Lions roster review: 88 thoughts on 88 players as offseason workouts conclude

The Lions are breaking for the summer, and most of the roster won’t be back in Allen Park until training camp opens over the final week of July.

At this point, where do all 88 players stand? We update the situation for each guy, at every position, ordered roughly by how the depth chart might stack up headed out of OTAs and minicamp.

Quarterbacks (3)

Jared Goff: It’s visible how much more comfortable and at ease Goff is with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson as he enters year two in Detroit. And that’s a good thing, because 2022 will be the most important year of Goff’s football career. The Lions — as you’ll see here — are further along with pieces offensively. Goff needs to match that growth, or Detroit will need to have a deeper conversation about the quarterback position come winter.

Tim Boyle: Better as minicamp wore on. In team settings, Boyle was still struggling with some of the same stuff he struggled with last year (read: Everything that’s not a shot). But, he does have a cannon and the Lions still seem to like that. He feels like QB2 right now.

David Blough: Blough in minicamp threw some of the best balls we’ve seen from him. He’s doing all he can to unseat Boyle — but if Detroit’s more interested in the younger QB’s physical profile, Blough’s definitely stuck.

Running backs (7)

D’Andre Swift: A running back must check all the following boxes to earn a long-term investment: He must be capable between the tackles and in wide zones, a legit route runner with legit hands, have the ability to turn ordinary into extraordinary and be a physical specimen capable of handling a real every-down (run and pass) workload. Swift can do all of this, if he wants. So, let’s see it.

Jamaal Williams: Williams signed a two-year deal ahead of last season. He should remain a power runner with enough speed to rotate with Swift and not give the offense away. Can he turn it into a third year here?

Craig Reynolds: Netflix” has graduated to “Hulu” this year, as Duce Staley provides more insight about his streaming platform hierarchy. Either way, the Lions love this guy in a pinch — but he’s hardly alone.

Jermar Jefferson: Jefferson can climb up to the No. 3 spot here with a big camp. He showed flashes last August, then got hurt. The competition behind Swift and Williams is real and should be intense.

Godwin Igwebuike: Same goes for Igwebuike. The Lions love his athleticism and wiggle as a natural runner in space and believe there’s more juice to squeeze. But if he can’t hang onto the football, he can’t be on the team.

Greg Bell: Bell’s here to try to push and unseat Williams for RB2. Similar builds and athletic profile. Bell showed some burst at times in minicamp; now let’s see if he can do it with pads on.

Jason Cabinda (FB): Starting fullback who’s still safe for another year as one of Dan Campbell’s favorites. It is fair to wonder, though, if some of his work can be at least shared by James Mitchell when the latter gets healthy. We’ll see.

Wide receivers (11)

Amon-Ra St. Brown: Nobody outworks him. It might be too early to say he’s the alpha dog in the Lions’ wide receiver room. But it also might not be.

DJ Chark: Chark has been participating plenty this spring, and already feels like a much better addition than either Tyrell Williams or Breshad Perriman last season. Starting X receiver who could give Goff what Williams never could: a big-bodied target who can stretch the field vertically.

Jameson Williams: The Lions’ biggest concern with Williams right now is that he’s too eager to get on the field. His knee is still recovering. He’s not expected to be ready for the start of camp and while that’s frustrating for the rookie, the Lions have to understand that’s also partly why they drafted him. Preach patience and appreciate his relentless desire to push himself. He’ll get there.

Josh Reynolds: A pro’s pro who showed up and helped change the Lions’ passing game from a disaster to “OK, maybe some things can work here” almost overnight last year. If Detroit doesn’t work long-term for Reynolds (and it might), he should have a market next year as a versatile, steady outside target.

Kalif Raymond: If the Lions could take Raymond’s effort and clone it … if only, right? He’s the team’s top returner and will remain as such this year while also providing depth and leadership. Tough to see him not making the squad.

Quintez Cephus: Cephus has had a good offseason. He’s in shape, he’s moving like the player we’re used to seeing. His greatest value is that he can play X, Y or Z receiver. If he’s healthy, he’s in. The Lions needed to be convinced on him and he may have accomplished the task.

Trinity Benson: Terrific stretches for Benson in minicamp, which had to bring a smile to Brad Holmes’ face. If he follows this up with a great camp and Williams is sidelined for a stretch, Benson could have his opportunity.

Corey Sutton: A 6-foot-1 X-receiver prospect from Appalachian State who was a big-time deep threat in college. We need to see him in an 11-on-11 situation, with pads on.

Kalil Pimpleton: Fascinated to see the 5-7 former Central Michigan burner in pads later this summer. He’s really small, probably too small to hang in the NFL. But, if he can cause problems in traffic with his speed? We’ll see.

