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Everyone loves a feel-good story during training camp. Every year, it seems like there are one or two players that fans fall in love with because they are easy to root for in hopes of breaking out into the NFL. The new focus of the Detroit Lions has been a rebuild mentality taking a “let’s see what we have” approach getting extended looks on either young or under development players. With that mindset, the Lions have churned out a few players that have not only turned heads during training camp but may find the means of being contributors on the field.
The Lions receiver corps is going through a massive overhaul with Quintez Cephus the only returnee who saw snaps last year. Due to the situation, it has afforded more opportunities than probably what you would normally anticipate for players during training camp. So far, Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond, and Amon-Ra St. Brown look to have spots locked up with impressive camps, leaving two (maybe three) spots up for grabs. It may take the last preseason game to figure who will fill in those spots, but so far, one receiver is standing out above the rest through training camp and preseason.
If one player has boosted his roster chances, you don’t have to look any further than former lacrosse player Tom Kennedy. Heading into camp, Kennedy’s chances of making the team were between zero and no chance in the eyes of the majority. However, as training camp progressed, he stood out as a solid contributor, regularly making play after play. Surely expectations were kept low considering he was going against second and third-team players, but the way he performed against them is what made him stand out.
Heading into the preseason games, it was his chance to show what he can do against competition outside of Allen Park, and it did not squander those opportunities. Through the first two preseason games, he leads the Lions in catches (8) and receiving yards (107), proving a trustworthy offensive target.
“He just makes plays. I feel like – I’m going to beat this into the ground, but we’re getting to the point now where it’s like you want to find guys that you trust. Ultimately, we can wrap it into this package of, ‘He does this well. Blah Blah Blah.’ But ultimately, from where I sit and my coordinators and coaches, you want guys you can trust. We trust Tom Kennedy right now.”
With the trust he instilled with the coaches, he has been afforded more opportunities and allowed to try his hand as an outside receiver even though he has been lining predominately in the slot.
“He’s another guy that does what he’s supposed to do when he’s supposed to do it, he knows where to go, he can play all three spots, and he makes plays. So when we need a play, he makes plays, and he has just shown up. So once again, it’s hard to ignore it; it just is.”
Unfortunately for Kennedy, with his small stature, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, he would find it mightily difficult lining outside against bigger cornerbacks. With Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond considered roster locks at this point at slot receivers and return man, Kennedy would find it tough just making it just on those merits alone. However, the coaches can see the logjam ahead of Kennedy from all intents and purposes, giving him an expanded look on special teams.
“‘Is there another spot that we can get a look at him besides returner or some other things? That is where he would be just a tick limited. Not for lack of effort or anything in that regard, but, ‘What do we do with him? Where do we put him where he can be an asset for us or at least help us in special teams?’ So that’s something we’re going to hone in on this week.”
Kennedy has a chance to jump ahead of some of the receivers like Breshard Perriman and Cephus with another strong performance against the Indianapolis Colts this Friday. The problem that lays is would Kennedy prove to be excess in an already strong inside receiver spot? Also, with Raymond engrained as the team’s return man, can Kennedy find a niche elsewhere on special teams? These are areas to keep your eye on what the Lions opted for when they cut down to their 53-man roster.
Considering from where Kennedy started to begin the year to where he is now, you can’t but commend his efforts. He has given everything he has to find a way to make the team, and that has not gone unnoticed among the coaching staff. He is a player they have the utmost trust in and can be relied upon making play after play with his grit and toughness for a player his size. The coaches are affording every effort to find him a place on the team, so it shows the team wants to make this work. It will be something to watch in the coming week, to see what all transpires at the end of it all.