Today we continue our look at all 90 players on the Lions roster and how their Detroit Lions Training Camp performance has been. I’m going to look at how well they performed, whether their stock is going up or down, what their chances are of making the roster, and what they’ll have to do to make the roster if the chances are slim. I will do my best to avoid being long-winded, so I apologize if the explanations seem a little rushed. For more detailed reporting, you can check out the reports from my first, second, and third days at Detroit Lions Training Camp 2013. For this piece, I will be listing the players in order of who I felt had the better camp. Not a true 1-90, I’ll be going by a kind of vague impressiveness sort of thing, so some of these guys may be lower simply because they didn’t leave an impression, not because they did poorly. Since we’ve already covered a third of the team with the Offensive Skill Players and the Kickers, I will continue today with the Defensive Skill Players and the Punters.
Analysis: The best Linebacker by some margin in camp has been Levy, fresh off a new contract and ready for the season. Many times, he was the only Linebacker you noticed on the field, as the rest of the bunch was pretty weak.
Chances to make the 53: Already on his way to proving the team right for re-signing him.
What he has to do: Keep it up.
Analysis: Coming into camp as the Lions’ best Linebacker, Tulloch hasn’t stood out negatively at all, and the only moments he stood out were a few good ones.
Chances to make the 53: Never Better
What he has to do: Continue to be the best Linebacker on the roster.
Analysis: Palmer is less this high because of how well he’s done, but more so how he’s one of the only Linebackers to do ANYTHING positive in camp. Palmer is not a good long-term option at OLB, but it’s becoming likely he’s the best the team has at the moment and we can be thankfully this position is only on the field 50% of the time.
Chances to make the 53: He’d have to screw up to not be
What he has to do: Palmer needs to show he can shed blocks, like at all. It was a huge flaw in his game in 2010 and he barely improved on it in 2012. His coverage skills look improved, so let’s hope that translates in-game.
Analysis: In theory, knocked out of the OLB competition, Lewis looked much better when he received snaps in the middle of the defense where he seems a natural fit.
Chances to make the 53: Extremely High
What he has to do: It’s rare a 7th round pick makes a significant impact, but Lewis has a chance to be a contributor as the #1 backup (On the Lions, that means game time action) and on Special Teams.
Analysis: Has looked far more athletic than he did coming out of college, but the transition from rush Linebacker in college to OLB has not been a smooth one. Offers some versatility in play calling, but doesn’t look like a day one starter.
Chances to make the 53: He’ll make the team, it’s just a matter of in what capacity. He could see a role similar to Palmer in 2011, primarily ST.
What he has to do: Whitehead would have to drastically improve reading the offense before he gets any increased action. He looks like a novice because he is one, and will take time to develop.
Analysis: Picked up for his Special Teams skills, Greenwood has actually looked fairly decent in drills. Decent, in comparison to the rest of the players, so I wouldn’t call it a secure place to be.
Chances to make the 53: Better than last week
What he has to do: Continuing to show he can play on defense as well as make a Special Teams impact, Greenwood also has to show he has the potential to be more as many of the players he is battling with have a far more distinguished upside.
Analysis: The longest shot to make the roster out of all the draft picks, Hepburn has actually benefitted some from the weak play of the others. A liability in coverage, Hepburn hasn’t stood out positively in camp.
Chances to make the 53: As slim as it ever was
What he has to do: Hepburn would have to prove he can show well as a Special Teamer, as his skills as a Linebacker have not been good enough to secure a roster spot.
Analysis: A one time favorite of this author, I had walked into camp expecting a year on the Practice Squad to make a newer and improved player. What I got was the same guy as last season. Lots of promise as a two down backer, not much else.
Chances to make the 53: Just as good as last year (So not good)
What he has to do: Messina has to show he can drop into coverage every once in a while. He also has to show that he has improved off of 2012′s preseason effort.
Analysis: It was surprising move that the Lions cut Alex Elkins before they cut Morgan, who is just as poor as Elkins but has no ST value.
