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Detroit Lions roster bubble watch: Defensive line shifts after solid play vs. Colts

A closer look at the Detroit Lions players currently on the defensive roster bubble after Saturday’s preseason win over the Colts.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Compared to the defense, the Detroit Lions roster on offense seems fairly straightforward. The starters have been set for nearly all of camp, and while it seems like there may be too much talent on that side of the ball, that’s a nice problem to have.

Unfortunately, that’s not a problem the defensive side of the ball has. While Saturday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts was certainly a step in the right direction—especially for the front-seven—it still feels like the last couple of players who will end up making this 53-man roster will still have their spot very much in danger once the Lions go shopping on the waiver wire.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the players we deem on the defensive roster bubble and how their status may have shifted after Saturday’s preseason win.

Bubble watch Week 5: Defense/ST

Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Chris Perfett Jerry Mallory TOTAL Change from last week
Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Chris Perfett Jerry Mallory TOTAL Change from last week
DT Jashon Cornell IN IN IN IN OUT IN IN IN OUT 7 -2
DT Bruce Hector OUT OUT OUT OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT 1 -2
DT Demetrius Taylor OUT IN OUT IN IN OUT IN OUT IN 5 +4
DT Isaiah Buggs IN OUT OUT OUT OUT IN OUT IN OUT 3 -2
EDGE James Houston OUT OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN 2 -1
EDGE Austin Bryant IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9 0
EDGE John Cominsky IN IN OUT OUT IN IN IN IN IN 7 +4
LB Jarrad Davis OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN IN 3 -1
LB Josh Woods OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 -1
LB Shaun Dion Hamilton OUT OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 1 +1
LB Anthony Pittman IN IN IN OUT IN IN IN IN OUT 7 -1
CB AJ Parker IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9 0
CB Mike Hughes OUT OUT IN OUT OUT OUT IN OUT OUT 2 -1
CB Chase Lucas IN IN IN IN IN IN OUT IN IN 8 -1
CB Bobby Price IN IN OUT IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 +3
CB Mark Gilbert OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 0
S C.J. Moore IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 9 0
S JuJu Hughes OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 0
K Austin Seibert IN OUT IN OUT IN IN IN IN IN 7 -2
K Riley Patterson OUT IN OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 2 +2

Defensive tackle

  • Jashon Cornell — 7 “IN” votes (down 2)
  • Demetrius Taylor — 5 (up 4)
  • Isaiah Buggs — 3 (down 2)
  • Bruce Hector — 1 (down 2)

Cornell has been regularly repping with the first-team defense all camp, but we saw a slight change to that on Saturday, with Cornell getting some time all the way into the second half against the Colts. While he’s looked good in practice, he’s yet to make an impact on gameday, and that matters. He’s still atop this bubble, but faith is rightfully slipping.

Demetrius Taylor, on the other hand, had a breakout game, matching the intermittent flashing he’s done in training camp. His quick first step is a good fit in this defensive system, and the kind of disruption he displayed against the Colts is exactly what this team is looking for.

Buggs only played eight snaps against the Colts, which may be the reason he slipped in Bubble watch this week, but I, personally, think that’s misguided. Here’s what defensive line coach Todd Wash had to say on Monday about Buggs:

“Buggs has really came along since he’s gotten here,” Wash said. “I think we’re getting bigger and more physical inside, and that was a big thing that we had to concentrate on.”

He was then asked if Buggs’ ability to play nose could help Alim McNeill play more three-tech. His answer:

“Yeah, and that’s the way we talked about it. I think it was after the Atlanta game. We said, ‘Hey, we got to get a little bit more size, get a little more girth in there.’”

Sounds like a ringing endorsement to me.

Edge defender

  • Austin Bryant — 9 (no change)
  • John Cominsky — 7 (up 4)
  • James Houston — 2 (down 1)

Cominsky gets a big bump after a solid game, including the pressure that forced an incompletion on the potential game-winning two-point conversion. Again, I think Wash’s comments on Cominsky’s play is eye-opening.

“He ever played defensive end in our subpackage. He never took a rep ever, in practice, walkthroughs. And when (Eric Banks) Banksy went down, we told him, ‘Hey, you gotta go out there,’ and he did a hell of a job.”

His rise comes at James Houston’s expense. The sixth-round rookie just hasn’t seemed to unlock his potential this training camp.

Linebacker

  • Anthony Pittman — 7 (down 1)
  • Jarrad Davis — 3 (down 1)
  • Shaun Dion Hamilton — 1 (up 1)
  • Josh Woods — 0 (down 1)

Not much movement here at all, and that makes a fair amount of sense considering the top four linebackers seem pretty set in stone: Alex Anzalone, Malcolm Rodriguez, Chris Board, and Derrick Barnes.

It’s just a matter of what the Lions want most in the final spot. Pittman gives them the most versatility, seeing as he’s getting a lot of time as a hybrid edge. Jarrad Davis brings that, too, but he hasn’t flashed much as a hand-in-the-dirt pass rusher. Considering Julian Okwara holds that “starting” spot but is currently injured, the Lions may prioritize someone who can fill that role, and Pittman is the best among this bunch

That said, both Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Woods have been playing pretty darn well as more traditional off-ball linebackers. Unfortunately for them, they still seem to be repping extremely late in games, which is not a good sign for either’s shot at the 53-man roster.

Cornerback

  • AJ Parker — 9 (no change)
  • Chase Lucas — 8 (down 1)
  • Bobby Price — 8 (up 3)
  • Mike Hughes — 2 (down 1)
  • Mark Gilbert — 0 (no change)

Despite Mike Hughes starting on Saturday, he remains on the outside looking in, according to our staff. As I noted on Tuesday morning, the nickel cornerback spot still seems very much up for grabs, and with Parker returning to the starting spot during Monday’s practice, he still seems like he has a firm grasp on the starting job.

Bobby Price continues to climb up the bubble likely due to his special teams value, and relatively sound play. Detroit’s cornerback room really struggled against the Colts, but Price kept fairly clean, only allowing two receptions for 10 yards, according to PFF. Mark Gilbert, on the other hand, allowed 99 yards and two touchdowns on five targets.

Safety

  • C.J. Moore — 9 (no change)
  • JuJu Hughes — 0 (down 1)

Off the bubble: Brady Breeze (waived/injured)

Despite Moore continuing to sit with an injury and JuJu Hughes actually playing relatively well against the Colts, the staff is still convinced Moore’s special teams value will be more important to this team come cutdown date.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that the Lions have little-to-no depth at safety right now. Their starters—Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott—are healthy, but Elliott has a long injury history. Behind them, rookie Kerby Joseph doesn’t appear ready to step in, and Moore is still battling an injury, but appears close to returning. It’s certainly possible the Lions keep Hughes around early just to provide some safety net. Remember, he’s a player that dates back to Brad Holmes’ time with the Rams, so he likes him.

Kicker

  • Austin Seibert — 7 (down 2)
  • Riley Patterson — 2 (up 2)

After missing a 55-yarder and looking shaky even on his makes, Seibert loses a couple of votes this week. But because Patterson was basically untested vs. the Colts, the consensus still lies with Seibert.

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