The Lions Depth Chart, Revisited

A few weeks ago, in my first ever article for NFC North Report, I decided to take a stab at predicting how things would shake out when the Lions cut their final roster down to 53 players. Meanwhile, Tuesday, the Lions released their first unofficial depth chart. It’s not down to 53 yet, but I want to take a brief look at each position and some takeaways there. Obviously, things will get ironed out more in the preseason, but this is an intriguing insight into the coaching staff’s thought process. It’s important to note that the full depth chart can be found here if you want to look for yourself. 

Let’s start with the PUP list. Bar any surprise, according to GM Brad Holmes, WR Jameson Williams will miss the start of the season with his ACL injury. He’s followed by EDGEs Romeo Okwara and Josh Paschal, CB Jerry Jacobs, and fullback Jason Cabinda. According to the chart, they still haven’t found someone to take Cabinda’s position, and continued use of the fullback as a weapon in Ben Johnson’s offense means that the sooner Cabinda can return, the better. 

On offense, things look about as expected at the quarterback position and wide receiver. It is important to note that despite an injury suffered in camp, WR Quintez Cephus is still the primary backup to DJ Chark at the outside receiver position. Cephus, a Quinn-Patricia draft pick, has the contested catch skills to be a threat, but injuries have slowed his role in his first two seasons. At RB, I was pretty spot on with my camp battle to watch – Jermar Jefferson vs Craig Reynolds for RB3 – but I was wrong about the outcome. Reynolds has just dominated camp so far, with Asst. HC Duce Staley joking that they were upgrading his nickname from “Netflix” to “Hulu”. 

Before we get to the defense, let’s talk special teams for a minute, because they always get listed last, and I don’t think that’s fair. LS Scott Daly and former All-Pro punter Jack Fox have maximum job security, but neither Austin Seibert or Riley Patterson – the resident kickers of Allen Park – have that luxury. Currently, the staff has listed Seibert over Patterson. The former has distance but lacks accuracy, while Patterson has the opposite. I think I’d prefer Patterson when Week One rolls around, but Seibert is no slouch himself. 

With defense, we’ll start with the secondary and work our way up to the line of scrimmage. At safety, the starting duo of Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliot is as expected. What’s surprising is that former CB Ifeatu Melifonwu is listed above third round pick Kerby Joseph. Joseph is obviously developmental, but this is truly a statement on how much the defensive staff loves Melifonwu. At corner, the big surprise is that Will Harris with the first team and Jeff Okudah with the second team. Given Okudah’s injury history, giving him a prove-it ultimatum isn’t the worst thing in the world, but Harris definitely isn’t lockdown himself. The sooner Jerry Jacobs is back, the sounder I’ll sleep at night. AJ Parker is listed as the starting nickel, but with free-agent signing Mike Hughes and draftee Chase Lucas behind him, I feel better about this group than the others.

The defensive line is another story. There is less depth, more top-heavy talent than the secondary. At EDGE, Aidan Hutchinson teams with Charles Harris for what everyone hopes will be a dominant rookie season. At tackle, Alim McNeill and Michael Brockers lead, with some second-teamers providing adequate, if below average, insurance behind them. The LB group is where things get interesting. Malcolm Rodriguez has been playing way above his pay grade, but is still listed fourth on the depth chart. Some of this may be due to his unproven nature and size concerns, so his status after the preseason may be reevaluated. I’d love to see him shoot up the depth chart, as he and current second-teamer Derrick Barnes are (hopefully) the MIKE and WILL of the future, respectively. 

Once again, this is not a new set of predictions. It’s merely some interesting observations that we can draw from the crumbs the front office is throwing us. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong, or right, or anywhere in between. This is going to change rapidly during the preseason, so keep an eye out for more shake ups as the season draws nearer.    
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