The NFL deadline to cut rosters down to 53 players is August 29. That leaves 10 days for Detroit Lions players on the roster bubble to make their case to be on the initial roster for the 2023 season.
Saturday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars is one of the few remaining opportunitites to really prove their case. With no joint practices next week and only a preseason finale with the Carolina Panthers after that, Saturday afternoon (at 1 p.m. ET) will be huge for a set of players. And with the Lions resting their starters, these depth players should have plenty of opportunities to let their talent shine.
Here are 15 Lions players who have the most on the line vs. the Jaguars.
QB Nate Sudfeld
Sudfeld feels like a long-shot to win the backup quarterback job considering how much of an affinity coach Dan Campbell has for Teddy Bridgewater. However, Sudfeld still has plenty to play for. With a bounceback game against the Jaguars, he could convince Detroit to carry three quarterbacks on the roster, bring him back to the practice squad, or put out good tape for a different quarterback-needy team.
RB Jermar Jefferson
Last week was a golden opportunity for Jefferson to showcase his talents with Justin Jackson freshly retired, Craig Reynolds out with an injury, and Mohamed Ibrahim injured mid-game. Unfortunately for Jefferson, he missed the game with an injury of his own.
Saturday, however, could be huge for him. With the Lions’ running back depth unsettled beyond the first two players—Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery—Jefferson has a prime opportunity to prove his worth both as a rusher and special teamer and make his case for the RB3 spot, or RB4, if the Lions decide to keep another.
WRs Trinity Benson, Antoine Green
Undrafted rookie Dylan Drummond and Chase Cota have already made solid cases for the roster as the team’s WR5 and/or WR6 position with solid training camps and a decent preseason opener. Two players who have yet to really make that big of an impression are rookie seventh-round pick Antoine Green and Trinity Benson. For Benson, it’s his first preseason game after missing a week with injury. Saturday is absolutely huge to put his name back in the conversation. Green has flashed here and there, but a good game against the Jaguars could show he’s building towards consistency.
OTs Matt Nelson, Germain Ifedi
Campbell noted this week that the OT3 job is wide open between these two. This week, Detroit made the interesting decision to move Ifedi to left tackle and Nelson to right tackle. If Ifedi can do a better job protecting the Lions quarterbacks’ blind side than Nelson did last week, it could thrust him ahead in the competition.
EDGE Julian Okwara, James Houston
Both Okwara and Houston had very solid games against the Giants last week. While Okwara had the more flashy day with three sacks, Houston was disruptive in both the run and pass game despite being shut out in the box score.
Houston likely continues to have a healthy lead in this camp battle, simply because he has proven it on gameday before, but this is not a coaching staff that awards players for past performances. Every year is a new competition, and Houston will need to continue to show he’s both efficient and evolving.
DT Levi Onwuzurike
Onwuzurike passed his first big test, making it through the preseason opener—and snaps—without suffering an injury. On top of that, he also played really well. Another strong, healthy performance against the Jaguars would build the kind of trust the Lions need to potentially award the former second-round pick with a roster spot.
LB Anthony Pittman
Pittman’s special teams skills are well established at this point. There’s not much PIttman needs to prove there. However, with Detroit’s defensive roster much improved—and Jalen Reeves-Maybin providing more of a defensive role while also being a special teams ace—Pittman will have to show he’s got defensive depth value, as well. He’s unlikely to surpass Reeves-Maybin on the depth chart, but perhaps he could convince the coaching staff to keep a sixth off-ball linebacker.
DBs Chase Lucas, Saivion Smith, Ifeatu Melifonwu
These three could be fighting for just a single roster spot. With Will Harris moving to the backup nickel spot this week, Lucas was demoted to third-team defense. That said, he brings versatility and strong special teams. He struggled on defense last week, though, so he badly needs a rebound game.
Smith, too, struggled on defense against the Giants, but he’s got a tenacious attitude that fits well on special teams.
Melifonwu may be the safest of the bunch here. During a radio interview this week, Campbell pointed specifically to him as one of three players who have been pleasant surprises at training camp this year.
“I don’t know if I’d phrase it (as) a surprise, but it’s really good to see—and they’re all three guys from the original draft that Brad (Holmes) and I had—and that’s Iffy, that’s Barnes and that’s Levi,” Campbell said.
Ks Riley Patterson, Parker Romo
The kicker battle remains neck-and-neck, and while I personally believe Patterson is the heavy favorite now simply because how the coaching staff talks about him, the tiebreaker could very well be how the two perform on the team’s home field.