Detroit Lions Bubble Watch Week 5: Big shifts in defense camp battles

Pride of Detroit

The Detroit Lions’ defense took a bit of a beating in the first half of Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although it was a lot of the Lions’ second-team defense going against the first-team Pittsburgh offense, it certainly highlighted some issues with the roster. More importantly, it likely exposed certain players who were deemed as “second-team” players, who are likely not worthy of that designation at all.

So it should come as no surprise that in this week’s Bubble Watch, we had some drastic changes on the defensive side of the ball. One player went from a unanimous OUT to a unanimous IN. Meanwhile, five defenders lost at least two votes from our staff.

As a reminder, our Bubble Watch works like this: Our entire staff makes predictions as to whether each “bubble” player will make it onto the final 53-man roster or not. Based on a comparison from last week, we label these players as either trending up if they have more IN votes than last week or trending down if they have more OUT votes.

Click here to see last week’s Bubble Watch.

Here’s a look at this week’s results:

2021 Bubble Watch Week 5: Defense

Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Jerry Mallory TOTAL Change from last week
Player Jeremy Reisman Ryan Mathews Mike Payton Hamza Alex Reno Erik Schlitt John Whiticar Jerry Mallory TOTAL Change from last week
NT John Penisini OUT OUT OUT IN OUT IN OUT IN 3 -3
DT Bruce Hector OUT IN OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 1 0
DT Kevin Strong IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 +3
DT Da’Shawn Hand IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 0
EDGE Austin Bryant IN IN IN IN IN OUT OUT IN 6 0
EDGE Charles Harris IN OUT OUT IN OUT IN IN OUT 4 3
EDGE Robert McCray OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 -1
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 0
LB Jahlani Tavai OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 -2
LB Tavante Beckett OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 0
LB Anthony Pittman OUT OUT OUT IN OUT OUT IN OUT 2 N/A
CB Jerry Jacobs OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 -3
CB Corn Elder OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT 0 -5
CB AJ Parker IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 8
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman IN IN IN IN IN IN IN IN 8 0
CB Bobby Price IN IN IN OUT IN IN OUT OUT 5 -3
S Jalen Elliott OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT OUT IN IN 2 2

OFF THE BUBBLE:

LB Shaun Dion Hamilton — Unfortunately, Hamilton suffered an injury last preseason game and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. It’s unfortunate, too, because his play was promising this offseason, and the Lions could use the linebacker depth.

NEW TO BUBBLE WATCH:

LB Anthony Pittman — Pittman jumps up to the roster bubble, seeing as he is clearly above Tavante Beckett on the totem pole. With Hamilton gone—and another linebacker very much in danger of losing his roster spot—Pittman has a real opportunity to shine. Thus far, only two of our staffers have him in.

Trending up

CB A.J. Parker (+8) — What a meteoric rise from undrafted rookie A.J. Parker! A relative unknown when he signed with the Lions, Parker wasn’t even on our radars until a week or two ago. Even when he started getting reps as the first-team nickelback, it seemed like it was out of necessity more than anything. Mike Ford had transitioned to the outside, Corn Elder was still injured and Nickell Robey-Coleman had just got here.

But Parker has taken advantage of the opportunity and looked like one of the few defenders who was fit to be out there against the Steelers’ first-team defense. That’s one hell of an accomplishment for an undrafted rookie, and it may have cemented a spot on the roster for him.

DT Kevin Strong (+3) — After another solid showing in Pittsburgh, Strong has officially won us all over. The question is whose spot does he take? We all still have Da’Shawn Hand in, despite him still be sidelined due to injury. Or do the Lions decide to keep an extra defensive tackle simply because of the talented depth there?

EDGE Charles Harris (+3) — Harris got some time with the first-team defense against the Steelers after curiously sitting out last week’s preseason game. His performance was fine—nothing obviously good nor bad—but his competition did not stand out, either.

S Jalen Elliott (+2) — Elliott got a ton of playing time on Saturday, and he even got a post-game shout out from head coach Dan Campbell as one of the better defensive players against the Steelers. It’ll be hard to fit a fifth safety behind Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Dean Marlowe, and C.J. Moore, but perhaps Bobby Price’s move to cornerback opens up a roster spot there.

Trending down

CB Corn Elder (-5) — With the rise of Parker, Elder seemed like the easy choice as a corresponding move. Elder has missed the last few weeks of practice, and although he was once thought of as competition for the starting job, he just hasn’t made it on the field. That being said, Elder actually did practice on Monday and performed quite well. However, it’s worth noting that our votes were tallied on Sunday.

NT John Penisini (-3) — Like Elder, Penisini absence from practice has got many wondering if he can make enough of an impression in the next couple of weeks to hold onto a roster spot, especially with both Strong and Bruce Hector balling out. But also like Elder, Penisini returned to practice on Monday and was one of my standouts.

CB Jerry Jacobs (-3) — As the Lions continue to try and figure out their outside cornerback situation, Jacobs seems like the forgotten man in the mix. At this point, no one has Jacobs on his list, as he hasn’t been a standout on defense or special teams.

CB Bobby Price (-3) — It’s been a rough transition to cornerback for Price, but it’s still an extremely new position to him. It didn’t help, though, that he struggled on special teams against the Steelers and committed a penalty that had Detroit start a drive deep in their own zone.

LB Jahlani Tavai (-2) — Tavai slipped only two spots because he only had two spots to slip. He started against the Steelers, giving himself a good opportunity to rebound from last week, and he only made it worse. At this point, it seems like the cutting of Tavai is inevitable, but it appears the Lions will give him one last shot against the Colts this week.

EDGE Robert McCray (-1) — McCray was one of the five players cut on Monday, and all of us rightfully had him out.

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