The Detroit Lions opened the preseason with a tally in the win column, beating the New York Giants 21-16 on Friday night. There were some shaky moments in this game, as well as some special highlights, which resulted in some movement in this week's stock report.
With two joint practices leading up to the game, both teams opted to rest many of their projected starters (here are this week’s snap counts, if you want a more detailed look). Here’s a look at the Lions roster with the players who sat out having their positional color removed (note: names highlighted in red indicate the player is dealing with an injury):
Players with an asterisk (*) indicate a rookie
Stock up: Adrian Martinez*
Stock down: Nate Sudfeld
Did not play: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater, Hendon Hooker* (NFI)
With the addition of Bridgewater, Sudfeld needed a solid game in order to stay in the conversation for the 53-man roster, possibly convincing the Lions to keep three quarterbacks active. Unfortunately, things did not go very well.
Sudfeld threw an interception on his first throw, and while there was absolutely a protection breakdown, questionable pocket presence and decision-making was a theme that resonated all night. Sudfeld would throw a second interception later on in the half—targeting Jameson Williams, again—as it was clear the duo were not on the same page. In all, Sudfeld targeted Williams seven times and they only connected twice for a total of 18 yards.
There was a saving grace moment at the end of the half when Sudfeld led the team down for a late scoring opportunity, but an end zone fade to Dylan Drummond was thrown short and broken up. This was the second fourth down the Lions failed on with Sudfeld under center.
Adrian Martinez looked as good as he has all camp, but it was notable that with only two quarterbacks active, he didn’t find the last quarter of the game. To his credit, he was four of seven on the day and did score the go-ahead touchdown to give the Lions the lead and eventual victory. But he has a difficult road ahead of him with Bridgewater taking the field this upcoming week, and in turn, pushing him down the depth chart.
Stock up: Jahmyr Gibbs*
Stock neutral: Devine Ozigbo, Benny Snell
Stock down: Jason Cabinda, Mohamed Ibrahim*
Did not play: David Montgomery, Craig Reynolds (injured), Jermar Jefferson (injured)
Jahmyr Gibbs got all of his snaps in the first quarter, and despite the Lions' reserve offensive line struggling, he still managed to impact the game in a positive way. His third-down catch for a first down and lateral quickness on runs, in addition to improved pass protection, are all encouraging trends.
Jason Cabinda was targeted twice in this game, making the most of his first opportunity—a 9-yard reception—but had a pretty bad drop on the second. Special teams will be his path to the roster, but for a player who only sees rare touches/opportunities, he needs to make all of them count.
With Reynolds and Jefferson unavailable, it was a great opportunity for Mohamed Ibrahim to make some noise as the second option off the bench behind Gibbs. Unfortunately, he left with an injury after one series, and while he did return to the field, it was not for long. He was also seen in the locker room post-game walking very gingerly, so hopefully this injury doesn’t linger.
Stock up: Antoine Green*, Maurice Alexander, Chase Cota*
Stock neutral: Jameson Williams, Dylan Drummond*, Trey Quinn
Stock down: None
Did not play: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Josh Reynolds, Marvin Jones Jr., Denzel Mims (injured), Trinity Benson (injured)
Williams’ first two targets were an interception from Sudfeld and a clear miscommunication on the route choice. His third target was a bad drop, and then he finally made a catch on his fourth. Overall, we continue to see inconsistencies and communication issues with Williams and whichever quarterback is throwing him the ball, which is disappointing for a player with such high expectations.
While Williams’ night overall was a mixed bag, his one-handed catch on a two-point conversion was spectacular—illustrating his potential developmental ceiling. But that is the maddening part of Williams’ game right now: you can see how good he can be, but he has yet to make the necessary steps to play at that level consistently.
Antoine Green flashed early in camp but took a few steps back the last two weeks. Fortunately, on Friday night, he displayed some of those early camp skills, looking quick with the ball in his hands.
Chase Cota found the field earlier than most probably expected in this game and made the most of his opportunities, leading the team with four receptions on seven targets for 60 yards. He should see more opportunities next week in practice.
