The Detroit Lions would have kicked off NFL preseason today if not for COVID-19. 2020 has turned into an unprecedented affair for the league as a whole, with training camp taking place behind closed doors and the entire exhibition season cancelled.
This also means that entire training camp battles will take place without fans getting any knowledge of where the players stand or even getting a chance to see some players before they get released at the final cuts before the 53-man roster.
One of the more interesting stories to watch in preseason, if we were allowed to do so, would have been that of cornerback Darryl Roberts. A former starter at cornerback who quietly signed with the Lions late in free agency, Roberts has a real chance to earn a roster spot and play a real role of the defense.
Roberts was selected by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL draft. He was waived by the team before the season started though, missing the 53-man roster. He quickly landed with their division rival New York Jets, though, where he made a name for himself.
He was a semi-regular starter in New York. The corner played 56 games for the Jets, starting in 26 of them. Roberts featured mainly as a reserve in his first two seasons, before finally earning a bigger role in his final two years with the team.
2018 was his best season with the team. It is the only year where he played in all 16 games, and he even learned his first long-term deal last offseason when the Jets signed him to a three-year deal worth $18 million. 2019 proved to be a disaster season for the corner, though, and he was released only a year into his deal. He then ended up in Detroit, after signing with the Lions in early April on a on-year deal worth around $2 million.
Now at 29, Roberts may be on his last chance to stick on an NFL roster. Failing to make the Detroit 53-man roster could spell the end of his career, though he also has a chance to earn himself one final, multi-year deal.
As the second most experienced corner on the roster behind Desmond Trufant, Roberts has a real chance to make the roster. The team will likely keep around five corners on the roster with Trufant, Justin Coleman and first-round pick Jeff Okudah being locks to make the team. That leaves Roberts to compete with Amani Oruwariye, Mike Ford and Dee Virgin for a final spot.
With Ford having played terribly last season, and Virgin being a player that never even features on defense, the odds are in Roberts’ favor. And if he can truly get back to his 2018 form, do not be surprised if he puts pressure on the starters.