Back in May, our own John Whiticar asked if there were any dark-horse candidates to make the Detroit Lions’ 2023 roster. It’s a fun topic that time of year because you’re basically just guessing based on little-to-no results. You’re attaching yourself to a rookie prospect or hoping a player takes a significant jump in his development this year. Many of the answers in the comment section have already been proven wrong (Greg Bell, Tom Kennedy, DeAndre Hopkins [lol]). One of the more popular answers, Starling Thomas V, seems very much on his way to procuring a spot on the roster.
But now we have a little more information to work on. Guys like Thomas are no long dark-horse candidates to make the roster, but instead in the driver’s seat. Other players we didn’t even consider back in May have suddenly worked their way into the conversation.
So let’s revisit the question now that we have a firmer grasp on the “leaders” for roster battles.
Who is your favorite dark-horse candidate to make the roster?
My answer: Obinna Eze. Last week, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell was asked if there was any player among the offensive line depth that stuck out amongst the group. While he didn’t answer Eze, he basically said that no one has.
“We were just talking about this last night, and I think right now that honestly, no, not negatively, not positively,” Campbell said. “You want somebody to separate themselves, that’s what we’re looking for is that next wave. There’s a group of guys that, ‘Let’s go. Somebody go take a job here. Somebody separate themselves from the other group.’ And so there’s a lot of jockeying.”
To me, that means all reserve jobs are wide open, and that very much includes the OT3 job. Sure, Halapoulivaati Vaitai can act as a backup tackle, but with his back issue, I’m not so sure he’s the reliable “break glass in case of emergency” option that you want in a backup tackle.
Incumbent Matt Nelson struggled in the last two years, and while Germain Ifedi brings plenty of starting experience, he hasn’t played well recently, either. Both have struggled early in training camp. In other words, the opportunity for Eze is absolutely there for the taking.
And while he has been far from outstanding in training camp, there have been significant signs of development from Eze in his second training camp. He’s got a long ways to go, and it would be a leap of faith from the coaching staff, but if he has a strong preseason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win the job.
Who is your favorite long-shot to win a spot on the roster? Scroll down to the comments and share your answer.