The Detroit Lions announced on Friday morning that cornerback/kick returner Corey Ballentine has been placed on injured reserve. Ballentine suffered a hamstring injury during Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings and did not practice all week.
The 25-year-old defensive back only spent a few weeks with the Lions. Detroit claimed him off waivers in mid-September, and he immediately filled the role of Lions kick returner after safety-turned-running back Godwin Igwebuike struggled as the team’s returner for the first couple weeks. In three games, Ballentine only had the opportunity to return four kicks, and he averaged a respectable 23.5 yards per return.
It’s unclear what the Lions’ plans are now at kick returner, but it’s possible they go back to Igwebuike. No other Lions currently on the roster returned kickoffs during the preseason, but guys like Kalif Raymond and Tom Kennedy are capable.
This move creates a vacant roster spot for the Lions, which is very interesting heading into this weekend. Both defensive tackle Kevin Strong and left tackle Taylor Decker returned to practice this week but remain on IR. If either are ready to play this week, the Lions would have to activate them to the 53-man roster and have a vacancy ready for them.
In addition to Ballentine’s move to IR, the Lions also made a change on the practice squad, signing former Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown while releasing tackle Darrin Paulo. Brown went undrafted this year, but spent training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers and a week of the regular season on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad. At East Lansing, Brown tallied five interceptions in just seven games, which led the FBS in interceptions on a per-game basis.
Michigan State CB Shakur Brown in coverage this season— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 4, 2020
87.8 grade (1st in Big Ten)
1 TD allowed
5 INTs pic.twitter.com/qfpNI0X8FO
Brown, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, is capable of playing both inside and out, but looked far more comfortable on the outside while in East Lansing, even though traditionally most NFL teams would put him in the slot due to his size/speed combination. Known for his instincts and feel for the football, Brown doesn't waste energy guessing, which limits mistakes. Additionally, he is physical at the point of attack and isn’t afraid to put his shoulder into tackles. He only had seven starts at Michigan State, but he is another young, upside corner who could develop into a solid player.
Chris Burke of The Athletic also pointed out this coincidental fact:
The Lions have signed former Michigan State CB Shakur Brown to their practice squad. We'll see if he can stick, but I really like that fit from a versatility/mentality perspective.@LanceZierlein's draft comp for Brown? Aaron Glenn.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) October 15, 2021