Stock: Static (But at the bottom)
Chances to make the 53: I have as much of a chance as he does
What he has to do: All those things that linebackers do? He has to do them, do them well, and do so quickly. Must also learn and adjust to Special Teams.
Analysis: A recent addition I didn’t get to watch, Moten is a cover backer who is tentative in his tackles (He’s soft) and has good but unexceptional athleticism.
Chances to make the 53: He just got here
What he has to do: Everything. He’s an in camp replacement a few days before the preseason.
Analysis: Bentley has had the best camp of all of the Cornerbacks, showing that Nickel skill set the Lions coveted when they drafted and the toughness that makes him a potential starter on the outside.
Chances to make the 53: I’d bet a Nickel
What he has to do: Bentley has to stay healthy, the team cannot afford to have him add to the 12 games he’s already missed.
Analysis: After a very strong start, Slay had a minor setback when he tweaked his ankle after it was rolled. He was able to bounce back and continue his strong showing, however, and the Lions may have picked up a Corner with size and speed that can work across from Houston.
Chances to make the 53: None Better
What he has to do: Slay has to show he can stay healthy, but he also needs to show that he can work on the outside. The team has spent a lot of draft assets building a young, big, fast secondary and Slay needs to be the face of that.
Analysis: After the “Who?” wears off, know that Johnson is this high because he has had a very notable camp within a group of notables. For me, he didn’t really shine all that much, but I keep hearing his name every time the secondary is mentioned. Worth a look in the preseason.
Stock: Very Up
Chances to make the 53: Better odds than I’d give him
What he has to do: Johnson has to show that he’s more than just a journeyman and give the team a reason to choose him over ‘the talent’.
Analysis: Houston rarely has a very good camp, in part because of who he faces off against the most. I’m not very concerned over where he is on this list because it’s the regular season where Houston shines.
Chances to make the 53: He’s getting paid, so great!
What he has to do: Houston will be one of the top two Corners on this team. If he’s not THE top corner, it will be less because of him and more because someone else stepped up.
Analysis: A player that had me pulling my hair out, Menzie will make a great play against Nate Burleson one play and then completely flop while covering Terrence Austin. A Nickel or Dime guy only, he won’t be able to show how physical he is until preseason.
Chances to make the 53: He’s healthy, so good
What he has to do: Menzie would have to remain healthy while Green/Greenwood/whomever else does not. It isn’t that he’s bad, it’s just that his skills are limited.
Analysis: I still don’t understand the sudden fascination with Bartell in this fan base. He’s varied wildly between good (Red Zone drills) and absolutely terrible (Covering anyone in space).
Chances to make the 53: He’s Riding his Veteran Status
What he has to do: If the Lions keep a veteran, it’s Bartell. If the younger guys are healthy, they shouldn’t. Bartell has to show that he can cover in space, something I didn’t see him do a single time in camp (or as a Raider, or as a Ram).
Analysis: Yes, the player I have had sitting firmly on the very bottom of my top 90 Lions did not have the worst camp. Weaver had some moments where he looked serviceable, but for the most part looked completely outmatched.
Stock: Static (Can’t go further down)
Chances to make the 53: Almost the worst chances on the team
What he has to do: Get faster, get stronger, and improve in man and zone coverages. No biggie.
Analysis: Green is riding his tape from last season where he surprised most and became a serviceable starter after a disastrous first turn at the job when he was thrust into it. A Hamstring has limited him to almost nothing.
Chances to make the 53: Health is becoming a problem and a trend
What he has to do: Green has to get healthy. Then he has to build on last season’s noticeable improvements.
Analysis: A rare athlete, the best I can give you is that he still looks like a Cornerback, just like last year. An injury has sidelined him for camp for the second year in a row.
Chances to make the 53: Worse than it should be for an athlete like that
What he has to do: Get healthy (notice the trend?). After that, he needs to show that he can roll with the big boys, despite not even being able to do so in either of his two years at camp.
Analysis: Quin is as advertised, a strong, fast, instinctive Safety who can fly all over the field. He’s shown it in camp, as good as you’d hope he was, he’s been.
