COLUMN: Who Did What

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Who Did What

Paul Wezner -

The Lions ended up losing the ballgame, but that doesn’t mean the game was a lost cause. 2nd year players James Hall and Larry Foster were among those who stood out in the Lions first exhibition game.

Every July, the Detroit Lions roster starts out with 80 players. Approximately half of those players already know they will be making the squad, training camp is just a formality, or possibly a competition for a starting job. However, those other 40 or so players will be fighting over the few precious spots remaining, many of whom will end up without a job come the end of August. Which is why each preseason game is so critical. Let’s take a closer look at who did what:

The Stars

WR Larry Foster

There was some concern coming into camp about who was going to be the backup to Desmond Howard at the return spots. Foster put those concerns to rest as he returned both a punt and a kickoff for Touchdowns. Foster also did a solid job as the starting Wide Receiver opposite Johnnie Morton. Foster now looks to have a roster spot nailed down.

DE James Hall

Undrafted rookie free agent with a slim chance of making the 53-man roster to starting Right Defensive End in one season. That is becoming a strong possibility after Hall’s 4-sack performance on Friday night. With Jared DeVries out until midseason and Tracy Scroggins out indefinitely, this could be Hall’s chance to make a serious impact for the defense.

Strong Performances

LB Chris Claiborne

While Claiborne didn’t play much, he used the time he had to make things happen. Claiborne is entering his third season and could be headed for a breakout year, especially with Vince Tobin’s attacking-style defense. Claiborne is still best fit for the middle, but Tobin is trying to use his Linebackers strengths to improve the defense, a definite plus for Claiborne.

RB Reuben Droughns

Droughns did well when he was given the ball on the ground, but his running ability was never questioned. If the Lions new offense wasn’t so reliant on pass-catching Running Backs, Droughns would have already locked up the backup job. Now, the Lions will have to make a decision on what to do with him. Can they keep 4 Running Backs? Or will Droughns find a new home, possibly in Baltimore where he’d only be asked to run the football.

RB Lamont Warren

Warren did an excellent job as the third down back, and is probably the closest of anyone to securing one of the two backup Running Back spots. He’s a veteran with some experience, and can run and catch the ball. Another solid game performance and Warren will make the team.

DT Kelvin Pritchett

Pritchett, who is currently starting in place of the injured Luther Elliss, continued to show his worth as the team’s third Defensive Tackle. He brought solid pressure up the middle, and if Elliss can’t make it back by Game 1, Pritchett and the recently-signed Alonzo Spellman should do a good job of filling in.

FB Stephen Trejo

Trejo continued to impress with his hard-nosed style. He blocked well, did a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield, and could very well be the leader for the backup Fullback spot. He’s also big enough where he could play Tight End, which would help the Lions because currently no one has stepped up to take that role.

CB Jimmy Wyrick

He didn’t play perfect, but he outplayed UDFA’s Ligarius Jennings and Chidi Iwouma. As of now, Wyrick is probably the leading candidate to nail down the last Cornerback spot, although Jennings isn’t far behind.

The Not So Good

Most of the Offensive Line

With the exception of LT Jeff Backus and RT Aaron Gibson, no one played well. LG Tony Semple and C Eric Beverly had trouble inside, and RG Brendan Stai did not prove he was worth the long-term deal the Lions gave him this offseason. Matt Joyce is better suited to backup inside, but that would leave OT Ray Roberts as the only backup outside. Whatever happens, the line will have to play better to give the Lions Quarterbacks a chance.

RB Sedrick Irvin

He didn’t get a chance to catch the ball out of the backfield, and he proved once again that he can’t be an every down back. He’s not fast enough to outrun anyone on the field (except the Offensive Line), and he doesn’t use his size to pound his way for a couple of yards. Marty Mornhinweg wants Running Backs that can catch out of the backfield, but if James Stewart goes down, Irvin and Warren are not going to give the Lions a respectable ground game.

5 Things to Watch For

  1. Backup Running Back. This competition will probably come down to the last week. Warren, Droughns, Irvin and Amp Lee are all fighting over two spots, and each player brings something different to the table. Irvin and Lee are mostly pass catchers, Droughns is strictly a runner, and Warren can do a little of both.
  2. Offensive Line competition. The starting five is probably set with LT Backus, LG Stockar McDougle, C Beverly, RG Stai and RT Gibson. C Dominic Raiola is probably the only backup that has a roster spot. The Lions will probably keep 3 more Offensive Lineman on top of the above mentioned, so you’ll have to expect at least 1 Tackle and 1 Guard to be kept.
  3. Quarterback. Neither Mike McMahon or Cory Sauter played extremely well in the first game, but the Lions more-than-likely can’t keep both. McMahon probably has the upper edge because he’s a draft pick, but Sauter has the experience. With an injury-prone starter and an aging backup, the third Quarterback could possibly have to go into a game this season, which will be crucial if the Lions are in the playoff hunt.
  4. Backup Defensive Line. There will be 8 or 9 Defensive Lineman making the team, but who will make it, and where will they play. Travis Kirschke is known as a backup Defensive Tackle, but he could become the third End if Tracy Scroggins doesn’t get healthy soon. Furthermore, how many Defensive Tackles will the Lions carry? James Jones, Elliss, Pritchett, Spellman and recent draft pick Shaun Rogers all seem like locks, so where does that leave everyone else.
  5. The Wide Receiver depth chart. With injuries, Foster started the first game. Is it possible that he plays well enough to unseat Herman Moore as the slot receiver? Morton, Germane Crowell, Moore, Foster, Scotty Anderson and Howard will all probably make the team, but where does each one fit?

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