The Detroit Lions are headed to Pittsburgh for their third and final game of the 2022 preseason.
The final preseason game is the last chance for many players on the back end of the roster to prove they have what it takes to make it in the NFL. Teams tend to rest their starters in favor of getting extended looks at their depth players.
There are several Lions players who have impressed throughout training camp and the first two preseason games who should be featured heavily against the Steelers. Here are five players to keep an eye on in this matchup:
WR Tom Kennedy
There hasn’t been a player this year who’s made a name for himself more than wide receiver Tom Kennedy.
The former undrafted free agent is now in his fourth preseason with Detroit and has put up impressive numbers over the past two games. Kennedy has 13 receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Check out all of Tom Kennedy's catches against Atlanta 🙌
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) August 13, 2022
Detroit’s wide receiver room is just about set in stone with Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds, and Kalil Raymond sitting at the top of the depth chart. As of now, Kennedy is in competition with Quintez Cephus and Trinity Benson for just one or two spots on the roster.
Those final spots will not just be determined by performance on offense, but the ability to contribute on special teams. Kennedy has been used by the Lions as a return specialist in the past and recently as a defender on punts and kickoffs.
TE Shane Zylstra
One player who has really flown under the radar this offseason is tight end Shane Zylstra.
Zylstra has quietly had a good training camp as he competed for a role as a backup to T.J. Hockenson. His camp started strong as several tight ends missed the first few practices and he got the opportunity to rep with the first-team offense.
After going undrafted last season, Zylstra spent most of the year on the Lions’ practice squad but was called up for four games.
He’s a versatile player on offense who can fill both tight end roles as a blocker and receiver while also being able to play in the backfield in a fullback-type position.
The Lions appear to be ready to roster three or four tight ends and Zylstra is beginning to look more like a candidate for one of those roles. His performance on offense and special teams against the Steelers will be his final audition for a roster spot. If not, he is all but a lock for the practice squad.
DT Demetrius Taylor
Another rookie who has rightfully garnered attention throughout training camp is Demetrius Taylor.
The undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State has done everything in his power to crack the 53-man roster as a depth interior defensive lineman.
Taylor had his way with perennial Pro Bowler Quinton Nelson during joint practices with the Colts and followed up that performance by being a constant disruption for their offensive line during the preseason game.
Taylor looked good against the run and is able to provide pressure from the interior of the line. As of now, he’s in direct competition with Jashon Cornell, Bruce Hector, Eric Banks, and Isaiah Buggs for just one or two spots on the final roster.
He should get some lengthy looks on defense against the Steelers in the third preseason game.
OL Obinna Eze
Featured recently on Hard Knocks, undrafted rookie Obinna Eze is currently repping as a backup left tackle for the Lions.
Eze has had his struggles throughout the preseason. The Nigeria native, who didn’t even know what football was before coming to America, has quickly learned how different the level of play is from his time at Memphis.
Eze should get second-team reps at left tackle behind Dan Skipper. He will have to really perform well to earn a spot on the roster, but the practice squad seems like a likely option.
CB Chase Lucas
seventh-round pick this year, Lucas was expected to have an uphill battle to make the final roster for the Lions.
While he’s had an impressive training camp, he has had some small mistakes in the preseason. Against the Falcons in the first game, he dropped an interception that could have sealed a victory for Detroit.
AJ Parker is the incumbent at the nickel defensive back role and is expected to start there again this season, but behind him there is some competition between veteran Mike Hughes and Lucas.
Lucas has drawn the attention of his coaches and has shown that his five years at Arizona State has prepared him for the league. Now he has one more game to prove he can stick around as a Lion.