Tom Kennedy: Kennedy made a bunch of catches that make you wonder if he might actually hang around. But, unlike last year, the Lions have a lot more depth at receiver now.

Josh Johnson: Johnson’s a Z receiver who might not be quick enough to work inside. The rookie from Tulsa is a bit thin, but we’ll see if he can hang around with some contact.

Tight ends (7)

T.J. Hockenson: Seems to be in a good place as he enters a contract year, with his focus on continuing to improve the Lions. But, again: He’ll prove he’s worth max money by taking the next step as a blocker, not a receiver. We know he can run routes and catch. Can he help take the Lions’ run game from good to great?

Brock Wright: It felt like Wright had a big opportunity in minicamp with injuries behind him and we’re not sure he wowed with it. TE2 is a big need and Wright has to be better to keep the job.

James Mitchell: Super intrigued to see what he can do in this offense with Hockenson when healthy. Could be a terrific complement and open up a lot of possibilities. Key word, of course: Could.

Shane Zylstra: Zylstra did seem to take advantage of the opportunity with Mitchell out during minicamp. He’s also coming off a pretty serious leg injury, but Zylstra is a flexible, athletic H-back/TE2 type who has sneaky quickness and the ability to play with some leverage. Big camp upcoming.

Garrett Griffin: Former Air Force tight end with a lot of explosion. Another TE2 type with H-back qualities who should be a willing blocker. He did struggle with quickness in minicamp.

Nolan Givan: A 6-2, 250-pound H-back who could be a fullback in time. Givan put up interesting testing numbers at Southeastern Louisiana (35 1/2-inch vertical, 6.95-second three-cone, 1.6-second flying 10). Interested to see where he works in camp.

Derrick Deese Jr.: Son of longtime ex-NFL offensive lineman Derrick Deese Sr., Deese Jr. (6-4, 235) will make this team as a blocking H-back/fullback type or not at all. Hard to say until the pads come on.


The Lions are eager to have center Frank Ragnow back on the field after last season’s toe injury. (Billy Hardiman / USA Today)

Offensive line (14)

Frank Ragnow, C: Tone-setter for the offensive line and, perhaps, the entire offense. Ragnow is Detroit’s best offensive lineman and possibly its most valuable player overall. Arguably the No. 1 center in the NFL.

Taylor Decker, T: Encouraging for Decker to be a full participant in minicamp after being held out for OTAs. He looks ready and eager to lead on a talented line.

Penei Sewell, T: It’s year two and Sewell is somehow stronger and just as fast. Ragnow and Sewell are franchise pillars. Sewell is your right tackle until it’s time for him to move to left — he can play both right now. He can play inside. The Lions could sell tickets (if they wanted) for Sewell vs. Aidan Hutchinson in one-on-ones this August.

Jonah Jackson, G: Probably the best value pick of the Bob Quinn era and a guard (with center capability) the Lions absolutely love for his football IQ, power and love of the game.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, G: Big V is not quite as big this year. He says his weight (325 pounds) really hasn’t changed much, but he is much leaner. He cleaned up his diet and it shows. He looks lighter; he’s moving well inside. Don’t quit on this guy, folks.

Evan Brown, C: Was impressive the Lions were able to keep Brown, who emerged as a sturdy No. 2 center last season after Ragnow’s injury. Valuable depth piece and an improving young player.

Matt Nelson, T: Still likely the swing tackle and, perhaps, a factor in Detroit’s jumbo package this year if TE2 doesn’t get further development. Lions like him.

Logan Stenberg, G: Teammates have noted the 2020 fourth-rounder is playing like a guy who knows he has to prove it. That’s a good thing. Let’s check back in August.

Dan Skipper, T: Round three for Skipper in Detroit. Nelson has definitely passed him on the swing tackle chart, though.

Tommy Kraemer, G: Campbell talked quite a bit last season about wanting to see more of Kraemer. He’ll get his wish in training camp. Backup guard will be quite a fist fight this summer.

Ryan McCollum, C/G: Big center (6-5, 307) from Texas A&M who will have to show flexibility at other spots in camp.

Obinna Eze, T: The longest guy on the field (86 3/8-inch wingspan) and it’s impossible to miss. Long way to go with the technique, but his length could be a real weapon.

Kevin Jarvis, G/T: Former Michigan State offensive lineman has worked at guard and tackle so far for the Lions. He’s been competitive inside and could be a depth candidate early as a rookie.

Zein Obeid, G: Rookie from Ferris State who will join the Jarvis-Kraemer-McCollum-Stenberg backup guard cage match in training camp.


Defensive tackles (8)

Michael Brockers: A proven vet entering year 11 certainly doesn’t need to grind through voluntary workouts, so it was encouraging that Brockers was active over both OTAs and the subsequent mandatory minicamp. He likes the adjusted defensive scheme, because it will give him — and everyone else — more chances to get into the backfield. He also could slide out and play a little more true defensive end this season.

