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2023 Detroit Lions updated depth chart: Preseason Game 1 vs. Giants

An updated 2023 Detroit Lions depth chart based on what we have seen at training camp practices. 

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

While the Detroit Lions have already released their unofficial depth chart ahead of Game 1 of the preseason, we wanted to provide fans an extended look at the roster with our updated depth chart, which is based on what we have seen over three weeks of training camp as well as incorporating the team’s recent roster moves.

The Lions are coming off two days of joint practices with the New York Giants and have already put their starters through some intense work. Because of that, it appears they plan on resting several of their top players in this game, and in turn, providing themselves with an opportunity to get an extended look at their reserves in game action.

“Being able to get really good controlled work against this opponent in two days of practice, that to me, is about your starters,” coach Dan Campbell. “But the game will be more about, “Hey, let’s see some of these (reserves) play in real games.’”

Following joint practices with the Colts during the 2022 preseason, the Lions rested 20 players slated for starting roles, so don’t be surprised if several of the players at the top of the depth chart are not in action against the Giants.

To help out your viewing experience, we have listed each player’s number next to their name, bolded the projected starters, and added an asterisk* after the rookies’ names.

Quarterback (5)

  • Jared Goff (16)
  • Teddy Bridgewater (TBD) — Signed this week, not expected to play
  • Nate Sudfeld (10)
  • Adrian Martinez* (18)
  • Hendon Hooker* (12) — not eligible to play, on the NFI list

Goff is expected to get the night off on Friday, Bridgewater just signed his contract on Thursday, while Hooker is still on the NFI list and is ineligible to play. Meaning Lions fans will likely get a heavy dose of Sudfeld, with Martinez taking over sometime in the second half.

Running back (8)

  • David Montgomery (5)
  • Jahmyr Gibbs* (26)
  • Jason Cabinda (45), FB
  • Craig Reynolds (13) — dealing with an injury
  • Jermar Jefferson (28)
  • Mohamed Ibrahim* (33)
  • Devine Ozigbo (30) — Signed this week
  • Benny Snell (38) — Signed this week

The Lions running backs room has seen some turnover of late, following the retirement of Justin Jackson, and the recent signings of Ozigbo and Snell. If the Lions rest Montgomery and Gibbs, and Reynolds is still dealing with an injury—he missed joint practices this week—the Lions could be leaning on Jefferson and Ibrahim to get the bulk of the snaps, with the new additions likely getting on the field in the fourth quarter.

Wide receiver (12)

  • Amon-Ra St. Brown (14)
  • Josh Reynolds (8)
  • Kalif Raymond (11)
  • Jameson Williams (9)
  • Marvin Jones Jr. (0)
  • Denzel Mims (17) — dealing with an injury
  • Trinity Benson (19) — dealing with an injury
  • Dylan Drummond* (83)
  • Antoine Green* (80)
  • Maurice Alexander (15)
  • Chase Cota* (88)
  • Trey Quinn (29)

If the Lions rest their starters, expect Marvin Jones to join them on the bench, leaving Jameson Williams along with rookies Drummond and Green to get the bulk of the workload. With Williams’ suspension keeping him out of the first six games of the regular season, the Lions are expected to give him a lot of work in the preseason.

“It’s going to be huge. It’ll be imperative,” Campbell said of Williams playing in the preseason. “We’re going to douse him with a ton of game reps. He needs that. He needs that. As he does (need) practice, but man, and I’m telling you, as with anybody, the more reps he gets, the more time on task, the more consecutive practices and reps he can put together, he’ll just grow. I really believe that. And I do believe he wants it. I do believe he wants to get better, I do believe. So he’ll grind through this and let’s see where we can go with it.”

Tight end (5)

  • Brock Wright (89)
  • Sam LaPorta* (87)
  • James Mitchell (82)
  • Darrell Daniels (86) — dealing with an injury
  • Daniel Helm (43)

With the injury to Shane Zylstra, the Lions tight end room looks very predictable with Wright, LaPorta, and Mitchell the clear front runners for the job. Daniels’ history working with Lions tight ends coach Steve Heiden could give him an outside shot at the roster, but if he can’t play due to injury, it may further solidify this group.

Projected starting offensive line (18)


  • LT — Taylor Decker (68)
  • LG — Jonah Jackson (73)
  • C — Frank Ragnow (77)
  • RG — Halapoulivaati Vaitai (72) or Graham Glasgow (60)
  • RT — Penei Sewell (58)

Top reserves

  • LT — Obinna Eze (65) or Matt Nelson (67)
  • LG — Kayode Awosika (74) or Darrin Paulo (69)
  • C — Graham Glasgow (60) or Ross Pierschbacher (66)
  • RG — Graham Glasgow (60) or Colby Sorsdal* (75)
  • RT — Matt Nelson (67) or Germain Ifedi (70)

Deep reserves

While there looks like a lot of moving parts in this large group, don’t be surprised if all six bolded players sit this game out, letting the reserves duke it out for positioning. With coach Campbell telling the media that he is waiting for the reserves to separate themselves, this could be just the opportunity players need to gain an advantage.

Interior defensive line (8)

  • DT — Alim McNeill (54)
  • DT — Isaiah Buggs (96)
  • DT — Brodric Martin* (98)
  • DT — Benito Jones (94)
  • DL — Levi Onwuzurike (91)
  • DL — Christian Covington (52)
  • DL — Cory Durden* (90)
  • DL — Chris Smith* (91)

The Lions’ top three interior defensive linemen appear headed for the active roster, leaving a lot of players competing for what may be a single spot. Jones has looked the strongest through training camp so far, but Onwuzurike has started flashing skills that got him drafted in the second round and the team has heavily invested in his development. Covington shouldn’t be ruled out just yet, and the two undrafted rookies will have a chance to put themselves in the conversation.

