Loaded with youth, the Detroit Lions will have plenty of decisions to make regarding their defensive backs room heading into the 2022 season.
Outside of Amani Oruwariye, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2021, the Lions have several players who have shown flashes of talent but remain unproven. This causes a dilemma when it comes to crunching the roster down to its final regular season form of 53 players.
Oruwariye will certainly begin the year as the starter at one cornerback spot. Yet, there’s plenty to be determined about who will hold down the other sideline, as well as who will man the nickel position.
Will Harris, Jeff Okudah and Mike Hughes, an offseason free-agent acquisition, are the three candidates most likely to compete for those spots heading into training camp. This likely makes them roster locks.
There’s also second-year defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu, who has been taking reps at safety during the offseason. Though he’s learning a new position, the Syracuse product could still battle for reps at the nickel position.
Besides those names, however, there are several Lions who will battle for the remaining roster spots.
The Lions will have to make decisions on youngsters A.J. Parker and Jerry Jacobs, who cracked the roster as undrafted free agents last season and wound up playing significant roles. Both dealt with injuries, with Jacobs’ season ending in Week 15 with a torn ACL.
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Depending on how many cornerbacks the Lions decide to carry into the regular season, one or even both could be on the outside, looking in. A strong camp and having the ability to perform on special teams will be important for them.
Another player who played a similar role is Bobby Price, who is heading into his third year as a pro. Price filled in at times for Detroit's injured defensive backs a season ago, playing in 15 games (two starts).
Chase Lucas is another interesting prospect. The 2022 seventh-rounder is 25 years old, which already makes him the second-oldest player in the cornerbacks room. Again, special teams versatility will be key with him.
If Lucas can develop as a gunner on special teams and develop an understanding of the team’s schemes, there could be a role for him right away.
Mark Gilbert spent time on the active roster last season, after being signed off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad in Week 8.
There’s also Saivion Smith and Cedric Boswell available. These are two players who will have to have exceptionally strong camps. Smith played in two games for the Lions last year, while Boswell is an undrafted free agent from Miami (Ohio).
The key with the players on the fringe will be versatility.
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp is always looking for players on his unit, so having the ability to contribute in multiple ways will be important for the young players looking to crack the roster.