Several players on the Detroit Lions roster bubble used Friday as an opportunity to make their final case for the team’s regular season roster. As Lions coaches are expected to use the entire weekend to make some difficult choices, a handful of players can sleep well knowing they did all they could to make a run at a spot on the 53-man roster.
Here are five players who entered the night on the roster bubble, but improved their chances at making the 53 after their performance against the Indianapolis Colts.
RB Godwin Igwebuike
While Jermar Jefferson was leaping over defenders and doing his best to hold onto that third running back spot, Igwebuike made one heck of a case for himself against the Colts. Though the final statline doesn’t look too impressive—seven rushes, 25 yards—Igwebuike ran with confidence and intensity, as evidenced by his touchdown run on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. After being stopped initially, Igwebuike used his motor to push forward and his savviness to reach over the goal line. A nice 30.0 average on three kick returns on the night earned him a shoutout from Dan Campbell in the post-game press conference.
“I think Godwin showed up again,” Campbell said. “He was battling for a job and I think he certainly is waving a massive flag out there like, ‘Look at me.’”
I’m not sure he did enough to jump Jefferson, but he did make a case for the Lions to keep a fourth running back, as he’s shown tremendous growth in a short period of time since transitioning from safety.
EDGE Charles Harris
Harris got in the game before Austin Bryant, which could be telling in and of itself. But he also managed to make a huge impression in limited snaps. Harris tallied two tackles, and THREE quarterback hits in a couple of quarters. The rest of the team only had two quarterback hits on the evening.
CB Corn Elder
While it seems like A.J. Parker has locked up a spot, the Lions were still trying to figure out who exactly would compete with him for the nickelback job. Elder’s interception to kick off the second half was just what Campbell was looking for.
“One of the things that we said at halftime was, ‘When are we going to get a turnover? We need a turnover. When are we going to get a ball out?’ And Corn Elder gets one,” Campbell said. “Those things are important.”
Nickell Robey-Coleman didn’t have a bad day by any means, but playmaking ability is huge when it comes to the cornerback position, and Elder’s pick stood out from an otherwise quiet cornerback group.
But Campbell mentioned the need for one of those three nickel contenders to play special teams, and none stood out in that regard on Friday.
WR Quintez Cephus
Going into Friday, the Lions were looking for someone, anyone to separate themselves from a disappointing receiver group. Cephus grabbed an early touchdown, and while a holding penalty killed a later drive, Campbell admitted that Cephus—while not exactly the kind of receiver it appears this team is looking for—brings enough of something different to separate himself from the pack.
“He kind of brings a different flavor to that room,” Campbell said. “I think he’s a little more physical, plays a little bigger. So that was encouraging.”
Cephus’ roster chances were also helped out by the fact that Breshad Perriman’s extended look resulted in two inexcusable drops.
G Tommy Kraemer
I can’t say I saw Kraemer do anything in particular that impressed me, but there are a few reasons he’s on this list. One of his main competitors for the job—second-year guard Logan Stenberg—left the game early with a lower-body injury and went to the locker room. Additionally, Dan Skipper was carted off with an injury of his own, which could mean there’s likely no temptation for the Lions to keep five tackles over an extra guard.
On top of that, Kraemer got some post-game recognition from Campbell.
“Shoot, I thought Kraemer did some pretty good things,” Campbell said, unprompted.
If Stenberg’s injury is serious, Kraemer could very well be one of the last players on the roster simply out of necessity. Though I would not consider his job safe if the Lions find someone they’d be comfortable with adding in the waiver wire process.