clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Detroit Lions training camp predictions: Defensive players on the roster bubble

We make predictions on which Detroit Lions defensive players, who are entering training camp on the roster bubble, will make the 53-man roster.

Detroit Lions v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

On Monday, we broke down which players on offense will enter Detroit Lions training camp on the roster bubble, and made predictions on which will make the roster and who will see their bubble burst at the end of the preseason.

Now it’s time to focus on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, the Lions’ starting lineup is relatively set in stone, and a lot of the training camp battles seem pretty clear right now. The defensive side of the ball couldn’t be more different. Not only are there several starting jobs very much up for grabs, but Detroit is going to have to make some tricky decisions at depth. The fact that so many of these defensive players are positional versatile only further complicates the situation.

But our staff did their best to predict which players entering training camp on the defensive roster bubble will end up making the 53-man roster.

Welcome to Defense Bubble Watch: Week 1.

Bubble Watch: Defense/ST, Week 1

Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Chris Perfett Jerry Mallory TOTAL
Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Chris Perfett Jerry Mallory TOTAL
DT Jashon Cornell IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9
DT Bruce Hector OUT IN OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT IN 3
DT Demetrius Taylor OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
DT Isaiah Buggs OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
EDGE/LB Jarrad Davis IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9
EDGE James Houston OUT IN IN IN IN IN OUT OUT IN 6
EDGE Austin Bryant OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
EDGE John Cominsky OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
LB Malcolm Rodriguez IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9
LB Josh Woods OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
LB Shaun Dion Hamilton OUT OUT IN IN OUT OUT OUT IN IN 4
LB Anthony Pittman IN IN OUT IN IN OUT IN IN IN 7
CB AJ Parker IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9
CB Mike Hughes IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9
CB Chase Lucas IN OUT IN OUT IN IN IN IN IN 7
CB Bobby Price OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN 1
CB Mark Gilbert OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
S C.J. Moore IN OUT IN IN IN IN IN OUT OUT 6
S Brady Breeze OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
S JuJu Hughes OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0
K Austin Seibert IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN IN IN 4
K Riley Patterson OUT OUT IN IN IN IN OUT OUT OUT 4

Defensive tackle

Read our DT training camp battle preview here

  • Jashon Cornell — 9 “IN” votes
  • Bruce Hector — 3 “IN” votes
  • Demetrius Taylor — 0
  • Isaiah Buggs — 0

Presumed in: Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike

The Lions seem likely to only carry four defensive tackles considering the versatility of their edge defender room, which means there may really only be one spot up for grabs here in training camp. After a strong performance in offseason activities this spring, Jashon Cornell is the unanimous DT4 according to our staff. That said, some believe Bruce Hector will work his way onto the roster after getting some playing time as injury relief late last year.

Edge defender

Read our EDGE training camp battle preview here

  • Jarrad Davis (LB) — 9
  • James Houston — 6
  • Austin Bryant — 0
  • John Cominsky — 0

Presumed in: Charles Harris, Aidan Hutchinson, Julian Okwara, Josh Paschal (PUP)
Presumed out: Romeo Okwara (PUP), Eric Banks, Natrez Patrick (NFI)

Note: These predictions were made before Natrez Patrick and Josh Paschal were placed on the NFI and PUP lists, respectively

Injuries at this position entering camp have muddied the water, but it has also likely opened up the opportunity for some of these depths players to make their case early in camp. With no Romeo Okwara, Natrez Patrick, or Josh Paschal to start, James Houston, Austin Bryant, and John Cominsky will get a lot of reps. Don’t be surprised to see one—or a few—of them jump up in the bubble over the first couple weeks.

As of now, though, the staff is split on the fate of sixth-round rookie James Houston, who looked to be headed towards a more hybrid EDGE/LB role before Detroit opted to scale back the linebacker duties. With a more focused approach, Houston has a great opportunity to prove his unstoppable pass rush from Jackson State translates to the next level.

