As the curtain falls on the NFL preseason, the conventional wisdom of the past no longer applies. The third preseason game, once viewed as a time for starters to fine-tune their regular-season readiness, has transformed into a battlefield for those teetering on the edge of the roster. The Detroit Lions used their 26-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers as a litmus test for backups and fringe players. Let’s break down who boosted their stock with eye-catching performances and who saw their value take a hit as the all-important final roster deadline approaches.
Stock Up: Players Who Shined Against the Panthers
Antoine Green, Wide Receiver
Antoine Green delivered a game-changing performance with a 70-yard touchdown reception in the closing minute of the first half. He finished the night with three catches for 97 yards, a touchdown, and a 32-yard kick return, demonstrating “positional versatility” and contributing in two areas of need.
Campbell on Green: “I thought Green really showed up. That catch he had where he ran through the dagger for a touchdown, that was big…it was encouraging. That’s what we needed to see.”
Steven Gilmore, Defensive Back
Steven Gilmore demonstrated improved coverage skills throughout the game, defending numerous passes and displaying impressive physicality with a big hit after an ill-advised pass from Panthers QB Andy Dalton. His standout moment was a two-play sequence—a pass break-up on 2nd and 21 followed by a pick-6 interception. Gilmore’s active night makes it hard to keep him off the 53-man roster, although he seems close to a lock for the practice squad at minimum.
Craig Reynolds, Running Back
Craig Reynolds has been a steady presence throughout his Lions tenure, embodying the hard work and determination the coaching staff values. His tenacity between the tackles and shiftiness outside were on display against Carolina. He finished with 41 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, likely reaffirming his position as the third running back on the roster.
Dan Campbell praised Reynolds: “Craig has not changed one bit. He’s just steady. And he just handles his business and he knows what he’s doing. We have a lot of trust in him and he’s just, he’s a reliable player.”
Chase Lucas, Defensive Back
Chase Lucas, often overlooked due to key additions to the secondary and the highlighting of some UDFA defensive backs, made a statement with a beautiful diving end-zone interception and a third-quarter pass break-up. Despite an uphill battle for a roster spot, his special teams contributions and strong performance make him a player to watch.
Campbell on Lucas’ interception: “That was a heck of a play by Lukey… I did feel like man, that kind of changed the game for us. It was big.”
Stock Down: Players Who Struggled Against the Panthers
Chase Cota, Wide Receiver
Chase Cota had a chance to secure a roster spot but faltered with a dropped touchdown. Despite making some impressive catches, his inconsistent performance, compared to the reliable performances of Green and Drummond, weakens his case for inclusion on the team.
Nate Sudfeld, Quarterback
Nate Sudfeld needed a strong performance to remain in the mix for a roster spot, especially with Teddy Bridgewater appearing more at ease. Unfortunately, an early injury cut his night short, diminishing his chances of staying with the Lions and potentially affecting opportunities with other teams.
Julian Okwara, Defensive Lineman
Julian Okwara faced a tough battle for a roster spot, given James Houston’s natural fit in the SAM linebacker spot and Romeo Okwara’s established role on the edge. An injury in the third quarter of the final preseason game further jeopardizes his roster spot. Okwara had a standout performance in the first preseason game but was a non-factor in the second. With a lot riding on the finale, his injury prevented him from making a case for inclusion. The Lions may explore trade options given his potential and contract status.
Roster Deadline Looms
Teams face a single roster cut deadline this year—Tuesday, August 29, at 4 p.m. ET. Brad Holmes, Dan Campbell, and the Lions’ management have until then to make final decisions on the Detroit Lions’ roster. The performances against the Panthers will undoubtedly influence those decisions. Stay tuned as we monitor how the Lions’ stock market evolves.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports