The Detroit Lions took on the Indianapolis Colts in Game 2 of the preseason in a game that featured players fighting for starting roles and spots on the rosters. In the end, the Lions stopped the Colts’ two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter in order to secure the 27-26 victory.
As expected, both teams rested a lot of the veterans and starters. A list that, for the Lions, included their entire projected starting offense, defensive line, and safeties. With a position battle at starting outside corner, nickel corner, and linebacker, Jeff Okudah, Will Harris, AJ Parker, Malcolm Rodriguez, Chris Board, and Derrick Barnes played.
Here’s a look at the Lions roster with the players who sat out having their positional color removed (note: names highlighted in red indicate the player is dealing with an injury):
For this week's stock report, we’re going to change things up a bit and go position-by-position to see how each group shook out.
Stock up: Tim Boyle
Stock down: David Blough.
Blough got the start and found early success with his legs, escaping pressure and gaining 18-yards on three carries. Unfortunately, he struggled more than he did in Game 1, relying on lots of short throws—he ended the day with 16 completions on 22 attempts for 76 yards, averaging just 3.5 yards per attempt and an interception.
The two-minute drill saved the day from being a disaster for Blough. With just three second left in the half, the Lions elected to skip the field goal and put the ball in Blough’s hands and he hit Tom Kennedy in the corner of the endzone for the score.
Boyle got his playing time in the second half and it was bookended by impressive touchdown drives. In the second-half opener, Boyle showed off his arm talent by throwing a dime to Kennedy in the back of the end zone.
During the next several drives, Boyle looked better than the previous week, but there are still some flaws to his game he needs to overcome, including dropping back in his set a bit too far and missing a wide-open Maurice Alexander in the end zone for what should have been an easy touchdown.
But the drive he led to close the game was quite honestly, his best drive as a Lion, leading an 18-play, 85-yard drive that took 9:32 off the clock and resulted in a touchdown.
Stock up: Craig Reynolds, Justin Jackson, Godwin Igwebuike
Stock down: Jermar Jefferson
The Lions split carries evenly between their backs with each getting seven rushes on the day. Here are the results, via the NFL’s Online Media Website:
Reynolds and Jefferson opened the game rotating through the first series but there was a contrast in their results. Reynolds continued to put in his work inside, and even though it wasn’t working early, it eventually paid dividends.
Meanwhile, Jefferson failed to take advantage of early reps and even got pulled once to have a conversation with assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley.
Jackson repped ahead of Igwebuike and showed a nice feel for what was in front of him, pressing the line before bouncing it outside. Now, he did fumble a handoff, which he recovered, but overall he looked sharp and decisive. His third-down pick up late in the fourth quarter was a big play to keep the final drive alive.
Igwebuike was last back to get reps, and when he was decisive and attacking forward he looked solid. He still relies too much on his jump cut to push outside, which almost led to him landing in the “stock down” category, but he shined on the final drive, showing a nice blitz pick-up and scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
Stock up: Tom Kennedy, Maurice Alexander
Push: Trinity Benson
Stock down: Kalil Pimpleton
Kennedy continues to make his case for a spot on the roster, securing touchdown catches to end, and start the half. On the touchdown at the end of the half, Kennedy wins immediately and the rep was over before a single receiver reached their break, all Blough needed to do was see it:
Kennedy owns him by the third step pic.twitter.com/d7dyWFVnIz— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) August 20, 2022
I would have preferred Kennedy to find the sideline on either of his two catches in the Lions’ two-minute offense, but I’m nitpicking. At the end of the day, Kennedy’s special teams contributions—the onside kick recovery to seal the game surely helped—may be the difference between him making the roster or ending up back on the practice squad.
“That’s why we put him out there at the gunner and jammer—to get some looks at him,” Campbell said in his post-game press conference. “I saw a couple of them and, you know, he got doubled (on) a couple and that means the other guy has got to win. I would say he didn’t disappoint, but I need to go back and watch the film. We’re trying to give him every opportunity to make this team. That’s what this means, because he just won’t go away, and that’s a good thing.”
Speaking of special teams, Alexander was the team’s starting kick and punt returner in this contest and he looked solid, especially on kicks. On four attempts, he gained 152 yards (38.0 yards average), including returns of 61 and 45 yards.
Pimpleton continues to flash but for the second week in a row he failed to bring in a touchdown catch. He’ll need to finish those plays to have a chance at the roster.
Stock up: Shane Zylstra
Stock down: James Mitchell, Derrick Deese
Zylstra ended the contest with five catches for 34 yards, including a toe-drag swag catch in the end of half two-minute offense. Also at the end of the half, he secured another important catch and showed situational awareness to find the sideline. Additionally, his third-down conversion on the final drive of the game was a huge play to keep the drive going.
Mitchell looked to have some opening game jitters. He was late to a block early and allowed a sack. His blocking did improve as the game went on, and he had a nice fourth-quarter catch for nine yards, but it was a bit of a disappointment for a first game.
