We are nearly there. Only two more weeks before the regular season is upon us. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Teams are still in the process of finalizing their 53-man rosters, and for the Detroit Lions, a trip to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in their final preseason game stands in the way of wrapping up training camp.
Coach Dan Campbell has already said that starters will be playing in Pittsburgh (minus quarterback Jared Goff), meaning the Lions’ 2022 rookie class should see plenty of opportunities.
Let’s take a look at the rookies ahead of Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.
Despite not getting a ton of reps in either of Detroit’s first two preseason games, Hutchinson has already made a handful of plays. And thanks to HBO’s “Hard Knocks” we have also seen the coaching staff confirm what most thought of Hutchinson during the pre-draft process—that he is talented, lets his play do the talking, and is an excellent musical performer. Although I doubt many could have guessed that last part.
In his final preseason game of his rookie year, I would look for more of the same from Hutchinson. His bag of pass-rush moves is extensive for a rookie, and those moves will only be will refined with time.
If given the opportunity, seeing the former Wolverine get home and bring the quarterback down would be a nice way to wrap up an impressive training camp.
Williams remains on the Non-Football Injury list and will not play Sunday.
Paschal remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list and will not play Sunday.
Joseph had an up-and-down game last week against the Indianapolis Colts, but that is to be expected of rookie defensive backs. Luckily, with veteran safeties Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott firmly entrenched as the starters, Joseph has the luxury of taking time to develop before being thrown into the fire.
It’s only been a few weeks of watching him at the professional level, but Joseph is more physical than I originally gave him credit for when the Lions selected him in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft. The ball skills were obvious, but seeing him come up and tackle running backs is a welcomed sight.
Since he is learning a new scheme under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, time and repetition will be vital for Joseph’s development. In my opinion, seeing him work into that third safety role sometime during the season is not out of the question. And if that doesn’t end up happening until 2023, not a huge problem considering where he was drafted.
It will be interesting to see how much of a workload the coaching staff gives Mitchell against the Steelers. He missed a good chunk of camp recovering from a knee injury he suffered while he was still at Virginia Tech, but after seeing how he performed against the Colts, particularly in run-blocking, I see why general manager Brad Holmes was excited to land Mitchell in the draft. At 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds, Mitchell has the physical gifts to be an all-around tight end in this league for a long time.
Assuming he plays a lot of the second half once starter T.J. Hockenson leaves the game, Mitchell should have plenty of chances to make some plays in the passing game. If he can prove he is capable of working the seam as a receiving threat, it will help ease the worries I currently have about tight end two on this roster.
I was pretty high on Rodriguez when the Lions took him out of Oklahoma State. I didn’t see him play a ton in college, but enough really smart football people that I respect said he could play.
And despite those expectations being relatively high for a sixth-round draft pick, Rodriguez has blown those out of the water. If he continues the trajectory he is currently on against the Steelers, it will be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup for the home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 11.
To put it as simply as possible, Houston will likely have to make several big-time plays in order to have a shot at making the final 53. He could have a specialized role down the road in his NFL career, but as of right now, he might be a perfect candidate for the practice squad.
It will be interesting to see how many snaps he receives in the second half, with several players vying for the reserve spots.
Being 25 years old, Lucas has seen more football than your average rookie, and it shows with how he perceives the game.
Last week in episode three of “Hard Knocks,” we saw him immediately recognized the Colts changing quarterbacks, alerting the defensive front of the switch. Little details like that matter, and are a big part of why I think Lucas ends up being a key member of this secondary in 2022.
That being said, he’ll have to earn his keep. With AJ Parker and Mike Hughes ahead of him on the depth chart, his spots on the 53-man roster is not guaranteed.
With roster spots on the line, all of the remaining undrafted free agents are going to need to bring their A-game against the Steelers.
Kalil Pimpleton is electric with the ball in his hands, but with the logjam at the bottom of the receiver depth chart, I think he is headed for a stint on the practice squad, where he can continue to develop his game.
Judging by how snaps have been allocated as of late, one would assume that tight end Derrick Deese has some work to do in order to have a shot at the final roster.
Like Pimpleton and James Houston, offensive tackle Obinna Eze would be a good fit for the Lions’ practice squad. He has a lot of the requisite tools to play tackle in the NFL, but with so little experience, it isn’t there just yet.
Out of all the undrafted free agents, defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor has easily had the best camp. His first step is electric, often getting him into the backfield and disrupting the flow of the offense. With players like Levi Onwuzurike and Josh Paschal still on the shelf, Taylor may see a healthy portion of snaps once the regular season gets rolling.
Cedric Boswell has been on the wrong end of a few crunch-time plays during the two exhibition games, and barring something crazy happening, seems like a long shot to make the roster.