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6 Detroit Lions players who could sneak onto the 53-man roster

These six Detroit Lions players could be surprise additions to the team’s 53-man roster this year.

NFL: Preseason-New York Giants at Detroit Lions David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, there seems to be a name or two that makes the Detroit Lions’ initial 53-man roster that surprises even the most keen-eyed beat writer. Today, I will try to identify six players who could be that guy when Detroit finalizes their roster by the Tuesday 4 p.m. ET cutoff.

This isn’t a list of players I think will make the roster. In fact, I had all six of these players listed as “OUT” in our latest Bubble Watch post. Instead, this is a list of players who are right on the edge of making the roster and could be one of those surprise names that end up making it. With Friday’s preseason game still left to be played, these six players are still very much alive and could tip the scales in their favor with a good performance against the Carolina Panthers.

Note: The order of these players is based on my opinion of their likelihood to make the roster.

CB Khalil Dorsey

I mentioned Dorsey as a dark-horse candidate after Tuesday’s practice, both in my observations and on our daily camp podcast.

Dorsey has had a modest preseason, tallying a tackle for loss, a pass deflection, and a 69.7 PFF grade. But special teams will be the ultimate determinant for the Lions’ final few spots in the secondary—which remain wide open with injuries to Emmanuel Moseley, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and the now-waived Saivion Smith. Dorsey has played 22 special teams snaps in the preseason as a four-phase guy.

This week during practice, Dorsey appeared to be with the first-team specialists, and he even got a promotion on defense—repping ahead of Steven Gilmore for a series or two with the second-team defense.

WR Maurice Alexander

The wide receiver 5 (and 6?) jobs are wide open, but most of the conversation has been around undrafted rookies Chase Cota and Dylan Drummond and seventh-round pick Antoine Green. Don’t sleep on Alexander as a legitimate option here. While he hasn’t shown much on offense, he’s clearly a good returner, both on punts and kickoffs. He returned a punt to the house in the preseason opener, and he led the USFL in kick return average (31.5) in 2022.

When the Lions were working on kickoffs this week, Alexander was first up as the returner on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Special teams will likely play a higher priority for this roster spot than offensive production, and both Cota and Drummond should easily slide to the practice squad, if need be.

CB Chase Lucas

Lucas has struggled on defense both in camp and in the preseason. He was even demoted to third-team nickel after Detroit recently shifted Will Harris inside.

However, Lucas has been excellent on special teams. So much so that coach Dan Campbell singled him out during a recent team meeting.

Via Dave Birkett:

Campbell proceeded to play a clip of Lucas making a key block on Maurice Alexander’s punt return touchdown against the New York Giants and another on Chase Cota’s long return against the Jacksonville Jaguars, then dropped the remote at the front of the room.

“He was like, ‘I love you, dude,’” Lucas said. “He was like, ‘You’re never up, you’re never down, you just stay like this every day.’ He said, ‘I love you, brother.’ And I took that home, called my mom … All good things.”

At the same time, Campbell admitted that Lucas is very much still on the roster bubble.

“He’s continued to compete every day. He’s done some nice things,” Campbell said. “I feel like he’s gotten better, but he is, he’s fighting for a spot.”

RB Benny Snell Jr.

The competition for RB3 has been dropping like flies. Justin Jackson suddenly retired. Jermar Jefferson is injured (again). Mohamed Ibrahim was waived after an injury of his own.

I still think Craig Reynolds is the heavy favorite to win this job—especially after a strong performance in the mock game on Tuesday—but Snell has plenty of experience, and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery was impressed with how quickly he acclimated after joining the team just two weeks ago.

“(Snell and Devine Ozigbo) were ready to go, soon as they got here,” Montgomery said. “I think Benny got here one day before and then the next day, he’s out on the field.”

Most importantly, Snell is well-versed in special teams. He’s had at least 180 special teams snaps in each of the last four seasons, regularly playing on all four phases.

TE Darrell Daniels

There’s been almost no conversation in the media about keeping a fourth tight end, with Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, and James Mitchell presumed to be the three—and only—tight ends who make the 53-man roster.

But Daniels remains a legit possibility for a fourth. Detroit kept four last year, and Daniels has worked under tight ends coach Steve Heiden for the last three years with the Cardinals. He’s experienced, too, having played at least 10 games in each of the past five seasons. Capable of playing special teams, Daniels could be a sneaky addition to the roster, especially considering the offensive depth on this team is not great right now.

S Brandon Joseph

With Saivion Smith out of the picture and Ifeatu Melifonwu currently fighting through yet another injury, the door has opened for undrafted rookie Brandon Joseph to slide into one of the final roster spots. Since those injuries, Joseph has jumped into the second-team defense alongside Tracy Walker. He’s also tallied two notable interceptions: one to end the first preseason game and another in the team’s mock game on Tuesday.

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