Stock Up: Tommy Kraemer, Logan Stenberg, Dan Skipper, Kendall Lamm at RT
Stock down: Matt Nelson, Lamm at LT
Both Kraemer and Stenberg were moving people in the run game. Most of the big runs the Lions executed went behind Stenberg, while Kraemer showed his positional versatility lining up both at right guard and center. Skipper was solid all day and did enough that we may need to start having a conversation about him possibly moving to the OT3 spot.
We might see this happen because Nelson continues to struggle in games. He lost leverage in the run on multiple occasions, while his pass sets were a mixed bag of success and losing ground.
When Nelson was replaced by Lamm at right tackle, there was a noticeable difference in successful run plays to the right side. Unfortunately, when Lamm shifted to the left side, he looked totally different and struggled.
Interior defensive line
Stock up: Isaiah Buggs, Demetrius Taylor, Bruce Hector
Stock down: None
Not only did the #Lions hold the Colts to 30 yards on 17 carries, but Indy didn't have a run over 5 yards.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) August 20, 2022
A glaring weakness in the first preseason game, the Lions’ interior depth showed up against the run against the Colts. Reports all week consisted of positive things to say about this group and it was nice to see them come through on gameday.
“I felt like the most consistent group of all of them this week was the d-line (in) those two days,” Campbell said. “I thought every one of those guys improved. I didn’t feel like anybody took a step back in that room and then it just carried over into this game.”
Buggs had a terrific tackle for loss early, Hector was steady throughout the game, and the rookie, Taylor, showed tremendous timing, quickness, penetration, pressure, and pursuit. This position battle is heating up.
Stock up: Austin Bryant, John Cominsky, Eric Banks (pre-injury)
Stock down: James Houston
Bryant, who has been standing out in virtually every practice, registered another sack in this game. He probably could have been credited with another half-sack, but officially he ended with just one, along with four tackles including one tackle for loss. His ability to close rush lanes in this game was as impressive as I have seen from him.
Cominsky, as mentioned above, also registered a sack and was a key catalyst in pressuring the Colts’ quarterback on the failed two-point conversion to seal the win.
Banks also got a sack in this game and was stacking positive plays until needing to leave for the locker room after injury. If he can return quickly, he’ll stay in the mix, but if it puts him on the shelf for a while, he’ll likely be headed to the practice squad.
Houston flashes talent, as evidenced by his tackle for loss, but he is still getting stuck on blocks, showing his learning curve is longer than expected.
Stock up: Malcolm Rodriguez, Derrick Barnes, Anthony Pittman, Josh Woods
Stock down: Shaun Dion Hamilton
Rodriguez got the start and was instantly in on the tackle on the first play of the game. He showed nice range in coverage on the Colts’ running back on third-down ending the series. He was pulled relatively early, surely after coaches had seen enough.
Barnes also started and was very active in the run game. Boy, if that clicks for him, look out because he has all the athleticism you could ask for in a linebacker. He also made a solid special teams tackle to open the second half.
The Lions have been deploying a stack linebacker in an edge rusher role on third downs this season, and once again, Pittman was the primary option, with Jarrad Davis as the next man up in the role.
Woods continues to show up, but it’s always late in the game. He is clearly further down the depth chart, but showing up. I’m not sure the same can be said for Hamilton, who is finding the field at the same time as Woods, but the lack of impactful plays has hurt his stock.
Stock up: Jeff Okudah
Push: Bobby Price, Saivion Smith
Stock down: Will Harris, Mark Gilbert, Cedric Boswell
Okudah and Harris got the start at the outside corners in this game, and while Okudah looked calm and under control, Harris looked to be consistently trailing the play. This game was a big win for Okudah in their battle today.
Price and Smith made some really nice tackles, but I’m still looking for more from them. Hopefully, we will learn more when we get to rewatch the game.
Gilbert gave up a touchdown, but he was clearly pushed during the play, so it’s hard to fault him for being penalized, and coaches will likely not hold it against him. That being said, like Harris, he often found himself trailing the play and failing to get it done.
For the second week in a row, Boswell gave up a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the game. He was also flagged for holding on the play this week. To his credit, when the Colts lined up for the two-point conversion attempt, he managed to shake of the play and looked to be in good coverage in that critical situation.
Push: Kerby Joseph
Joseph and JuJu Hughes were literally the only safeties left on the roster and it appears they played the entire game. Joseph continues to improve his open field tackling, delivered a few nice hits, and contributed on special teams, but he had some hiccups in coverage.
When he traveled into the slot, he looked a bit lost, which is not unexpected for a rookie. But on the touchdown pass where he was in coverage, it began with him lining up in the slot, and at the snap found himself in a trail position. He tried to pass off coverage to Gilbert, but there was a miscommunication and Joseph slowed down when he should have been working to increase speed and close.
Passing off receivers is a staple in the Lions' split-zone scheme—he did it with Harris earlier in the game to perfection—but communication needs to be on point. Chalk this one up to a learning experience for the rookie.