The first week of the Detroit Lions 2023 training camp is in the books, and that makes it the perfect time to review the roster and see how roles/performances have changed compared to pre-camp expectations.
For this exercise, we will be examining each position group and slotting players into one of three categories: stock up, no change, or stock down.
- An “up” designation indicates the player is either performing above expectations or that their role is changing in a positive way.
- Most players will fall into the “no change” category, which simply means they are doing what we anticipated or haven’t had a chance to show any change (i.e. with no pads on, most of their skills are subdued).
- If a player lands in the “down” category, they are either underperforming or have seen their role limited more than previously projected.
When the Lions return to the field on Friday, they are expected to be in pads and that can completely change the dynamic for certain players/roles. So, we will continue to update this stock report throughout training camp and the preseason.
Stock up: Jared Goff, Nate Sudfeld
No change: Hendon Hooker*
Stock down: Adrian Martinez*
With the offense starting slow in the spring, some mild concerns were raised about that side of the ball possibly taking a step back this season. Those concerns were swept away over the first four days of training camp as the top two units have been solidly efficient.
Goff, in particular, has been very smart with the ball. Through four days, he has attempted around 50 passes during team drills each practice, and by my count, only has eight incompletions. Of the eight, four were quality pass breakups, another was a low throw that hit the receiver's hand, there was a throwaway when a receiver failed to uncover, another hit an offensive lineman who pulled into the quick-release passing lane, and one was off target (early on Day 1).
Sudfeld has been on task and efficient as well. Comfortable in the pocket, checking in at 6-foot-6 with NFL arm strength, solid accuracy, as well as a year of learning the playbook under his belt, Sudfeld has a chance to lock up the QB2 spot soon—if he hasn’t already.
With Hooker on the shelf, Martinez had an opportunity to seize a role but he has come up short so far in camp. Like former backup Tim Boyle, Martinez has a bad habit of sailing the ball when he throws with any sort of power. His best throws have come when he has been off-platform, but it’s unfortunately been more bad than good so far.
Stock up: Justin Jackson, Craig Reynolds
No change: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs*, Jason Cabinda (FB), Jermar Jefferson, Mohamed Ibrahim*
Stock down: None
Jackson’s arrow is pointing up mainly because of how coaches view him: as a dependable option on offense and capable of playing in all phases of special teams. Jackson’s stepped in right where he left off, and despite his presence on the roster, Reynolds continues to rep as RB3 and has looked as efficient as he can without pads on.
Next week could very well be a separator for these backs because pads are a game-changer for the running game.
Stock up: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Antoine Green*, Denzel Mims
No change: Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy, Maurice Alexander, Chase Cota*, Dylan Drummond*
Stock down: Jameson Williams, Marvin Jones
St. Brown is coming off a Pro Bowl season but has looked even better in camp so far. He has dominated the first few days and his work ethic is unmatched. Green and Mims have risen up the depth chart and earned the right to get some snaps with the first team. Mims has flashed but is still acclimating, while Green was impressive versus the second team but has yet to make an impact with the starters. Both guys should improve with time on task.
Williams was off to a solid start to camp but an injury lands him in the “down” group. Jones has yet to find the practice field and is still on the NFI list, though looking like he is ready to return soon.
Stock up: Sam LaPorta*
No change: Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra, Derrick Deese Jr.
Stock down: James Mitchell
LaPorta has been a stud from the moment he stepped on the field in Allen Park. He continues to stack solid days and it’s resulted in him getting the majority of starting reps. If he can continue to perform well when pads come on—especially as a blocker—he should be able to lock up the TE1 job.
Mitchell was expected to challenge Zylstra for the TE3 spot, but through four days, he has been no better than the fourth option at tight end. Hopefully, we will see the second-year player expand his game soon.
Stock up: Graham Glasgow, Colby Sorsdal*, Germain Ifedi, Darrin Paulo
No change: Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Penei Sewell, Matt Nelson, Ross Pierschbacher, Obinna Eze, Max Pircher, Conor Galvin*, Ryan Swoboda*, Brad Cecil*
Stock down: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Kayode Awosika, Logan Stenberg
Vaitai was expected to step back into the starting role at right guard, but the Lions opened up camp with him and Glasgow in a daily rotation. It’s hard to separate them without pads on, but Glasgow is the beneficiary of Vaitai suffering another injury and not being able to practice. Sorsdal also benefits from Vaitai being on the sidelines, as the rookie joins the second team. Though it’s worth pointing out that coaches had been finding opportunities to get Sorsdal reps with the twos prior to the injury as well.
