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The Detroit Lions suffered another preseason defeat, this time at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, losing 26-20. Even though the score may seem close, it was nowhere near the performance the Lions were hoping for, especially in the first half.
Between poor defensive performances and questionable quarterback play, the Lions found it difficult to get anything going to muster up any fight against the Steelers. However, the second half was a different story. The Lions seemed to find their roar after halftime. Even coach Dan Campbell was questioning some players that have been viewed as roster locks and praising some underdogs.
It may not seem like all sunshine and rainbows, but a few players performed quite well, making some decisions harder than some may have thought initially.
Here are six players who raised their odds on finding a way on the 53-man roster.
After several attempts at finding their starting nickel corner, the Lions might have struck gold with undrafted rookie A.J. Parker. He has seen significant time as the team's starting nickel through training camp, especially after a few roster moves that landed him there, proving himself as a quality starter. With how inept the Lions defense looked in the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Parker was a ray of sunshine with strong coverage skills, only allowing 15 totals yards on five catches. He finished with eight tackles, two tackles for loss, pass defended, and finished as the top-rated player for the Lions through PFF. People were quick to crown Nickell Robey-Coleman as the starter when he was signed, but Parker has proven he hang with the best of them.
The debate on who should be the primary backup to Jared Goff, either be Tim Boyle or David Blough, has been an area many people have been keeping a close eye on. Through camp, it looked to be Boyle running away with it with Blough far behind, but after the latest debacle against the Steelers, people may be changing their tune after the performance Blough put on. After failing even to sniff the endzone behind Boyle, Blough led the Lions to three scoring drives, all being touchdowns. It was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but you could see the tangibles are there — namely his poise and pocket awareness. It will be interesting to see if this pushes Blough to the second quarterback slot or makes the argument to keep three QBs.
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All eyes were on Craig Reynolds against the Steelers to see if he could produce the same results last week that gained his frame. He did not disappoint from the looks of it and now has squarely put his name as a legit candidate as the Lions third running back. He then led the Lions once again in rushing yards with 29 and found the endzone as well. Craig Reynolds strongly states his case to make the Lions He also made himself known in the receiving end catching two of his three targets for 15 yards. He has also shown he is not afraid to get down and dirty with his strong poise in pass protection. To add the cherry on top, he is also PFF's highest-graded running back so far this preseason. It was a good day for the Lions running backs, but Reynolds has consecutive strong performances, and from the looks, it will make the coach's lives harder when it comes down to the third running back slot.
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The competition at the wide receiver for the last couple of spots has gotten quite interesting after the first two preseason games. From the reps coming out of camp early on, Victor Bolden looked to have a hold on the competition, but after his recent struggles, it was not quite as clear, especially with the emergence of Tom Kennedy. After leading the Lions in receiving yards last week, he decided he wanted to do that again with 61 yards against the Steelers, looking the part of a viable slot receiver. With so many receivers missing time through camp, Kennedy received more looks than what was originally planned. So far, he is taking advantage and making a case for the 53-man roster.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
The Lions starting offensive line can be one of the best, but the depth behind the starting five has been brought into serious question. With Tyrell Crosby out with a hamstring injury, the coaches have gotten extended looks from Dan Skipper and Matt Nelson as potential swing tackles. Nelson has not performed up to expectation so far through the first two preseason games, giving Skipper the chance to overtake the OT4 slot. So far, Skipper has performed admirably at right tackle through the preseason. The performance overall from the offensive line depth players leaves a lot to be desired, but if Skipper can provide average performances, that would be some relief.
Through training camp, Anthony Pittman has been a camp darling looking more comfortable this year than he did last year with the move to inside linebacker. The coaches have raved about his performance making strong impressions amongst the team. The only problem for Pittman was the competition that was in front of him if he wanted to make the team, but through cuts and poor performances from others, Pittman may be gaining some ground for a roster spot. Pittman has performed well through the first two preseason games seeing a healthy dose of snaps on defense and special teams even though it has been against backups so far. Now you can attribute this to the lack of quality starts from players who many thoughts had a clear line to the roster, but Pittman has given no reason for the coaches to look his way negatively, which might bode well for his chances.