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With roster cuts in the midst for the Detroit Lions, some players sit firmly on the bubble for a roster spot. However, with a loss to the Buffalo Bills, some of those players did what they needed to help their case by taking advantage of their opportunities.
Even though some of these players may still have a long way to go, if they can put up more solid performances, they may be able to pave their road to the 2021 roster.
Stenberg was probably going to make this roster, to begin with, but that was more due to the lack of viable guard depth than his abilities. He hasn’t had a strong camp and clearly needed more development to a point where coach Campbell referred to him as a “pup.” Well, he took to heart what Coach Campbell laid out to him and performed strongly at left guard against the Bills. He showcased his run blocking ability and mauler attitude by forcefully moving defenders against their will, thus creating room for the running backs. Sure, his pass protection does need some refinement, but this was a good step for Stenberg in his chances to stick.
If it weren’t for Craig Reynolds stealing the show, we might be talking about Dedrick Mills’ performance instead. With the top two running back spots and fullback cemented in, it all rides on the third running back slot for players to compete for, and Mills put a good step forward. He mustered out 32 yards on five yards and one very impressive 20-yard run to convert a fourth-down attempt. Again, he was able to show his grit and tenacity, something the coaches covet in their players. Jermar Jefferson, who has been heading up that third spot through training camp, had a lackluster game at best with only seven yards on four carries. If Mills can consistently perform, he could steal away the third spot away from Jefferson.
Detroit Lions defensive end Kevin Strong (92) during training camp at practice facility in Allen Park, Tuesday, August 10, 2021.
With most of the defensive tackle depth sitting out against the Bills, it gave Kevin Strong an opportunity he might not have gotten, and from his showing, he did not squander it. He mustered up six tackles, one for a loss and a forced fumble creating havoc up the middle while he was on the field. He has had an uphill battle so far with players like Levi Onwuzurike and Da’Shawn Hand competing for the same spot and ending up with the third and fourth team during practice. On top of illustrating his dominance, with Jashon Cornell’s suspension and John Penisini’s lingering injury, he legitimately could fight his way as a solid depth defensive lineman.
Detroit Lions linebacker Austin Bryant (94) during training camp at practice facility in Allen Park, Tuesday, August 10, 2021.
Austin Bryant’s career has not taken off like many have hoped for from the former fourth-round selection, and it didn’t get off on the right foot to start training camp when he landed on the PUP list. However, with the Lions looking for a presence off the edge behind Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara, Bryant had the opportunity to prove to the naysayers he has what it takes to compete, and that is what he did against the Bills. He only logged 18 snaps, but he made the most of it, recording two tackles, one hurry and only allowed one reception for five yards. With his main competition, Charles Harris, absent from the game, Bryant got to show what he can do in a game. If he can stay healthy and consistent with his performances, he could be a lock for the roster.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
With how inexperienced the wide receiver room is this year, it has granted many opportunities for players to solidify their shot at making the roster, and Tom Kennedy is one of those lucky contestants. The former lacrosse player played a healthy 36 snaps and led the Lions with 46 receiving yards on four catches and six targets. He has mostly been used out of the slot due to speed, agility, and route running, creating great separation against the secondary. Victor Bolden and Kennedy ultimately compete for a receiver spot, but after Bolden’s bad showing, Kennedy has to have a leg up on his competition. Between his consistent practices and a strong showing against the Bills, Kennedy is putting together a strong resume to be part of the Lions receiving corps that is in a state of flux.
Detroit Lions safety Jalen Elliott goes through drills during training camp at the facility in Allen Park, Thursday, August 27, 2020.
It is not clear if Bobby Price’s move to cornerback is permanent or not, but if the coaches continue to play him there, Elliott’s path to a roster spot just became a lot clearer since Price was ahead of Elliott through camp. He played 24 defensive snaps in the matchup against the Bills recording two tackles. He was also targeted against once, but it went for an incompletion. He also showcased on special teams playing six snaps on various coverage units. With Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Dean Marlowe, and C.J. Moore headlining the safety group, Elliott is deep down the depth chart, but he came away as the Lions' 5th-best special teamer and 7th-best defender, according to PFF. Even with the Price position move in addition to a strong game, Elliott still has an uphill climb, but he has put his name in the running to vie for a roster spot.