In less than 48 hours (Tuesday, August 30 at 4 p.m. EST) the Lions will need to have cut their roster from 80 to 53 players, meaning the 15 or so roster battles that were still up undecided, this final game could be the difference between them making the team, hoping for a chance to make the practice squad, or looking for a new job.
So, with this in mind, this installment of the stock report will focus on those players fighting for a starting role or a spot on the roster. Let’s get started.
Stock up: Well...
Stock down: Tim Boyle, David Blough
Boyle got the start and during his first play, I took note of how well he was moving through his progressions. After that, it was pretty much a disaster. After the first drive of the second half, Boyle had four completions, four passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage, and an interception. Yuck.
The coaching staff did everything they could to give Boyle an opportunity to win the job, putting him out there with the starters, but his play was so underwhelming that they pulled the plug early in the second quarter—after the interception—and turned to Blough.
Blough, with an opportunity in front of him, also failed to rise to the occasion for the majority of the game, but he did show grit and determination late in the fourth quarter to get the Lions a touchdown drive. On that drive, Blough showed some creativity by never letting the play die, both on fourth down and the touchdown itself.
“Neither one of these quarterbacks is going out and seizing the backup job,” CBS color commentator Charles Davis, said during the broadcast. “I guarantee at some point Dan Campbell is gonna say ‘gut feeling, and name one of the number two.’”
Davis would go on to later say, he believed based on this performance Blough looked like QB2. He may be right.
Stock up: Craig Reynolds, Justin Jackson
Stock down: Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike
The Lions started Jefferson, but for the third week in a row, hesitations and slow processing seemed to hold him back. He managed to turn things around late in the half, but he still finished with the least impressive stat line of the backs.
Jackson was next up and he looked noticeably better, save for putting a ball on the turf that the Lions recovered. He also looked decently sharp on kick returns, but it may be too little too late to crack the 53-man roster.
Reynolds surprisingly didn’t play until the second half but don’t read too much into the late touches, he proved he was the Lions' best back.
Igwebuike continues to be the last back off the bench and his roster spot will surely come down to special teams play—good news there is, no one has shown much to overtake his hold of the kick returner role.
Stock up: Trinity Benson, Quintez Cephus
Stock down: Tom Kennedy, Kalil Pimpleton
With poor quarterback play, it was a relatively quiet day for the receivers. Benson made a drop on a tough throw in the second quarter but showed promise to even be in the play. He would go on to make another play late in the fourth when it mattered.
When other dropped touchdown passes, it was Cephus who was able to haul in a touchdown. That means something.
Both Kennedy and Pimpleton led the team with three receptions, but both dropped touchdowns, and neither stood out on special teams. Kennedy finally came back to earth in this game, and it couldn’t be at a worse time.
Stock up: Shane Zylstra
Stock down: Devin Funchess, James Mitchell
It was T.J. Hockenson and Brock Wright for most of the first half, and then the team turned to Zylstra. He did drop a pass he normally wouldn’t, but he was clearly the preferred option.
Funchess made one catch and it came with less than three minutes remaining in the game. He promptly false started a play or two later. Things were even less eventful for Mitchell, who is surely banking on his upside and team investment to make the team.
Stock up: Logan Stenberg
Stock down: offensive tackles
There wasn’t a bunch to ascertain from the offensive line that we didn't already know. Stenberg looked good once again and is making his case for a roster spot. I don't see a fourth offensive tackle on this roster.
Interior defensive line
Stock up: Isaiah Buggs, Demetrius Taylor, Bruce Hector
Stock down: Jashon Cornell (?)
Man, the subtle changes made ahead of Game 2 really turned a light on for the defensive line.
Hector—who we haven’t talked about enough—got the start and would have gotten a sack if a Steelers holding call didn’t override it. He also looked sharp against the run. I continue to think Buggs is locked in, based on his usage at the nose. He showed some nice ability to run down a screenplay that I really enjoyed. Taylor is so laterally quick and has so much upside, that he has to really be making coaches consider adding him to the roster.
Could Hector or Taylor take Cornell’s job? He only played three snaps in this game, so I’m not totally sure if that means he is safe (which it usually does) or if they just liked the other players better.
Stock up: Austin Bryant, John Cominsky
Stock down: James Houston
At this point, there is little doubt Bryant is locked into the roster and Cominsky isn’t far behind. Cominsky was repping with the first team at times and was at the 3T on the Aidan Hutchinson sack.
Houston played nine snaps. They may be trying to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Stock up: Derrick Barnes, Malcolm Rodriguez, Jarrad Davis
Stock down: None
The linebackers that needed to step up did so in this game. Barnes got the start, but it wasn’t long before Rodriguez was on the field. Both players looked good, but Barnes’ ability to shoot the gap and make plays in the backfield is very encouraging.
In the LB5 spot, the arrow has been pointing to Anthony Pittman most of camp, but Davis was in the sub-package edge rusher role first this week, after typically running behind Pittman. Davis stacked another good game, but his spot will likely come down to special teams play.
Stock up: Jeff Okudah
Stock down: Will Harris, Saivion Smith, Bobby Price, Mark Gilbert
Well, Okudah just won the starting job.
Not only did Okudah start, but he was very impressive. He was strong against the run, secured a tackle for loss, and made this impressive pass breakup:
For the rest of the outside corners, it was a rough outing. Harris didn’t start and was playing well into the fourth quarter of the game. The Lions say they have a plan for him, but it’s curious what that plan may be if he is playing so late in a meaningless game.
Smith was the second-team corner opposite Harris and made a nice play preventing a hurdle over him. But after that, it was a mess. On the final drive of the half, he had a holding penalty, gave up a big play on third and long, and then gave up a touchdown. Ouch.
Price and Gilbert got the starts in the second half, but they weren’t much better, each giving up big plays. If the Lions keep an outside CB4, it’s probably going to be for his special teams work—it’s worth noting that Price and Mike Hughes were the starting gunners.
Stock up: AJ Parker, Mike Hughes
Stock down: Chase Lucas
Parker started, Hughes was in for the second series, then they rotated until the final 2-minutes of the half when Lucas took the field. Lucas looked good in his coverage and tackling—including making a sweet onside kick recovery—but he also looks to be clearly behind the other two.
Stock up: Kerby Joseph, JuJu Hughes
Stock down: C.J. Moore
Joseph and Hughes moved and tackled well enough that they can probably be relied upon enough to be considered the backups. That leaves the two injured safeties, Ifeatu Melifonwu and C.J. Moore on the bubble, and based on investment and prior usage, it’s pretty likely Melifonwu’s spot is safe.