Chances to make the 53: Better than any other
What he has to do: Some more of that.
Analysis: Attached to Quin’s hip has been veteran DB Don Carey. Carey settled into the Safety role last season and showed himself to be a solid backup in a pinch. He’s been looking to make it more than a backup, and it’s more his on field chemistry with Quin than his play that lands him here.
Chances to make the 53: Almost a guarantee
What he has to do: Show that he can be not only a valuable backup, but a serviceable starter.
Analysis: The former camp invite wasn’t really expected to impress anyone, but it surprised me how quickly he adapted after his first day of apprehensive jumpiness. An undersized Cover 2 Safety, Coston also plays on every ST unit.
Chances to make the 53: Better than expected
What he has to do: If he continues to grow in this defense, he has a shot. He’s a cover 2 guy and the Lions play 2 deep a LOT.
Analysis: Yes, Spievey of all people has had a solid camp. Not great, but he looks more comfortable as a Safety than he ever has. Health will always be a concern.
Chances to make the 53: Even
What he has to do: Spievey has to keep himself from getting his fifth career concussion and show that he’s able to prevent passes as well as he is at stopping receivers once they catch the ball (Something he has always done well).
Analysis: Neloms was someone I expected to show strongly in camp given how impressive his fundamentals are, but he didn’t impress in camp.
Chances to make the 53: Not good
What he has to do: Neloms has never been great in coverage, but he’ll need to start very quickly.
Analysis: I didn’t see Hope cover a single person during camp. I also didn’t see him on ST units, somewhere I most definitely expected him to be.
Chances to make the 53: Worse than most vets
What he has to do: Hope’s status as a former starter would generally give him more leeway, but I’d expect he has a harder time riding his vet status than Erik Coleman did last season. Because Erik Coleman.
Analysis: Johnson will wow you one play with his athleticism and then completely botch his assignment the next.
Chances to make the 53: Poor
What he has to do: Another former starter, Johnson is fast and quick but his instincts are terrible. Those need to improve.
Analysis: Mister Special Teams left one impression on me in camp. He is the biggest Safety we have by some margin. And his mullet looks like it’s back. In coverage? Look elsewhere
Chances to make the 53: Good for a ST Ace
What he has to do: He simply has to continue to be a good STer and fight off the others.
Analysis: Delmas practiced for only a few hours total in all of camp up until this point. When he did make the field, he did more dancing than covering.
Chances to make the 53: His contract says yes
What he has to do: Make it on the field, show improvement as a tackler and in coverage, and STAY on the field. Barring that, he could always get injured quickly so his usual drama doesn’t get dragged through the season.
Analysis: A recent addition I didn’t get to watch, King is the polar opposite of the Lions new bigger, faster philosophy. Checking in at 5’9 1/2, and weighing only 185, King’s 5.53 at his pro day was the fastest he had ever ran and doesn’t show his on field speed (Lack of).
Chances to make the 53: He just got here
What he has to do: Everything. He’s an in camp replacement a few days before the preseason and doesn’t fit the team’s philosophy. He’s known by the team’s ST coordinator, but he has to produce.
Analysis: Martin has great leg strength, but it has been his control that has really piqued my interest. Martin was consistently putting the ball wherever he wanted with ease. During one drill, he punted it to the 20, 30, 40, 50, and 40 in quick succession without missing a beat.
Chances to make the 53: As good as a drafted Punter
What he has to do: Martin has to look like a good Punter. He already does, so if it translates on field he’s set. It helps that he’s handling Kickoffs as well.
Analysis: Where Martin has control, Clingan has power. Clingan punted a 30 yarder that was in the air for 9 seconds. Count that out in your head and tell me you’ve ever seen that. His control is lacking, but his huge boot could land him a spot if he beats out Martin.
Chances to make the 53: As good as an undrafted Punter
What he has to do: In general, the Punter is the last man to beat on a return. In this case, a Punter is the last man to beat for Clingan. He needs to outshine Martin by a clean margin.