EDGE Rushers (7)

  • EDGE — Aidan Hutchinson (97)
  • DE/SAM — Charles Harris (53)
  • DE/IDL — John Cominsky (79)
  • DE/IDL — Josh Paschal (93)
  • SAM — James Houston (41)
  • EDGE — Romeo Okwara (95)
  • SAM — Julian Okwara (99)

The Lions defensive scheme is dictated by how they deploy their edge rushers, switching between four and five-man fronts. Two edge rushers are on the field in base sets, while three find the field when they expand to five.

The way this position group roles breakdown is:

  • EDGE = can play the edge with hand in dirt or standing, while also reducing inside in pass rushing situations
  • DE/SAM = can play the edge with hand in dirt or standing
  • DE/IDL = can play edge with hand in the dirt or reduce inside in base sets
  • SAM = standup pass rusher

Off-the-ball linebacker (7)

  • WILL — Alex Anzalone (34)
  • MIKE — Derrick Barnes (55)
  • MIKE — Jack Campbell* (46)
  • WILL — Malcolm Rodriguez (44)
  • WILL — Jalen Reeves-Maybin (42)
  • MIKE/SAM — Anthony Pittman (57)
  • MIKE/SAM — Trevor Nowaske* (59)

After alternating between the MIKE and WILL last season, Anzalone has settled in at the WILL this year and the move is playing to his strengths.

“I think (Anzalone) is really naturally more WILL,” Campbell told the media on Wednesday. “He’s more that position, and I think it fits his skill set.”

Who starts next to Anzalone at the MIKE is one of the biggest battles in camp this fall, with Barnes looking like he is holding off the rookie... for now. Campbell is stacking days and putting in his time, but gaining experience through reps will be key to his development.

The Lions lean heavily on their linebackers for special teams and kept six players from this group last season. If they are to stick with that many again this year, keep an eye on special teams to see who is getting those reps in the preseason, as it may be an indicator of how the coaching staff feels about their status.

Cornerback (8)

  • Cameron Sutton (1)
  • Jerry Jacobs (39)
  • Will Harris (25)
  • Starling Thomas V* (49)
  • Steven Gilmore* (36)
  • Khalil Dorsey (30)
  • Tae Hayes (24)
  • Emmanuel Moseley (4) — not eligible to play, on the PUP list

How the Lions deploy their cornerbacks in the preseason will be interesting to watch. Undrafted corners Thomas and Gilmore have been getting long looks from the coaching staff and could use these games to make their claim for a roster spot.

Hybrid Slot DB (3)

  • NB/S — C.J. Gardner-Johnson (2)
  • NB/S — Brian Branch* (32)
  • NB/CB — Chase Lucas (36)

Gardner-Johnson is likely to sit this game out, which means fans will likely get to see Branch start in the slot. The rookie has looked sensational during camp and it’s fair to wonder if coaches will limit his snaps in this game. Lucas has been getting snaps on the outside and in the slot this camp, and while he may see some time outside in this game, I am expecting to see him play a bunch of snaps inside against the Giants.

Safety (6)

  • Kerby Joseph (31)
  • Tracy Walker (21)
  • Ifeatu Melifonwu (6)
  • Saivion Smith (23)
  • Brady Breeze (35)
  • Brandon Joseph* (40)

With Gardner-Johnson and Branch’s range to kick back to safety, along with Joseph and Walker’s spots secure on the roster, the rest of this group may be fighting for a single spot—if there is still one available. Melifonwu—a third-round pick of this regime—seems to hold the lead for a potential final spot, but Smith’s quietly putting up a solid camp and did start a game at safety for the Lions last season.

Kicking team (4)

  • P — Jack Fox (3)
  • LS — Scott Daly (47)
  • K — Riley Patterson (36) or Parker Romo (24)

The battle for the kicker spot continues to roll on and if camp patterns hold true, Patterson will likely get the first shot to see the field, with Romo getting a chance to show off his power later on in the game.

Kick/Punt returners

  • Punt return — Kalif Raymond (11)
  • Kick return — Jahmyr Gibbs (26) or Dylan Drummond (83) or Maurice Alexander (15)

The Lions are set at punt returner with Raymond coming off a season that saw him earn All-Pro honors. But the sudden retirement of Justin Jackson has left the Lions with a big question mark at kick returner. Against the Giants during joint practices, the Lions deployed rookies Gibbs and Drummond, while Alexander was called upon to fill in for Jackson last season and did very well. He also frequently saw snaps at kick returner early on in camp.

Kick coverage specialists

  • Kickoffs — Riley Patterson (36) or Parker Romo (24) or Jack Fox (3)
  • Holder — Jack Fox (3)
  • Gunner — Starling Thomas (49), Ifeatu Melifonwu (6), Jerry Jacobs (39), Will Harris (25), Antoine Green (80)
  • Personal protector (PP) — Tracy Walker (21)

The Lions used Fox as their kickoff specialist last season, but based on comments from special team coordinator Dave Fipp, they seem to prefer if a kicker can hold down that role. Therefore, kickoffs will play a factor in the kicking battle, so keep an eye on the differences between the kickers here.

Who will be the Lions gunner tandem is a bit of an unknown. Thomas, Melifonwu, Lucas, and Branch were the primary options early in camp, but when coach Campbell was asked who might fit in that role, he mentioned Jacobs, Harris, and Antoine Green as potential options. Outside of Thomas, who has been consistently repping at gunner, the other spot looks very much up for grabs.

At PP, Jackson’s retirement opens the door for another player to step into this role. Walker had been taking reps here behind Jackson, but it’s unclear if the Lions will simply lean on him for the role, or open the competition back up.

At-a-glance projected depth chart

If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s an at-a-glance look at what was discussed above:

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