The first preseason game is in the books, and it gave the coaching staff and fans their first look at Detroit Lions football this season. Success in training camp is one thing, but players need to showcase their skills during a live game to truly make an impression. For the starters, this can mean shaking off the rust or showing good cohesion with new teammates. For many players, however, preseason football is their time to stake a claim at a spot on the 53-man roster.
Here at Pride of Detroit, we have been running a bubble watch, highlighting the players on offense and defense and how their chances are changing—stay tuned for the latest edition later today. A preseason game can be valuable for analysis since training camp reps can be misleading at times. The Lions' offense looked great last season, but that was partially a byproduct of going up against a bad Lions’ defense. The Buffalo Bills posed a decent challenge on both sides of the ball, and there were a few players that capitalized on their opportunity.
There are many outcomes from a great preseason performance. It can move a player off the bubble and firmly onto the roster. It can move a player onto the bubble, having previously been at the bottom of the depth chart. It can also mean getting a leg up on your competition, especially if a teammate struggles.
But which Lions player saw the greatest boost from their preseason debut?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which player on the roster bubble improved their odds the most?
My answer: I think Logan Stenberg improved his odds the most.
While running back Craig Reynolds had a phenomenal game against the Bills, just a day after being signed, it is too early for me to consider him as a threat for the 53-man roster. I’d say his odds of making the roster went from zero percent to around 20 percent, but he still needs a repeat performance or two to stay on as a fourth running back or bump Jermar Jefferson off the RB3 spot.
I also think Javon McKinley really helped himself on Friday, coming in as the second-best offensive player per PFF behind Reynolds. McKinley was already on the bubble, but on the outside looking in. A poor showing from Victor Bolden helps his case for the sixth wide receiver spot, but I believe the coaching staff still views Bolden as the top option. Much like Reynolds, McKinley needs another good outing from himself—and a bad outing from Bolden—to secure his spot.
My vote goes to Stenberg because I’m ready to mark him down as a roster lock.
You could argue that Stenberg was the best offensive lineman for the Lions against the Bills. While this came against the backups for Buffalo, it also came with backups next to him. As Penei Sewell can attest to, an offensive lineman is only as good as the linemen around him. Sewell gave up a sack to Gregory Rousseau, but it also occurred due to Halapoulivaati Vaitai getting pushed back into the pocket. Stenberg was mainly playing next to Dan Skipper and Evan Brown, but held his own for most of the night.
Stenberg is still a work in progress as a pass blocker, but his run blocking looked excellent against the Bills. Stenberg’s biggest challenger for the backup guard position is probably Tommy Kraemer, who filled in at right guard towards the end of the game. Kraemer looked decent, but it is worth noting that Matt Nelson, primarily a tackle last year, was the second-string right guard, not Kraemer. This bodes well for Stenberg, especially after a good performance. As Erik Schlitt noted in his 53-man roster prediction, I think Stenberg will be the top reserve guard, with Nelson and Crosby as swing tackles that can also play guard. That leaves a spot for a backup center, likely Evan Brown.
Stenberg had a rough rookie season with little to show for it, despite fellow draftee Jonah Jackson having success as the starting left guard. However, he was always expected to be a project, but 2021 would be the year we start seeing it come together. He’s unlikely to usurp Vaitai or Jackson for a starting spot, but I’m starting to feel confident in his as a backup.