clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Detroit Lions roster bubble watch: Shifts in the secondary competition

A look at how the Detroit Lions roster battles on defense have shifted after two weeks of training camp.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Monday, we took an updated look at the Detroit Lions training camp battles at the bottom of the roster on offense. Now, it’s time to take a closer look at the developments on the other side of the ball.

The Lions defense has controlled much of training camp. While it’s been led by solid performances from roster locks like Aidan Hutchinson, Brian Branch, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, there have also been depth players who have made solid cases for playing time this year.

So our staff voted on the fate of the Lions defenders who we currently view as “on the bubble,” and below the table here, I provided an explanation for the shifts in voting from a week to week basis.

Take a look:

Detroit Lions roster bubble watch, Week 2: Defense/ST

Player Jeremy Reisman Erik Schlitt Ryan Mathews Hamza Alex Reno John Whiticar Morgan Cannon TOTAL CHANGE
Player Jeremy Reisman Erik Schlitt Ryan Mathews Hamza Alex Reno John Whiticar Morgan Cannon TOTAL CHANGE
EDGE James Houston IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 7 0
EDGE Romeo Okwara IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 7 0
DT Levi Onwuzurike IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 7 0
DT Christian Covington OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 -1
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 7 0
LB Anthony Pittman OUT OUT IN IN OUT OUT OUT 2 -1
CB Starling Thomas V IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 7 0
CB Steven Gilmore OUT OUT OUT IN OUT OUT OUT 1 0
S Saivion Smith IN OUT OUT OUT IN IN IN 4 0
S Ifeatu Melifonwu OUT IN IN IN IN IN OUT 5 -2
S Brady Breeze OUT OUT OUT IN IN OUT OUT 2 +2
S Brandon Joseph OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 0
K Parker Romo OUT OUT IN OUT IN OUT OUT 2 -2
K Riley Patterson IN IN OUT IN OUT IN IN 5 +2

Edge defenders

  • Romeo Okwara: 7 IN votes (no change)
  • James Houston: 7 (no change)
  • Julian Okwara: 0 (no change)

No significant developments at the edge position this week that changed any of our minds. In fact, coach Dan Campbell’s comments on Julian Okwara likely only reaffirmed our staff’s belief that he’s currently on the outside looking in.

(Emphasis added)

“He’s a flash player, man. He does something really impressive and then it just kind of reverts back at times. He doesn’t use what he’s been taught and so he – man, he just has to continually put on tape what he’s been taught and those little flash plays, they have to become the norm. We’re at the point now, we’re year three with him, with us, and so those things have to show up every time because he’s too talented, he just is.”

Defensive tackle

  • Levi Onwuzurike: 7 (no change)
  • Christian Covington: 0 (no change)
  • Benito Jones: 0 (no change)

It seems like Alim McNeill, Isaiah Buggs, and rookie Brodric Martin are locks to make the roster, leaving the Lions with likely just one roster spot left along the interior defensive line—and maybe not even that. This group hasn’t really done much to throw faith behind any particular player, but Onwuzurike’s potential as a former second-round pick has our staff’s attention.


  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 7 (no change)
  • Anthony PIttman: 2 (down 1)

With Jack Campbell, Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, and Malcolm Rodriguez locked in, the debate wages on whether there are one or two more roster spots left at the linebacker position. Jalen Reeves-Maybin feels as close to a lock as an LB5 can be due to his special teams value and support from this coaching staff. But is Anthony Pittman’s special teams value considered just as important? Can he emerge as a legitimate option at edge? He is slowly losing support from our staff.


  • Starling Thomas V: 7 (no change)
  • Steven Gilmore: 1 (no change)
  • Chase Lucas: 1 (no change)

Thomas continues to cement a spot on this roster as an undrafted rookie, while Gilmore and Lucas have some work to do. To be completely fair, Gilmore has made a fair amount of plays in training camp, and Lucas has enough versatility to play just about every secondary position, but both will need to have a strong week of joint practices and preseason games to gain ground.


  • Ifeatu Melifonwu: 5 (down 2)
  • Saivion Smith: 4 (no changes)
  • Brady Breeze: 2 (up 2)
  • Brandon Joseph: 0 (no change)

Melifonwu likely lost some steam this week after he was dealing with another injury. The good news for him is that the knee issue only held him out for a couple of practices. However, for a player who has dealt with injuries for much of his young career, it’s not exactly reassuring to see him battling another ailment this early in camp. It also doesn’t help that he was mostly with the third team in his return to the practice field, even if it was just precautionary.

I’m not really sure why Brady Breeze jumped up two spots (my Melifonwu vote went to Smith—who has been regularly repping with the second team and has made some plays), but Breeze certainly has the physical and aggressive nature that this regime covets.

Long Snapper


#LONGSNAPPERWATCH2023 ended on Monday when the Lions announced they released veteran Jake McQuaide, crowning Scott Daly as the winner of the battle. Campbell had mentioned how bringing in McQuaide already seemed to be bringing out the best in Daly.

“(Mc)Quaide’s a guy who’s been—he’s done this for a long time,” Campbell said. “He’s been a high-level snapper and it was an opportunity to add a guy like him and then also to push Daly, let’s see where Daly can go and it hasn’t disappointed because really, I feel like Daly’s game is elevated. He’s gotten better. His speed of his snaps, location, getting out of his stance, and protection are—like it’s showing up.”


  • Riley Patterson: 5 (up 2)
  • Parker Romo: 2 (down 2)

While the field goal results are still neck-and-neck, we got some telling quotes this week from both Campbell and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp. The ongoing narrative both seem to be sticking to is that Patterson continues to improve, while Romo is more of a “project.”

Here’s Fipp on Patterson:

“A young player in Patterson, who obviously we know a lot about and had, and the truth is he’s really coming along, and his leg strength’s really increased. He looks really good in the training camp, so I’m really excited about him.”

Fipp on Romo:

“He has a lot of leg talent, and maybe he needs a little bit more development, but we feel like he’s done a nice job.”

Campbell on Patterson:

“I would say this about Riley, one of the things that we’ve noticed that’s really shown up from two years ago when we kind of parted ways is he has a stronger leg as it pertains to kickoffs. Like his kickoffs are much better. He’s getting more hang time, he’s getting more depth. He’s been pretty steady on field goals, so it’s good.”

Campbell on Romo:

“Man he has a massive leg and his will always be just a little bit of working on that accuracy and control, which we kind of know that.”

Just the overall tone in these quotes seem to favor Patterson.

Subscribe to PODD

After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.