Maurice Alexander had arguably the best play of the game returning a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown:
Alexander’s special teams could very well earn him a spot on the roster, but he didn’t show as well on offense, only catching one of his three targets. If he wants to solidify himself a spot on the roster, he will need to improve in this area, because his return skills are legit.
Stock up: James Mitchell
Stock Neutral: Brock Wright, Sam LaPorta*
Stock down: Daniel Helm
Did not play: Darrell Daniels (injured)
Sam LaPorta and Brock Wright only played during the first quarter, leaving a lot of opportunities for the reserves. LaPorta was not able to come up with a fourth down conversion early in the game, but it’s clear they trust him in those situations, which is a positive.
James Mitchell was the biggest beneficiary of the early exit from the starters. Not only did he play nearly half the tight end snaps, but he also converted three receptions into 53 yards. It’s easy to see how he will benefit the team in the regular season with his ability to feint block and roll into the flat.
Daniel Helm had a rough night in clean-up duties. Called for two penalties and he dropped his only target, which may have actually been a blessing in disguise because if he did catch it, it would have been for a 3-yard loss.
Stock up: Colby Sorsdal*
Stock neutral: Germain Ifedi, Obinna Eze, Kayode Awosika, Bobby Hart, Connor Galvin*
Stock down: Matt Nelson, Darrin Paulo, Ross Pierschbacher, Brad Cecil*, Max Pircher, Ryan Swoboda*
Did not play: Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Penei Sewell, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Graham Glasgow
The Lions' offensive line groupings, from left to right, were...
OL1: Matt Nelson, Darrin Paulo, Ross Pierschbacher, Colby Sorsdal, Germain Ifedi
OL2: Connor Galvin*, Kayode Awosika, Brad Cecil, Bobby Hart, Obinna Eze
Deep reserve work: Max Pircher and Ryan Swoboda
It’s difficult to get a good read on the offensive line during a live viewing unless they’re making mistakes or clearing defenders out. The only offensive lineman that was consistently moving people in a positive way was Sorsdal, while the rest of the starting line appeared to struggle.
Nelson had one of his roughest games in recent memory. After giving up a bad pressure on the first play, leading to an interception, he struggled to find his balance all game. Nelson ended up on the ground far too often and has to raise some serious red flags for the coaching staff, as he has been the preferred OT3 option in camp.
Ross Pierschbacher was unfortunately injured after nine snaps and was replaced by Brad Cecil, whose lack of size and anchor was evident. Paulo was given the opportunity to start at left guard (over Awosika) but he also seemed to struggle next to Nelson.
Pircher and Swoboda seemed to be afterthoughts in the offensive line pecking order, only taking the field for the final two snaps of the game—both victory formation kneel-downs.
Interior defensive line
Stock up: Benito Jones, Levi Onwuzurike,
Stock neutral: Isaiah Buggs, Brodric Martin*, Christian Covington
Stock down: Cory Durden*, Chris Smith*
Did not play: Alim McNeill,
Isaiah Buggs and Benito Jones got the start with Brodric Martin finding his way into the rotation early. Buggs’ early exit points to his job security, while Jones earned a quarterback sack—which is an illustration of how well he has played in camp. Martin showed some sold in run defense but he is still working on his pad level and should benefit from more snaps. Christian Covington got into the mix as DT4 and also got a sack but it was called back after Romeo Okwara was flagged for being offsides.
Levi Onwuzurike is starting to show flashes of why he was drafted in the second round, but he is still getting worked in slowly. If his snaps continue to increase and his production mirrors what we have seen, he and Jones will be a fun battle to watch over the next few weeks.
Stock up: John Cominsky, Julian Okwara
Stock neutral: Josh Paschal, James Houston, Romeo Okwara
Stock down: None
Did not play: Aidan Hutchinson, Charles Harris
John Cominsky will be a vital cog in the Lions’ defensive front as his ability and positional range allow the Lions to shift between four and five-man fronts. He was a technician on Friday night, and when he combines that with his relentless motor, he looked like a starter playing against backups against the Giants.
