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Detroit Lions preseason rookie review: Late-round picks, UDFAs get long looks vs. Colts

Examining how the Lions 2022 rookie class performed in Week 2 of the preseason.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 of the NFL preseason is now in the books, and after two joint practices and an exhibition game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Detroit Lions are closing in on the end of training camp.

The majority of starters had the day off against the Colts, leaving plenty of opportunities for many of the younger players on the roster.

Let’s take a look at how each member of the Lions’ 2022 draft class fared in their second preseason game of 2022.

Aidan Hutchinson, DL

DNP: Did not play against the Colts

Jameson Williams, WR

DNP: Recovering from knee injury suffered in January

Josh Paschal, DL

DNP: Recovering from sports hernia surgery

Kerby Joseph, S

52 (100%) — 12 (44%)
PFF defensive grade: 39.8

It’s safe to say defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and the rest of the coaching staff wanted an extended look at Joseph, and they definitely got it.

Naturally, the results were mixed for the rookie safety. He finished with six total tackles, but is also being blamed for a 50-yard touchdown that was surrendered on what appeared to be a blown assignment in the Lions’ secondary.

Our own Erik Schlitt does a great job of breaking down what may have happened on the play, and this should serve as yet another reminder that things may not always be as they appear when watching a TV broadcast.

James Mitchell, TE

23 (31%) — 4 (15%)
PFF offensive grade: 70.5

Early on, it appeared Mitchell was doing his best to adapt to the speed of everything happening around him, which is understandable for any rookie in their first NFL game.

He still has things to clean up, particularly in pass-protection, but he eventually settled in and showed flashes of why the Lions took him with the 177th pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

Mitchell hauled in both passes thrown his way, and made some key blocks in the running game.

Continuing to improve as a run blocker is essential for Mitchell, as the Lions often utilize multiple tight end sets.

Malcolm Rodriguez, LB

12 (38%) — 5 (19%)
PFF defensive grade: 73.6

After repping with both the first and second-team defenses in joint practices with the Colts, Rodriguez was not on the field for as long as some of his other counterparts in the linebacker room.

With the starters being Rodriguez and second-year linebacker Derrick Barnes, we got a little look at what the future may hold for the position.

In the 12 snaps he took on defense, the rookie they call “Rodrigo” notched two tackles.

James Houston, EDGE

23 (44%) — 11 (41%)
PFF defensive grade: 52.1

As camp progresses, things don’t appear to be getting any easier for James Houston. For now, he appears to be a bit of a tweener—caught between being an edge defender and an off-ball linebacker.

Houston is young and he hasn’t been playing on the edge long, having made the transition after leaving the University of Florida for Jackson State University. But he may need more time to develop his skills as a pass rusher than many originally thought.

He is still having problems anchoring on the edge, and isn’t skilled enough with his hands to overcome the size he is giving up to opposing offensive tackles.

Chase Lucas, DB

18 (35%) — 3 (11%)
PFF defensive grade: 47.2

Lucas didn’t make the plays he made in Week 1 of the preseason against the Falcons, but he did manage to triple the snaps he was awarded on defense—going from six last week to 18 against the Colts.

Now heading into the final week of preseason, the nickel cornerback competition will be a battle to keep an eye on when the Lions travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Undrafted Free Agents

Demetrius Taylor, DL

26 (50%)
PFF defensive grade: 80.8

I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I really think Demetrius Taylor might make this football team. His first step is really something, especially for an interior defensive lineman.

In a defense that is predicated on attacking gaps and creating chaos, Taylor seems like an ideal fit. He finished with two tackles on the stat sheet, but had a few other reps where he appeared to beat a blocker cleanly, causing havoc without it reflecting on the box score.

With several defensive linemen currently on the mend, Taylor could be in line for playing time when the regular season kicks off in a few short weeks.

Kalil Pimpleton, WR

50 (68%)
PFF offensive grade: 61.1

It was always going to be a tough road for Pimpleton to make the final 53, and now with fellow receivers like Tom Kennedy and Maurice Alexander making their cases, it may have gotten even more difficult.

The former Central Michigan University standout was targeted five times, finishing the game with three receptions for 23 yards.

I imagine he will get every chance to make plays during the final preseason game against the Steelers, but barring something unforeseen happening, he may be headed to the practice squad when it’s all said and done.

Obinna Eze, OT

20 (27%) — 2 (7%)
PFF offensive grade: 61.9

Eze has a lot of skills that teams covet in the NFL, but once you watch him for an extended period of time in a game setting, you can see how raw he still is.

Taking all of his snaps at left tackle, his pass-blocking looked better against the Colts, while his footwork in the running game still needs time to develop. Like Pimpleton, Eze may benefit a lot from time spent on the practice squad.

Derrick Deese Jr, TE

14 (19%)
PFF offensive grade: 81.2

Deese was targeted twice, and finished with nine yards on one reception. With tight ends Shane Zylstra and Brock Wright both having strong camps, Deese is likely on the outside looking in.

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