The Detroit Lions lost two more players to injured reserve this week, as WR Quintez Cephus broke his collarbone and CB/KR Corey Ballentine suffered a hamstring injury. The Lions did sign CB Mark Gilbert off the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad, but with less than a week to learn the playbook and acclimate to the team, it would be surprising if he was active for this Sunday’s game with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Therefore, the Lions turned to the practice squad to fill the vacated roles and have used standard elevations to promote wide receiver Geronimo Allison and nickelback Nickell Robey-Coleman to the active roster for Sunday’s game. This will be the first time each player has been elevated in 2021 and they will each have one more remaining for the rest of the season.
This is Allison’s second season with the Lions, but he has yet to see the field after opting out in 2020 and being relegated to the practice squad in 2021. A six-year veteran, Allison has played in a total of 46 games, and some of his supporters have cited his veteran experience as a reason he should be on the active roster. But the reality is, both Kalif Raymond (40 games) and KhaDarel Hodge (43 games) have a similar level of experience and, frankly, have played better this season.
Raymond and Hodge are expected to start this week, along with rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown—with Hodge taking over Cephus’ spot—but beyond that, the depth options are up for grabs. Trinity Benson was hyped up by the staff after they traded for him, and while he has been quiet through five weeks, expectations are he will be active on game day.
That likely leaves one open spot for Allison and Tom Kennedy to battle over. Kennedy earned a spot on the active roster with a tremendous preseason, but his lack of special teams contributions have kept him a weekly inactive. If Allison can prove valuable on special teams, he could keep Kennedy on the bench again this week. If Allison also lacks special teams value, Kennedy is the better option on offense.
Robey-Coleman joins a young corner group that is starting third-year Amani Oruwariye along with two rookies—Jerry Jacobs on the outside and AJ Parker in the slot. Their top reserve is a second-year UDFA, Bobby Price, that was playing safety a month and a half ago. As I mentioned earlier, Gilbert, yet another rookie, likely won’t be ready for game action on Sunday and Robey-Coleman will likely step in as the Lions' fifth corner option.
Additionally, the Bengals like to throw the ball and will often line up in empty sets, which could lead to the Lions leaning on more subpackage formations to counter. When they have gone to their dime packages in the past, the Lions would put out three corners and three safeties, but now with Robey-Coleman as an option, they can use four corners, as he is most comfortable in the slot and can man the seam opposite Parker.
Will Allison and/or Robey-Coleman be active in Week 6? We will find out when the Lions announce their inactives 90 minutes before their 1 p.m. ET game on Sunday.
One final note, while left tackle Taylor Decker and defensive tackle Kevin Strong have been practicing this week, they are still being evaluated and have NOT been activated from injured reserve. They won’t play this week.