Romeo Okwara and James Houston both had a bit of an up-and-down night. Okwara flashed pressure in several situations but was also called for offsides at a critical moment. Houston contributed on a tackle-for-loss and found several ways to create pressure—outside dips and inside swims—but his dropping into coverage is still very much a work in progress.
Julian Okwara was one of the stars of the night, registering three sacks and simply having his way with the Giants' reserve offensive tackles:
Julian had fallen deep down the depth chart during camp but his ability to produce on Friday night firmly puts him back in the conversation for the active roster. He’ll need to stack these performances beyond just games, but he is back on the right path.
Stock up: Derrick Barnes, Jack Campbell*, Malcolm Rodriguez
Stock neutral: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Anthony Pittman, Trevor Nowaske*
Stock down: None
Did not play: Alex Anzalone
It was difficult to find many flaws with the Lions' linebacker core during this game. Derrick Barnes’ minimal usage is a strong indicator of how much the coaching staff likes his game. Jack Campbell was flying all over the field and looking sharp in run defense. While Malcolm Rodriguez continues to make his presence known by violently filling gaps and showing off his speed.
.@Lions @jackcampbell133 looked like he wanted to throw some lumber around last night…Hey Coach Campbell…Can I finally frkn hit somebody tonight?? @HawkeyeFootball #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/VrbZPtllaH— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 12, 2023
Jalen Reeves-Maybin was a bit more up-and-down, contributing on a tackle for loss off a blitz and stuffing the ball carrier on fourth down. But he also got beat on a 14-yard touchdown, though he was in a decent position to make a play.
Stock up: Starling Thomas V*
Stock neutral: Steven Gilmore*, Khalil Dorsey, Tae Hayes
Stock down: Will Harris
Did not play: Cameron Sutton, Jerry Jacobs, Emmanuel Moseley (PUP)
Starling Thomas continues to make his presence known on defense and special teams. On Alexander’s punt return for a touchdown, it was Thomas that sealed the final block to give him a clear path to the end zone.
Harris continues to be a preferred option for coaches in the secondary but he was flagged for a facemask and lost leverage in coverage a few times. If he wants to hold his spot as the top reserve, then he’ll need to shore up some of these flaws or Thomas will soon pass him on the depth chart.
Hybrid Slot DB
Stock up: Brian Branch*, Chase Lucas
Stock down: None
Did not play: C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Brian Branch is an absolute stud.
Despite the tough draw of a quick slot receiver in Cole Beasley, Branch performed well, illustrating his ability to cover a variety of different body types and why he will find the field early and often in the regular season.
Chase Lucas took over for Branch in the second quarter, and the fact that the Lions didn’t attempt to replace him with anyone else in the slot shows his value—as the slot defensive back role is vital in the Lions' scheme. Lucas also contributed multiple times during special teams, including holding off Amani Oruwariye and creating a punt return lane for Alexander on his touchdown.
Stock up: Saivion Smith, Brady Breeze, Brandon Joseph
Stock neutral: Ifeatu Melifonwu
Stock down: None
Did not play: Kerby Joseph, Tracy Walker
Saivion Smith and Brady Breeze land on the stock-up list for their special teams contributions. Smith’s ability to understand angles and power through leverage makes him highly effective both as a blocker and pursuer. With Justin Jackson retired, Breeze stepped in as the PP (personal protector) on punts and even got in on some special teams tackles.
Brandon Joseph has had a quiet camp but he earned a tackle for loss and made the game-sealing interception to close things out. A nice showing for the UDFA rookie.
Stock neutral: Jack Fox, Scott Daly, Riley Patterson, Parker Romo
Not a lot more than what was expected with the kicking unit. Fox still booms every kick and is a perfect holder on field goals/extra points. Patterson successfully made his 39-yard field goal attempt, while Romo made his 28-yard field goal and an extra point.