Dan Campbell was explaining how tough some of the Detroit Lions’ roster decisions were this summer when he brought up last year’s team to illustrate his point.
“Ultimately we’re going to probably have to let go of some players that were here all last year, that we depended on, did everything we asked them to do and produced for us last year,” Campbell said. “But that’s a sign of progress, too.”
The Lions waived one such player Monday, cutting receiver Tom Kennedy one day after he finished as the team’s leader in receptions (16), receiving yards (143) and receiving touchdowns (two) in the preseason.
Kennedy, a former professional lacrosse player, played in 12 games last season for the Lions after spending most of the 2019-20 seasons on the practice squad. He caught six passes for 54 yards and threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kalif Raymond on a trick play.
Campbell praised Kennedy for his reliability this summer, but the Lions ultimately saw Kennedy as a player with a limited role and limited upside.
A slot-only receiver, Kennedy contributed sparingly on special teams last season and the Lions have a deeper receiving corps this fall with the additions of DJ Chark and Jameson Williams, and the return of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds and Raymond.
Williams is expected to miss the first half or so of the season while he recovers from January knee surgery. Quintez Cephus, Trinity Benson and former USFL return man Maurice Alexander also are competing for roster spots.
“It was tough (to make roster cuts) last year, but this year … our talent level is better,” Campbell said. “And the competition is better. I’ll just say it again, the better the competition, the better the players rise to that occasion, and so you have a talented player and if he’s not getting challenged every day he’ll never grow. But now you get somebody that can challenge that player, they begin to grow together and they get that much better, and that’s kind of where we’re at. We’re just, I feel like, starting to get into that phase of it, whereas last year we weren’t quite there.”
NFL teams have until 4 p.m. to set their initial 53-man rosters.
Lions cut Jarrad Davis, Devin Funchess, others
Jarrad Davis’ second stint with the Detroit Lions was a short one.
The Lions released Davis on Monday in their first wave of the final round of cuts, NFL Network reported.
Davis was considered a long shot to make the roster after the emergence of 2022 draft pick Malcolm Rodriguez and with several key special teams players also in the linebacker room. He played primarily with the third-team defense this summer, and got the most playing time of any linebacker — 30 snaps — in Sunday’s preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A first-round pick in 2017, Davis spent the first four seasons of his NFL career in Detroit before signing a one-year free agent deal with the New York Jets last spring.
He set career-highs with 100 tackles and six sacks in 2018, but battled injuries his final two seasons in Detroit.
After another injury-riddled season with the Jets last fall, Davis re-signed with the Lions to compete for a job at stack linebacker this spring.
Rodriguez, a sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma State, was one of the standouts of training camp and is in the mix to start alongside Alex Anzalone in Week 1. Derrick Barnes and Chris Board also could see time in the Lions’ linebacker rotation, and Josh Woods and Anthony Pittman are vying for roles on special teams.
The Lions did not officially make any transactions before the close of league business at 4 p.m. Monday, but they have informed several other players of their release.
The Lions waived cornerback Saivion Smith and cut offensive tackle Kendall Lamm, and the team reportedly is parting ways with tight end Devin Funchess (Michigan), receiver Kalil Pimpleton (Central Michigan) and cornerback Mark Gilbert.
The Lions open the season Sept. 11 at home vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions roster cuts: Updates ahead of Tuesday deadline