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What Detroit Lions snap counts vs. Jaguars tells us about positional battles

Examining the Detroit Lions player snap counts from their preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions had an underwhelming performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 of the preseason. With most of the starters and key contributors resting, that was a bit disappointing because it was a big opportunity for the reserves to stand out amongst the pack.

Let’s take a closer look at what each player’s snap count tells us, and explore what this says about their current and future statuses.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Nate Sudfeld: 30 snaps (60% of snaps)
Teddy Bridgewater: 20 (40%)
Adrian Martinez: Did not play (DNP)
Jared Goff: DNP

Bridgewater got the start and was only supposed to play three series before Sudfeld took over. But after a rocky start on offense, coaches wanted Bridgewater to see a bit more game action and kept him in right up until the 2-minute warning of the first half.

“We just kept sputtering out (on offense) and I didn’t want to (remove Bridgewater),” coach Dan Campbell said following the game. “I wanted to see if we could get him in a rhythm and so, it was time. You could argue it was more than I thought we were going to give it, but I didn’t think it was fair either that he was just three and out, three and out.”

Once Sudfeld entered the game, he would play the remaining offensive snaps, while Martinez did not see the field. It’s fair to wonder if this was the game plan all along, or if the adjustment to Bridgewater’s snaps, coupled with the flow of the game, ended up costing the rookie his opportunity. Either way, the pecking order amongst this group is pretty clear.

Running backs

Craig Reynolds: 26 (52%) — 5 special teams snaps (20%)
Jermar Jefferson: 16 (32%) — 4 (16%)
Benny Snell: 8 (16%) — 4 (16%)
Devine Ozigbo: 0 (0%) — 11 (44%)
Jahmyr Gibbs: DNP
Mohamed Ibrahim DNP
David Montgomery: DNP

With an open competition for the RB3 job, it’s worth pointing out that Reynolds played every offensive snap in the first half, which mirrors the practice reps we have seen all training camp. This looks like Reynolds’ job to lose at this point.

The big questions for me are: Will the Lions keep an RB4? And if they do, who is the clubhouse leader for that role?

Jefferson appears to have an early upper hand for an RB4 spot based on the fact that he got the next wave of snaps in the third quarter and saw some time on special teams as a kick returner (after Starling Thomas).

Snell saw action in the fourth quarter, and while his stat line was the best of the group, it was also against the Jaguars' third-team defense and not significant enough to separate him from the rest of the group.

Ozigbo appears to have dropped to the bottom of the depth chart as he, like Martinez, didn’t see the field on offense.

Tight ends

James Mitchell: 31 (62%) — 9 special teams snaps (36%)
Brock Wright: 20 (40%) — 2 (8%)
Darrell Daniels: 10 (20%) — 10 (40%)
Daniel Helm: 1 (2%) — 7 (28%)
Sam LaPorta: DNP

With LaPorta resting—which is a huge indicator of his value to the offense—Wright got the start and split some first-half duties with Mitchell, who saw some of his snaps carry over into the second half. This trio continues to have strangleholds on their roles.

Daniels got the most work on special teams but still has some work to do in order to challenge for a roster spot. Helm—following a two-penalty performance in Week 1—was limited to just a single offensive rep.

Wide receivers

Antoine Green: 38 (76%) — 8 (32%)
Chase Cota: 35 (70%) — 6 (24%)
Dylan Drummond: 31 (62%)
Trinity Benson: 14 (28%)
Avery Davis: 11 (22%)
Jason Moore: 2 (4%)
Maurice Alexander: DNP
Kalif Raymond: DNP
Josh Reynolds: DNP
Amon-Ra St. Brown: DNP
Marvin Jones Jr.: DNP
Jameson Williams: DNP

The Lions aren’t going to risk injury to any of their projected top four “start of the regular season” receivers, so St. Brown, Reynolds, Raymond, and Jones all rested. Williams’ injury is significant enough that he is expected to miss the rest of the preseason, while Alexander’s injury couldn't have come at a worse time—as he is fighting for a roster spot.

