8 Detroit Lions to watch vs. Cleveland Browns
Allen Park — Here are eight players we’ll be watching closely during the Detroit Lions’ preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field on Thursday (7 p.m., Fox 2, WJR 760).
Tight end Michael Roberts
Two months ago, Roberts was making all kinds of catches during OTAs and looked like a legitimate candidate for a breakout season. His momentum carried into the start of training camp, but seemed to be derailed by a minor injury that sidelined him a few days earlier this month. Now, with two catches in three games, he’s on the roster bubble, which once seemed inconceivable.
Linebacker Eli Harold
The Lions’ newest acquisition, Harold is an athletic edge rusher who has yet to get on track as a professional. It doesn’t help that he's had three different head coaches, coordinators and position coaches his first three seasons. The Lions have four weeks to decide whether keeping Harold around is worth the conditional seventh-round pick the team paid to acquire him from the 49ers.
Running back Kerryon Johnson
Johnson has had a small role the past two weeks, but with the starters expected to see their playing time kept to a minimum, it’s an opportunity for the entertaining rookie rusher to put on a show in a three-down role in front of the home crowd. Cleveland’s run defense ranks 26th during the preseason.
Linebacker Miles Killebrew
Killebrew has played fewer than 40 preseason snaps since switching to linebacker, making three tackles and recovering a fumble, but still showing a propensity for getting beat in coverage. It’s been difficult to get a grasp on where he stands heading into roster decisions, so a longer look at how he performs at his new position could be key.
Quarterback Jake Rudock
By all appearances, Rudock has been jumped on the depth chart by Matt Cassel. The third-year passer out of Michigan has been accurate this preseason, leading a trio of touchdown drives, but most of his throws have been of the check-down variety and the majority of the yardage has come against prevent defenses. It would be nice to see some downfield accuracy in the finale.
Wide receiver Brandon Powell
Powell has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the preseason. He’s leading the team in receiving and chipped in an 80-yard punt return touchdown in last week’s come-from-behind victory over the Bucs. He’s in a tough spot, because his skill set has obvious overlaps with Jamal Agnew and Golden Tate, but with another strong showing, the Lions might have no choice but to keep Powell heading into the season.
Defensive end Cam Johnson
The 28-year-old edge defender has bounced around the league since being drafted in 2012. He wasn’t on a roster last season, and spent part of training camp this year nursing an injury, but the playing time has picked up in recent weeks. He has good size and a well-rounded skill set that puts him in play for the final defensive line roster spot.
Offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi
An undrafted rookie last season, Koloamatangi has continued to fly under the radar despite a solid offseason. He appears to have added some weight to his frame and has allowed just two pressures on more than 80 pass-blocking snaps, while also earning an above-average run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. He might be practice squad bound, but he's a player you could see earn a promotion as an injury fill-in later in the year.