After getting a few injury-related starts in 2022, Awosika and Stenberg were expected to compete for reserve roles on the roster, but Paulo (a career practice squader) has consistently been the Lions' second-team left guard. In the battle for OT3, Ifedi has stepped up his game and is taking most of the second-team reps at left tackle.
Interior defensive line
Stock up: Levi Onwuzurike, Brodric Martin*
No change: Alim McNeill, Isaiah Buggs, Benito Jones, Chris Smith*, Cory Durden*
Stock down: Christian Covington
The Lions are taking it easy with Onwuzurike, rotating him on the third string, but the fact that he is even on the field is a huge step in the right direction. Martin is comfortably getting second-team reps, but he is showing well, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start getting worked in with the starters.
After taking on a prominent role in the spring, Covington has not shown up in my notebook through the first week of practices. With some younger defenders showing well, he may be taking a step back from pre-camp expectations.
Stock up: Charles Harris
No change: Aidan Hutchinson, John Cominsky, Josh Paschal, James Houston, Zach Morton*
Stock down: Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara
After a breakout season in 2021, Harris opened 2022 as a starter opposite Hutchinson, but injuries and schematic changes altered his path to the field. In 2023, the Lions appear to once again be altering their approach to the defensive line and Harris is back in with the starters, both as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end and as a pass-rushing SAM linebacker. If we were ranking the Lions “stock up” players, Harris would be at the top of the list.
As the Lions have started shuffling their EDGE roles, the Okwara brothers have found themselves on the outside of many decisions. When the Lions shift to 5-man fronts, Romeo is backing up Hutchinson on the outside, but when they shift to four-man fronts, Romeo drops to the third team. Julian’s situation is even worse with Harris in the starting SAM role and Houston’s elite pass rushing skills likely landing him the other SAM spot. Julian needs to find a way to stand out.
Stock up: Alex Anzalone, Jack Campbell*, Derrick Barnes
No change: Malcolm Rodriguez, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Anthony Pittman, Trevor Nowaske*
Stock down: None
The competition at linebacker is deeper than it’s been in a decade (maybe two), but the one constant is that Anzalone rarely vacates a starting role, shifting between MIKE and WILL depending on who is next to him. Barnes has been the starting MIKE for most of camp—and has performed above expectations—but the rookie is nipping at his heals, and Campbell saw an uptick in starting snaps as Week 1 came to a close.
Stock up: Jerry Jacobs, Starling Thomas
No change: Cameron Sutton, Chase Lucas, Jarren Williams, Khalil Dorsey, Steven Gilmore*
Stock down: Emmanuel Moseley
Moseley’s absence from Allen Park—he is expected to return to the facility this week—has opened the door for Jacobs to prove himself capable of starting for this roster. The Lions are planning on taking it slow with Moseley and the longer he takes before joining the team, the better is it for Jacobs.
With Moseley out, Thomas started camp with the second team in the CB4 role, but when Will Harris shifted inside due to injury, Thomas has been repping as CB3 on the outside. He has also very firmly established himself in the mix for a gunner role, where he has been taking first-team reps.
Hybrid defensive back
Stock up: Will Harris, Brian Branch*
No change: None
Stock down: C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Gardner-Johnson’s injury opened the door for Harris and Branch to duke it out for nickel reps, but with Branch also missing the final practice of the week, Harris illustrated his value to the team. Harris’ ability to step into almost any role in the secondary makes him an incredibly valuable asset for what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn wants to accomplish with his scheme.
Despite possibly being injured, Branch lands in the “up” category because he had been sharp on the field through the first three days. Not only did he have a pass breakup in all three days, but he was taking snaps at multiple positions, and starting at gunner opposite Thomas.
Stock up: Ifeatu Melifonwu
No change: Tracy Walker, Kerby Joseph
Stock down: Saivion Smith, Brady Breeze, Brandon Joseph*
If the Lions elect to only keep three safeties because their hybrid defensive backs can also take snaps there, Melifonwu is the clear preferred third safety on the roster. He has shown the ability to take snaps at both safety spots and has expanded his range to the slot and box as well. He is making solid developmental progress.
When it comes to the Lions' S4 position, they have rotated Smith and Breeze opposite Melifonwu, but neither has consistently stood out. If they don’t step up their involvement, they could make coaches' decisions easier when cut day comes. Joseph has his work cut out for him.
No change: Jack Fox (P), Riley Patterson (K), Parker Romo (K), Jake McQuaide (LS), Scott Daly (LS)
There hasn’t been a lot of movement from the kicking units just yet. The kickers haven’t separated themselves from one another, though Patterson may get a slight nod because he is taking the field first. The same can be said for McQuaide, who has been the first choice at long snapper over Daly.