Interestingly enough, Jarrad Davis is a unanimous in. Unlike Houston, he’ll likely carry over that hybrid role to camp, and we’ve seen Davis show flashes at both positions. Most importantly, though, Davis is an absolutely perfect culture fit here, and will likely contribute on special teams at the least.

Linebacker

Read our LB training camp battle preview here

  • Malcolm Rodriguez — 9
  • Anthony Pittman — 7
  • Shaun Dion Hamilton — 4
  • Josh Woods — 0

Presumed in: Alex Anzalone, Chris Board, Derrick Barnes
Presumed out: N/A

The POD staff is buying all the Malcolm Rodriguez stock out there. Despite being a sixth-round pick, he made a big impression in rookie minicamp. At this point, he may not be on the roster bubble at all, but with so little figured out at this position, you can’t be too sure.

We’re a little less certain about Pittman. He, too, got a ton of praise in the spring, and he returns to the team after logging the most special teams snaps for the Lions in 2021.

Shaun Dion Hamilton remains, in theory, very solid depth. He balled out last training camp, only to suffer a season-ending injury before the regular season arrived. A repeat performance this year (minus the injury) could catapult him as far as the starting lineup.

Cornerback

Read our CB training camp battle preview here

  • AJ Parker — 9
  • Mike Hughes — 9
  • Chase Lucas — 7
  • Bobby Price — 1
  • Mark Gilbert — 0

Presumed in: Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, Will Harris, Ifeatu Melifonwu
Presumed out: Saivion Smith, Cedric Boswell
Not included due to unclear injury status: Jerry Jacobs (PUP)

Jerry Jacobs was considered a “presumed in” before news broke on Sunday that he will start training camp on PUP. It’s very likely you’ll see him on next week’s Bubble Watch.

Beyond that, Detroit’s nickel corner battle is fascinating. AJ Parker, Mike Hughes, and Chase Lucas are all contenders, and most of the staff has decided all three bring something worth keeping on the roster. Parker played valiantly last season in the starting role, and given this solid coaching staff, it’s reasonable to expect him to be even better this year. Mike Hughes was very solid as the Chiefs’ nickelback last season and brings versatility to play on the outside, too. Chase Lucas is about as smart as you could expect from a 25-year-old rookie, and he could contribute right away on special teams.

The question here is what will the Lions do at outside corner depth? Right now, we’re assuming Will Harris as the primary backup considering he played the position relatively well both at the end of last season and in the spring. But is Ifeatu Melifonwu an outside corner, a safety, or a situational nickel? If he stays at corner, it’s going to make it very hard for the likes of Bobby Price, Mark Gilbert, and the UDFAs to crack the roster.

This position is very much in flux, and we could see some drastic changes here once the Lions actually take the field and reveal some of their intentions.

Safety

Read our S training camp battle preview here

  • C.J. Moore — 6
  • Brady Breeze — 0
  • JuJu Hughes — 0

Presumed in: Tracy Walker, DeShon Elliott, Kerby Joseph
Presumed out: N/A

Like cornerback, we have to wait for things to shake out in camp to see who is actually in competition for the depth here, but the outlook is certainly more clear here. Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott are the unquestioned starters right now, and third-round rookie Kerby Joseph is safe from roster cuts. But will the Lions rely on Harris and Melifonwu for additional depth, or will they have space for C.J. Moore, who can contribute on special teams and provide adequate play as defensive depth? Right now, the majority still has Moore in, but he certainly isn’t a lock.

Kicker

Read our ST training camp battle preview here

  • Austin Seibert — 4
  • Riley Patterson — 4

Right now, the staff is split completely down the middle between the kicker who started the 2021 season (Seibert) and the one who finished the season (Patterson). Both played well during the season, but displayed a concerning lack of consistency in the spring. If that continues, I suppose it’s entirely possible the Lions again decide to move on from both of their rostered kickers in training camp, as they did last year (and as Ryan Mathews is already predicting).