Alim McNeill: There could be a huge second-year leap coming here. McNeill might benefit as much as anyone from an attacking, aggressive front, because (as Campbell mentioned) he can do a lot more than just play two-gap run defense. McNeill’s footwork and quickness is a sight to behold, given his size.

Levi Onwuzurike: He looks like a completely different guy this offseason, like he traded in his own body for a newer, sleeker model. Expect to see him next to McNeill a lot in base defense, but he’s someone the Lions can move from zero-tech out to a five- or seven-tech spot.

Jashon Cornell: Between injuries and a suspension, we haven’t seen much of Cornell yet. But the Lions seem to think there’s something in him, especially as they try to generate more of an interior push. He’s seen a lot of looks with the first-team defense, early on.

John Cominsky: An interesting waiver pickup. Cominsky is a legit 6-foot-5, and he looks every bit of his listed 285 pounds. But he’s also an athletic former quarterback who could be a nice depth piece up and down the line.

Bruce Hector: He should be in Brockers’ hip pocket all summer, because his role in this defense would be similar: quality run defender from a three- or five-tech, as a 295-pounder who can move a bit.

Eric Banks: The Lions added him off waivers in October, then brought him back on a futures contract. Probably still more of a practice-squad target than two-deep threat.

Demetrius Taylor: With John Penisini’s retirement, he might be the backup nose tackle. Don’t be surprised if he wrecks a bunch of plays in camp, especially when he can turn loose a one-gap pass rush.


Alim McNeill (left) and Charles Harris sack Teddy Bridgewater last season. (Ron Chenoy / USA Today)

Defensive end/edge (8)

Romeo Okwara: It’s no coincidence the Lions’ pass rush struggled after Okwara’s Week 4 injury — this defense didn’t have anyone to fully replace him. He’ll be on the field a ton again, in all situations, when he’s ready. The question is: How long will it be?

Aidan Hutchinson: The coaches keep talking up Hutchinson’s work ethic; his teammates keep pointing out how he’s bigger and quicker than they expected. He might be a starting base end by Week 1, but if not he’ll be on the field in every pass-rush package.

Charles Harris: If there was an OTA/minicamp MVP award, Harris might claim it. He showed last season that he can play on all three downs for this defense, and he might be even more explosive off the edge than he was during his 7 1/2-sack breakout 2021 season.

Julian Okwara: Tracking how many different ways Okwara lines up during a practice is a challenge in itself. During OTAs and minicamp, we saw him standing up on the edge, playing with a hand in the dirt as part of a four-man front, blitzing over the A-gap, walking out to cover the slot and — once — even dropping about 25 yards deep in zone.

Josh Paschal: Paschal sat out minicamp with a “lower extremity injury,” so the hope is that he’ll be ready for camp. His likely role hasn’t changed. He’ll see the bulk of his action as an interior pass rusher.

Austin Bryant: Facing an uncertain future in Detroit, Bryant has shown up and stated his case early. His length and athleticism still work when he needs to get after the QB. Can he hold up enough against the run to be trusted there?

James Houston: The sixth-rounder has spent time working with the off-ball linebackers/edges and with the defensive linemen. His versatility should help him stick around, provided he can play on special teams.

Jarrad Davis (??): Technically, Davis is a linebacker — he’ll be part of that off-ball, stack-linebacker competition. But he’s looked much more effective playing off the edge as a sub-package rusher. That, and an occasional blitz up the gut, will be his role.

Linebackers (8)

Alex Anzalone: Barring injury, he’s among the safest bets to start in Week 1. He needs to be a lot better than he was in 2021, but he knows this defense and is a steadying presence at an uncertain position on the depth chart.

Derrick Barnes: Letting him run downhill and hit more in this scheme should help Barnes settle in earlier than he did as a rookie. The consistency has to show up, though, or Barnes will be stuck in a rotational role.

Chris Board: At least for minicamp, Board leapfrogged Barnes to play alongside Anzalone on the first-team defense. The Lions wanted him, in large part, for his coverage skills and those are real — he’s fluid working out in space against backs and tight ends.

Josh WoodsA nice find for Detroit last season. He’s another impact special teams player, and he took more than 100 defensive snaps in 2021. It’s those kick and punt units where he’ll live, though, unless the Lions get clobbered by injuries again.

Shaun Dion Hamilton: An X-factor, because he was a favorite of this coaching staff last summer. He rarely finds himself out of position, which can’t be said for some of Detroit’s younger linebackers.

