here is because of how well the secondary played tonight. Without getting any preseason games under his belt, other players might have jumped him on the defensive back totem pole.
The preseason is over. We can rejoice. Real football is just around the corner.