The Lions started three rookie receivers in this game with Green, Cota, and Drummond getting the majority of reps throughout the game. This trio is likely fighting for WR5 and possibly a WR6 role, depending on how the Lions construct their roster.

Benson saw limited snaps in his return from injury, but he also looks like he is behind the rookies on the depth chart. Davis—another rookie receiver—is on his second stint with the Lions and is likely fighting for a spot on the practice squad. Moore, who was signed the day before the game, saw two snaps despite never practicing with the team prior to Friday night.

Offensive tackles

Matt Nelson: 27 (54%)
Germain Ifedi: 27 (54%) — 1 (4%)
Connor Galvin: 20 (40%) — 1 (4%)
Ryan Swoboda: 15 (30%)
Obinna Eze: 11 (22%)
Taylor Decker: DNP
Penei Sewell: DNP
Max Pircher: DNP

Nelson and Ifedi got the starts at right and left tackle respectively, after starting Week 1 on opposite sides. The Lions are looking for either player to establish themself as the frontrunner for the OT3 job, and are testing both in a variety of ways. This battle may come down to the wire.

Galvin, Swoboda, and Eze didn't see the field until the second half. Unless anyone in this group can climb the depth chart to start in the preseason finale, they appear to be fighting for a spot on the practice squad. Pircher should also be a practice squad option—assuming he is released and clears waivers—as he would not count against the number because he is part of the International Pathway program.

Guards/centers

Brad Cecil: 27 (54%)
Colby Sorsdal: 27 (54%) — 1 (4%)
Bobby Hart: 27 (54%) — 1 (4%)
Darrin Paulo: 23 (46%) — 1 (4%)
Alex Mollette: 23 (46%)
Kayode Awosika: 23 (46%) — 1 (4%)
Graham Glasgow: DNP
Halapoulivaati Vaitai: DNP
Jonah Jackson: DNP
Frank Ragnow: DNP

The competition on the interior offensive line is a bit deeper than at tackle. The top four options all rested on Friday. Rookie Colby Sorsdal seems to be a preferred fifth option, which is supported by the fact that he started cross-training at left guard this week.

With the top five spots likely set, is there enough room for a sixth IOL on the roster?

Cecil got the start at center, but with both Glasgow and Jackson able to back up Ragnow, it’s fair to wonder if he can break into the mix. Alex Mollette wrapped up the center role after Cecil’s exit and has a tough road ahead of him to be in consideration for a spot on the 53.

At guard, Hart got the start on the right side opposite Sorsdal and is competing with Awosika and Paulo (who started Week 1 of the preseason) on the depth chart. However, none of the three impressed much through two preseason games, and it’s difficult to separate anyone in the group from the rest.

Defense

EDGE:

Romeo Okwara: 47 (64%)
Julian Okwara: 45 (61%) — 7 (28%)
James Houston: 36 (49%) — 15 (60%)
Josh Paschal: 15 (20%) — 4 (16)
John Cominsky: 13 (18%)
Charles Harris: DNP
Aidan Hutchinson: DNP

On offense, more snaps typically indicate a player is higher on the depth chart. In a rotational role like edge rusher, though, a lower snap count typically points to a player's value.

For example, Paschal and Cominsky’s low snap count and situational usage were more about needing bodies to fill out the group for the game, as opposed to them fighting for a job. The plan here was to get them in and out as fast and healthy as possible. With the pair seeing limited reps, Romeo Okwara got an extended look at defensive end, as the team is working to give him more reps now that his health has fully returned.

Houston and Julian Okwara are competing for a reserve SAM role (behind Charles Harris), and the pair got some long looks this preseason. After Julian showed out in Week 1, this was clearly a better game for Houston, who demonstrated a wide range of skills and production.

DT:

Levi Onwuzurike: 31 (42%) — 4 (16%)
Christian Covington: 30 (41%)
Brodric Martin: 27 (36%)
Benito Jones 26 (35%) — 4 (16%)
Cory Durden: 22 (30%)
Chris Smith: 14 (19%)
Isaiah Buggs: 11 (15%)
Alim McNeill: DNP

Like with Cominsky and Paschal, Buggs getting “starter” reps and exiting early is a sign of his value to the team. Beyond that, it’s a bit of a mixed bag for the defensive tackle group.