Malcolm Rodriguez: That last line on Hamilton does not apply here. Rodriguez always gets to the football, even if his size puts him at a disadvantage against second-level linemen or tight ends. The door will be wide open for him during training camp to climb to the top of this position group. He’ll empty the tank on special teams, too.

Anthony Pittman: Things are starting to click for Pittman, who has been on the roster since 2019. He seems very comfortable these days dropping into man or zone coverage.

Natrez Patrick: He has been banged up, but Holmes knows his game from his days with the Rams. Possibly another hybrid off-ball/edge option.


Cornerback Amani Oruwariye, defending George Kittle last year, was a fifth-round pick by the Lions in 2019. (Amy Lemus / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Cornerbacks (11)

Amani Oruwariye: Detroit’s de facto No. 1 cornerback. He’s still susceptible to big plays, but the Lions know he can flip the field for them with his knack for forcing turnovers and that he’ll step up and help versus the run.

Jeff Okudah: He looks to be in outstanding shape. How will that translate to full-speed, live action come training camp? A healthy Okudah could help propel this secondary to the next level, but he’s a huge question mark right now.

Will Harris: The versatility to go play safety remains. At the moment, though, Harris plays a smoother cornerback than anything we saw from him at his prior position. He’s a starting CB unless Okudah or Jerry Jacobs wrestles a job away.

A.J. Parker: One of the Lions’ 2021 UDFA gems will have to fend off Mike Hughes (and maybe Chase Lucas) in camp, for the starting slot job. His coverage thus far has been as sticky as it was throughout last season.

Mike Hughes: So far, the veteran CB has been pinned on the second practice field, with the twos and threes. But he’s something of a known quantity in a room without a lot of those.

Jerry Jacobs: Jacobs is champing at the bit to get back on the field — he’d be ahead of schedule if he makes it by camp. Everyone saw last season what the scrappy, tough defensive back can do.

Chase Lucas: One thing that’s clear so far: Lucas understands routes. During minicamp, he consistently mirrored receivers off the line and sorted through traffic for tackles. He can push for time as a rookie.

Bobby Price: A hybrid piece who’s doing some positive things as a tall, rangy outside cornerback. He could take a noticeable step forward this season.

Saivion Smith: Smith has the size and in-your-face coverage approach on the outside that Aaron Glenn loves. When it comes to a fifth or sixth cornerback, the Lions could do a lot worse.

Mark Gilbert: He held up well enough in a pinch last season to warrant a longer look. He’ll need a huge camp, though.

Cedric BoswellThe Miami (Ohio) product plays with an attitude on the outside, just as Glenn and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant want. He’ll have to climb several spots to be on the opening day roster, though.

Safeties (7)

Tracy Walker: Detroit’s new $25 million man was around the ball a ton during minicamp. The next step for him, in August and into the season, is turning those fly-bys and pass breakups into turnovers. If that happens, he could be an elite NFL safety.

DeShon Elliott: He missed all of minicamp with an undisclosed injury, and his absence served as a reminder for how unsettled the safety spot is behind the Walker-Elliott combo. Detroit needs him on the field.

Kerby Joseph: As advertised, Joseph will find the football and attack whenever he has a chance. Can the Lions live with the risk-reward there? Will Joseph be effective enough versus the run to play on first and second downs? Those answers will dictate how much we see the rookie in September.

Ifeatu Melifonwu: Before he missed minicamp with an injury (which appeared to be a hamstring issue), Melifownu was mid-transition to safety. His size works there, as does his ability to diagnose what’s happening in front of him. His play will be a fascinating camp storyline.

Brady Breeze: A December waiver claim, Breeze played well on special teams down the stretch. Now, he might be headed toward a larger role — he took first-team safety reps with Elliott down last week.

C.J. Moore: The 26-year-old has emerged as a core special teams player, although things are getting more crowded on that front as the roster’s athleticism improves. Moore does seem to understand this defense well. He’s constantly helping his fellow safeties with calls and reads.

JuJu Hughes: If Walker and Elliott are healthy, Hughes’ game might be ideal for those three-safety looks. He can be trusted up high or in two-deep looks, and he knows those roles from the Rams’ similar secondary scheme.

Specialists (4)

Riley Patterson (K): Hard to ignore what Patterson did late last season, connecting on 13 of 14 field goals and all 16 extra points. Does he have the leg to be a consistent threat from 50-plus?

Austin Seibert (K): Almost the inverse of Patterson. The Lions love Seibert’s leg strength, but he’s just 15 of 21 for his career from 40-49 yards.

Jack Fox (P): I mean … you know. He’s good. Can he bury a few more punts inside the 20 this season?

Scott Daly (LS): Unless Don Muhlbach comes out of retirement, Daly doesn’t have any competition for the long-snapper job. He’s an athletic option there.

(Top photo: Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

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