The Detroit Lions showed some marked improvement against the Indianapolis Colts in their second preseason game of the year. They may have shown enough improvement to make you wonder how difficult the Lions’ choices are going to be when it comes time for final cuts. Like it or not, this team has to get down to 53 players, and some guys that you like are going to have to go.
There have been so many standouts. Tom Kennedy put up 100 yards in the preseason opener and followed it up with a two-touchdown performance in Indy. Dan Campbell has long been a fan of him. It’s hard to watch him play and not see a spot for him on the 53-man roster, especially when you think about who’s ahead of him and how little we’ve seen of them.
Quintez Cephus hasn’t played in the first two games, Trinity Benson hasn’t shown as much as you’d hope he would after the Lions traded for him in 2021. Lastly, Jameson Williams isn’t going to be around for a while. Kennedy should get a spot, right? Even if it’s just for part of the season. If the Lions decide to put him on the practice squad, there shouldn't be any doubt that another team steals him away.
What about Justin Jackson? He led the running back room in rushing yards (54), yards per carry (7.7) and PFF grade (81.5) against the Colts. Should the Lions carry four running backs in 2022? I mean, why not? You want to have as much talent out there as you can.
The tight end group is a hard one to predict outside of T.J. Hockenson. Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra have both shown some nice things during the preseason. Zylstra just had a really nice game against the Colts that saw him catch five passes, and he was key in some of the Lions’ longest runs on the day.
What about Jermar Jefferson, Maurice Alexander, John Cominsky, Devin Funchess or Eric Banks? All these guys have made plays for the Lions over the course of the last two games. How can they not be a part of the Lions’ 53-man roster?
I would hate to be in the shoes of Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes when it comes time for final cuts. It feels like they’re going to be letting some good talent go and some of the players that they send to the practice squad might get stolen away. For once, the Lions have the good problem of having too many good players.
Why this is an overreaction
Unfortunately, the other half of this conversation is packed full of reality. We do this all of the time. We look at players in the preseason and take everything we see them do at face value. These players are playing well, but they’re playing well against guys who are either rookies or players unlikely to land on an NFL roster. They’re good, but they’re not good enough to run up the depth chart into a starting role.
I love Tom Kennedy and I have no problem arguing for why he should have a spot on the Lions roster, but the fact is that if he were to make the team as the sixth receiver, that means he has to bring something else to the table. That something else is special teams, an area where Kennedy struggles.
Kennedy can’t just be chilling on the bench while the Lions let go of guy like Trinity Benson, who can play receiver well enough to pop in every now and again and can also play a part on the Lions’ special teams unit. I’m sure Kennedy will remain with the team in a practice squad role. There is a chance that he’s stolen away, but at that point we’re not talking about a guy who would really play a big meaningful role on a team that has DJ Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond.
Zylstra did have a nice game against the Colts, but Brock Wright has shown that he can catch passes and block pretty well. He’s shown a lot of improvement in the latter. Plus the Lions just drafted James Mitchell, and there’s a chance that he could be a big part of the Lions offense in the future. Zylstra is the odd man out, in my opinion.
Justin Jackson did look good and sure there is an argument for four running backs. But where are all of these carries coming from? The Lions look to be a team that’s going to establish the run, but that run game is going to go through D’andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Craig Reynolds will get all the scraps.
The last one is Maurice Alexander. I’m admittedly not sure about this one. It depends on what the Lions are wanting to do with their return game. You can’t ignore what Alexander did on Saturday, but if the Lions can get similar production out of Godwin Igwebuike or Benson, Alexander could be the odd man out. It’s easy to get sold on one good game. If Alexander does this again in the third preseason game, I guess we’ll see what happens.
At the end of the day, the Lions have showed that they’re better than they used to be at spotting talent. It would be cool if the Lions could keep everyone on the roster, but that’s just not the reality of things. A lot of the guys you’ve come to like during the preseason are probably not going to make this team.