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Detroit Lions Bubble Watch: Predicting the final roster spots on defense

A final look at the closest roster battles on defense.

NFL: AUG 27 Preseason - Colts at Lions Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the Detroit Lions' offense struggled for much of the preseason, the defense showed some flashes. Well, aside from that first half against the Steelers, but let’s not talk about that.

All of that is to say that the Lions may have more difficult decisions on this side of the ball. The defense is full of young talent, but how much of it is ready to bud? How much needs a year on the practice squad and who may not develop at all?

For the last time this year, the staff got together and did one final Bubble Watch for the Lions’ defensive players currently on the roster bubble. Here are our predictions:

Here’s a link to the previous week’s Bubble Watch.

Final Lions Bubble Watch: Defense

Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Jerry Mallory TOTAL Change from last week
Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Jerry Mallory TOTAL Change from last week
NT John Penisini IN OUT OUT OUT OUT IN IN OUT 3 0
DT Bruce Hector OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN 2 +1
DT Kevin Strong IN IN IN IN IN IN OUT IN 7 -1
DT Da'Shawn Hand IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 0
EDGE Austin Bryant IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 +2
EDGE Charles Harris IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 1 -3
EDGE Robert McCray OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 0
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 0
LB Jahlani Tavai OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN OUT 1 +1
LB Tavante Beckett OUT OUT OUT OIT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 0
LB Anthony Pittman OUT OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 1 -1
CB Jerry Jacobs OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 0
CB Corn Elder IN IN OUT IN OUT OUT IN IN 5 +5
CB AJ Parker IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 0
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman OUT OUT OUT OUT IN IN OUT IN 3 -5
CB Bobby Price IN IN IN OUT IN IN OUT IN 6 +1
S Jalen Elliott OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN OUT 1 -1

Trending up

CB Corn Elder (+5) — After missing most of camp, Elder shot right back into the race on Friday night. He picked up an impressive interception that displayed his football intuition and closing speed.

EDGE Austin Bryant (+2) — Bryant had another impressive preseason performance, but the likely reason for this bump prior to roster cuts is Dan Campbell specifically pointing to Bryant as a player who surprised him this training camp.

“To watch him being here and get his feet back under him and get the reps, get the load, he’s been pretty impressive. I think this guy’s really got a high ceiling and can continue to grow. I think he’s even twitchier than I thought he was.”

DT Bruce Hector (+1) — Hector’s in a tough spot being in the deepest position on the roster, but he’s doing everything he possibly can to be in the conversation. Hector’s 90.3 PFF grade on Friday night was only topped by Elder’s ridiculous 95.3 grade.

LB Jahlani Tavai (+1) — Tavai, again, started the game, and didn’t make any particularly glaring mistakes. He also got a quarterback hit on a blitz. The absence of any obvious flaws was enough to convince one person—a likely-terrified John Whiticar—to put him in.

CB Bobby Price (+1) — Price has shown a little improvement over the past couple weeks as he continues to transition from safety to cornerback. On Friday, he had a nice pass breakup. While his best value is on special teams, there are players like Anthony Pittman and Jalen Elliott who can also bring value there and could be offering more on defense.

Trending down

CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (-5) — Though Robey-Coleman got in the game before Elder and played pretty well, this Lions defense is looking for some potential big playmakers, and it was Elder who made the biggest play of the night.

EDGE Charles Harris (-3) — Again, this is more of a response to Bryant than a condemnation of Harris. Harris had a good preseason, including three quarterback hits. But he doesn’t have the youth or special teams value that Bryant brings.

DT Kevin Strong (-1) — The majority of staff still has Kevin Strong in, but the Lions' depth that defensive tackle is going to force some difficult decisions. Despite Strong’s consistently good play this preseason, he could certainly be one of the victims of the numbers game.

LB Anthony Pittman (-1) — Pittman continues to get a lot of playing time this season, especially on special teams. That could be a sign the Lions really like him or they need to see more from him. It’s hard to know exactly, but if the Lions keep a fifth linebacker, it’s likely between him and Tavai.

S Jalen Elliott (-1) — Elliott is another special teams standout, but can he provide on defense, too? One of the Lions’ final roster spots may be between Elliott and Price, but the Lions have put in a little more effort into finding a way to get Price on the field.