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Week 2 Bubble Watch: Training camp winners, loser on defense

Who’s in? Who’s out? Our predictions on the Lions defensive roster.

Detroit Lions Training Camp Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

It can be hard to keep up with the Detroit Lions defense this year. There are so many new names at every level of the defense that there’s a good chance well over 50 percent of the roster will be overturned from 2019.

Aside from some shuffling at cornerback and one trip to injured reserve, the Lions defense has actually remained pretty healthy for the first week of training camp (knock on wood). So, unlike previous years, Detroit has some (literally) healthy competition going on up and down the defensive roster.

However, without full, live contact drills it becomes hard to really analyze performances. How do you judge a linebacker when tackling isn’t permitted? How can you truly evaluate a defensive tackle’s skills when they’re encouraged not to throw players to the ground? These are not just issues we’re dealing as reporters and analysts. NFL coaches are going through the same struggle without the luxury of preseason games.

But we did our best this week and looked at the defensive players on the roster bubble, making our predictions for who is in and who is out after one week of training camp.

(You can view our predictions for the offense here.)

Bubble Watch Week 2: Defense

Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Andrew Kato Mansur Shaheen John Whiticar Change
Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Andrew Kato Mansur Shaheen John Whiticar Change
DT John Penisini IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 0
DT Kevin Strong OUT IN IN OUT IN OUT IN IN +2
DT Olive Sagapolu OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT N/A
DE Frank Herron OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT N/A
LB Austin Bryant IN IN IN IN OUT OUT IN IN 0
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 0
LB Reggie Ragland IN IN IN IN IN IN OUT OUT 0
LB Miles Killebrew OUT OUT IN IN IN IN IN IN +1
CB Darryl Roberts IN IN IN IN IN IN IN OUT +2
CB Dee Virgin OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT -1
CB Tony McRae IN IN IN IN IN OUT OUT IN +1
CB Mike Ford OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN OUT IN -1
S C.J. Moore IN IN IN IN IN OUT OUT OUT N/A
S Bobby Price OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0

Off the Bubble

S Jayron Kearse - Kearse will almost certainly be put on the Reserved/Suspended list during cutdowns. He won’t count against the 53-man roster, but he technically will still be on the team. I took him off Bubble Watch to avoid confusion.

DL Jashon Cornell - Was sadly placed on IR last week.

New to Bubble Watch:

DL Frank Herron, DL Olive Sagapolu - With Cornell on IR, it potentially opens up more competition for a versatile defensive lineman. Sagapolu and Herron are the biggest beneficiaries, moving up a spot on the depth chart, but they still have work to do. Right now, the entire staff believes they’re still on the outside looking in.

S C.J. Moore - Probably should have been on the list last week. With Kearse’s suspension, there’s a good chance the Lions carry at least one extra safety for the first three weeks of the season. Moore fits the bill as someone who contributed on special teams in his rookie year. As of now, over half of the Pride of Detroit staff believes he’s in.

Rising up:

DT Kevin Strong (+2 votes from last week) - This is obviously the Jashon Cornell effect. With the rookie on IR, Strong should see more reps in practice. And although he’s been fairly quiet thus far, he has a year of experience in this defense.

CB Darryl Roberts (+2) - With all the injuries the Lions have dealt with at cornerback, Roberts saw some playing time with the first-team defense over the weekend. Behind Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant, Roberts may be the clear outside CB4. Only one of our staff members has him on the outside looking in now.

LB Miles Killebrew (+1) - Six of eight staffers have Killebrew in, likely due to his special teams contributions. That being said, the Lions are trying to get him involved, and I’ve even seen him rep with the first team a couple times at will linebacker during 7-on-7s.

CB Tony McRae (+1) - McRae reportedly had a really good day at camp on Sunday, so there’s likely a bit of recency effect here, but there’s also some legitimacy to the six “IN” votes he got. McRae has special teams experience with the current coordinator Brayden Coombs, and even started a few games with the Bengals on defense.

Falling down:

CB Dee Virgin (-1) - Our Name Bracket finalist notched a couple pass breakups on Saturday, but has had an otherwise quiet camp. He’ll likely be in direct competition with a guy like McRae, so it’s not surprising to see him dip down with McRae’s slight momentum upwards. As of now, no one has Virgin in their final 53.

CB Mike Ford (-1) - Similarly, Ford has a lot of work to do to make the final roster. With less than two weeks until the cutdown deadline, Ford only has two staffers in his corner. Even with all the injuries in the secondary, Ford has yet to emerge as a threat on defense. He may have to rely on special teams to win a spot. The good news: He logged over 250 snaps on special teams last year—the sixth most on the team.

No change:

DT John Penisini - Repping as the No. 2 nose tackle on the team, Penisini remains a full-consensus “IN” for Bubble Watch. He hasn’t stuck out much in training camp, but that’s pretty hard for a nose tackle to do when there aren’t many—if any—live, full-contact drills.

LB Austin Bryant - Bryan remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and time is running out for him to make his case as a contributor at jack linebacker. Still, our staff has faith in the 2019 fourth-round pick, as six of eight still have him in.

LB Reggie Ragland: Ragland has had a solid camp, moving all around the defense, but used primarily at jack linebacker. His highly-publicized pick-six on Sunday didn’t move the needle, however, as two staffers still believe he has work to do.

S Bobby Price - The undrafted rookie hasn’t been too noticeable at camp and remains a long shot to make the roster. He still has zero “IN” votes.