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Lions vs. Colts preseason stock report: The running back battle heats up

The running backs are on fire, but the receivers leave a lot to be desired.

Indianapolis Colts vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It feels a bit odd to say that the preseason has come to a close after three games, but that’s the state of the NFL this season. It is probably for the better too, for players and fans alike. However, it does mean one less game to iron out some of the roster battles, and at the conclusion of the Detroit Lions game against the Indianapolis Colts, we are still left guessing about a few positions.

Here’s the final stock report from the 2021 preseason. With it, perhaps we can decipher which way the roster battle will go.

Stock Up: A.J. Parker, CB

In a meteoric rise, undrafted rookie A.J. Parker has not only booked himself a spot on the active roster, but he has a real shot to start. He played early and often against the Colts, ahead of Corn Elder and Nickell Robey-Coleman. The starting slot position looks to be his, and he has certainly proven his worth. He had a pass breakup and a pair of tackles, looking very comfortable in his role.

Stock Down: Breshad Perriman, WR

Originally billed as a lock for the WR2 spot, Perriman’s pitiful preseason performance has not only put him on the bubble, but perhaps on the outside looking in. His game versus the Colts was another blown opportunity to capitalize on a weak receiver group. He was targeted twice but only managed a single 6-yard catch. The other two targets were drops, a recurring problem throughout his career (one drop was negated by a penalty). The question, however, is who replaces him if he gets cut. The Lions are lacking talent at outside receiver, and it could save Perriman’s job.

Stock Up: Mike Ford, CB

For a while, it looked like Mike Ford would have a resurgence as the slot corner. However, following the release of Quinton Dunbar, the Lions transitioned Ford back to the outside, and he has maintained his level of play. He struggled in years past on the outside, but he looked impressive against the Colts, notching two passes defended and a trio of tackles. It wasn’t all pretty for Ford though, as he gave up a long 60-yarder to Dezmon Patmon—it looks like Ford gave up on the play thinking the Colts quarterback was sacked, but he managed to escape. Still, it was mostly a positive night.

Stock Down: Tim Boyle, QB

Tim Boyle has been absolutely pummeled this preseason, and this latest showing ended with an injured hand. Even before he exited, Boyle was shaky at times, though it was a better performance than his game against the Steelers. The initial drive ended in a turnover that was likely Boyle’s fault. The Colts had a strip sack after Tyrell Crosby and Penei Sewell were both beat off the edge. However, Boyle is largely to blame because he took a five-step drop out of the shotgun—that gave too much room for the pass rushers. Had he taken a shallower drop, the tackles likely would have directed the defenders around him. Coupled with his injury, it was another tough outing for Boyle. He did start the game, however, so if he’s healthy, the Lions might favor him.

Stock Up: Backup running backs

The Lions have one heck of a decision to make. Every backup running back has shined during their limited opportunities, and there is no clear answer about who will be the third running back or if there will be a fourth running back. Jermar Jefferson is likely the frontrunner, but his contemporaries have fought hard for their jobs. Craig Reynolds has been the preseason star, though this performance was his weakest. He did have a catch on a nice screen play, but his running was bottled up. Dedrick Mills has quietly put together an excellent preseason, and he actually finished as the leading receiver for the Lions against the Colts. Also in contention is Godwin Igwebuike, who added a touchdown to cap off some tough runs. You could make a strong case for any of these players to make the team.

Stock Down: Dan Skipper, OT

I hate giving him a stock down, but few players had a worse night than Dan Skipper. Skipper had been arguably the best tackle for the Lions this preseason, and his solid play was continuing against the Colts. However, he suffered an injury after getting rolled up on, forcing him to exit the game on a cart. Skipper was giving Matt Nelson a serious run for one of the backup offensive line spots, but this injury could see him missing significant time. Hopefully it is a quick recovery, but at first glance, it was a tough blow.

Quick Hits

Stock Up:

David Blough, QB: I almost don’t want to put Blough as a stock up, but he gets it thanks to Boyle’s injury. He did showcase some great escapability, but a late interception came on a poor miscommunication. It was short passing for most of the night.

Quintez Cephus, WR: He recorded three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. I don’t think there was much doubt, but he should be a roster lock going forward.

Derrick Barnes, LB: He continues to impress. He came out of nowhere to stop a screen play, illustrating his speed. He could turn out to be the player Lions fans wished Jarrad Davis would be.

Austin Bryant and Charles Harris, EDGE: These two go hand-in-hand because they put together a lot of pressure throughout the game. With Trey Flowers and the Okwaras cemented as the top options at EDGE, the battle comes down to Bryant and Harris, and neither seems too far ahead of the other. It could be a very close call for the coaching staff.

Kevin Strong, DL: He recorded a sack, the lone one of the game for Detroit, and continues to make a case for a roster spot. Unfortunately for him, the defensive line is one of the deepest positions on the roster, so even with a great preseason under his belt, he could be on the outside.

Corn Elder, CB: He had an interception that was initially called a pick-six, but it was still a great play regardless. Elder’s early injury may have cost him a starting role, but if healthy, he seems deserving of a place on the 53-man roster.

Brock Wright, TE: This was another one-catch outing for Wright, but he saw the field before Alizé Mack. The TE3 spot is down to just him and Mack, so getting the early nod seems to benefit Wright. However, this battle is anything but conclusive.

Jahlani Tavai, LB: I don’t recall many plays from Tavai, and that’s a massive improvement. This might change upon rewatch, but he wasn’t destroyed in coverage like previous weeks. Like Perriman, he benefits from a weak position group, but he had a better outing tonight.

Stock Down:

Tyrell Crosby and Penei Sewell, OT: The two tackles gave up some pressure early on, including the strip sack. However, Boyle is partially responsible too, and he often panicked far too early. Crosby is coming back from injury and Sewell is a rookie, so these struggles can be forgiven, but you’d really like to see some stronger performances down the road.

Tavante Beckett and Anthony Pittman, LB: With how poorly Jahlani Tavai looked in the first two preseason games, it seemed like a prime opportunity for another linebacker to snatch his spot. However, neither Beckett nor Pittman had good outings against the Colts. The run game in particular was a weakness, coupled with the struggles of...

Bruce Hector and Miles Brown, DT: The backup defensive tackles looked good in the first two games, but Indianapolis has a rushing clinic in the second half. Hector and Brown made minimal impact as run defenders, and seem like likely cut candidates. However, one of them could stick around on the practice squad.

Tom Kennedy, WR: Kennedy was blanked for the final game, a disappointing end to a good preseason. However, it is worth noting that he was playing early in the game and got pulled early, so it could indicate that the coaches want to save him for the regular season.

Javon McKinley and Sage Surratt, WR: The undrafted rookies failed to record a catch against the Colts, a missed opportunity to threaten Perriman for a roster spot. Surratt hasn’t had a single reception all preseason, certainly erasing any chance of him making the roster. McKinley still has an outside chance after getting a touchdown last week, but the odds seem slim.

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