Onwuzurike gets the Romeo Okwara treatment, getting lots of reps following a season with a major injury, while Covington, Martin, and Jones were competing early for reps. Durden got some snaps in during the first half, which is an indicator he is ahead of fellow rookie UDFA Smith, who didn’t find the field until the fourth quarter. Still, the rookies look to be behind the veterans here.

Linebackers

Jack Campbell: 32 (43%) — 7 (28%)
Anthony Pittman: 31 (42%) — 11 (44%)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 27 (36%) — 11 (44%)
Malcolm Rodriguez: 24 (32%) — 7 (28%)
Trevor Nowaske: 19 (26%) — 13 (52%)
Derrick Barnes: 15 (20%)
Alex Anzalone: DNP

Barnes also received the “starter” treatment, getting early snaps and then exiting. It was a bit surprising to see first-round pick Jack Campbell led this group in snaps played, but head coach Dan Campbell addressed this after the game: the plan is to get the rookie up to NFL speed as quickly as possible because he is expected to play a significant role early this season, and the linebacker position has a big learning curve.

Rodriguez got the other outside start opposite Barnes and played most of the time next to Campbell, indicating his spot is also surely secure. Reeves-Maybin also got an early run with the linebackers, which also points to his spot looking solid at this time. Pittman and Nowaske wrapped the game up and will likely be fighting each other, plus roster construction, for a role.

Cornerbacks

Starling Thomas V: 55 (74%) — 11 (44%)
Steven Gilmore: 55 (74%) — 5 (20%)
Chase Lucas: 36 (49%) — 16 (64%)
Khalil Dorsey: 19 (26%) — 12 (48%)
Colby Richardson: 19 (26%) — 4 (16%)
Will Harris: 17 (23%) — 7 (28%)
Brian Branch: DNP
Cam Sutton: DNP
Jerry Jacobs: DNP
Emmanuel Moseley: DNP

With Sutton and Jacobs resting, UDFA rookies Thomas and Gilmore got the start and played well into the second half. Thomas—who was also the starting kick returner—looks like he has locked up a roster spot, while Gilmore is making a late, strong push for a job. Dorsey and Richardson closed out the game and will need to impress on special teams to enter the conversation.

At nickel, Branch got the night off, leading to Harris getting “starter” treatment. Lucas once again saw about half the defensive snaps. He also held down multiple starting roles on special teams, and is working hard to show his versatility.

Safety

Brandon Joseph: 50 (68%) — 10 (40%)
Brady Breeze: 28 (38%) — 13 (52%)
Saivion Smith: 26 (35%) — 7 (28%)
Ifeatu Melifonwu: 24 (32%) — 7 (28%)
Tracy Walker: 20 (27%)
Kerby Joseph: DNP
C.J. Gardner-Johnson: DNP

After sitting out the first preseason game, this was Walker's first time seeing game action since tearing his Achilles last fall. It’s really remarkable to see the strides he has taken to get to this point in his recovery, and like Romeo Okwara/Onwuzurike, he needs some snap exposure to test himself.

Melifonwu and Smith were in the early rotation for snaps, but both exited the game prematurely with injuries. With both players fighting for a roster spot, prolonged absences from the field could be problematic for their chances to make the team.

“We’ll know more tomorrow, but I think they could be down a little bit here,” Coach Campbell said after the game about Melifonwu and Smith. “I don’t know how long that is, but I think it could be a long shot for Carolina.”

With extra snaps available, it’s worth noting that UDFA rookie Joseph saw the field before Breeze, indicating he may have jumped him on the depth chart. The rookie has seen a steady climb in opportunities throughout camp and could have another opportunity in front of him if Melifonwu and Smith’s injuries are significant.

Special teams

Jack Fox: 9 (36%)
Scott Daly: 9 (36%)
Riley Patterson: 3 (12%)
Parker Romo: DNP

With only one touchdown, no field goals attempted, and just two kickoffs, it is worth noting that it was Patterson that the team turned to for all kicking opportunities. Romo was surely a victim of circumstance here, but Patterson has been the first shot at kicks all camp.

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