The Detroit Lions had fallen into a routine with their protected practice squad players. For most of the season, they have protected the same four players:
- Ryan Santoso, kicker
- Steven Montez, quarterback
- Bruce Hector, defensive lineman
- Jalen Elliott, safety
This week, the Lions continued to protect Santoso, Montez, and Hector, but Elliott was signed to the active roster Tuesday morning, leaving Detroit with an available option to protect a new player. The new player the Lions chose to protect was:
- Shayne Zylstra, tight end
With the release of Darren Fells and subsequent signing of rookie Brock Wright from their practice squad, the Lions’ depth chart at tight end was thinning out. The Lions did sign former Michigan Wolverine Nick Eubanks to their practice squad on Tuesday, but until he gets up to speed, Zylstra is an important piece to the roster,
Currently, Zylstra is the Lions' TE3—a role he is likely to keep moving forward—and he is the only realistic option at tight end if either T.J. Hockenson or Wright suffers an injury. That alone makes him worth protecting. But the Lions have seen upside to his game.
In Week 5, with Hockenson nursing an injured knee, the Lions elevated Zylstra from the practice squad—over Wright—though he appeared to only be an insurance option as he played zero offensive snaps and just 12 special teams snaps. Regardless, the Lions still trusted the former wide receiver enough to have him active and ready on game day.
With the state of the tight end room, and the habits the Lions have shown with their protected practice squad, don't be surprised if this is the same group of four protected each week moving forward.