Players to watch in Lions' preseason finale vs. Browns
Allen Park — With college football kicking off, and the Detroit Lions expected to rest the majority of their starters, there's seemingly little reason to tune into the team's fourth and final preseason game.
But if you're a die-hard for the Honolulu blue, looking to scope out the battles for the last few roster spots and practice squad jobs, don't worry, we've got you've covered.
Here's a player, from each position group, to focus on when the Lions take on the Browns Thursday night.
Tom Savage: OK, let's be clear, we can't say for certain Savage will play in this game, but the fact he returned to practice this week is a positive sign as he works his way back from concussion.Given he's only played a handful of game reps for the Lions, it would be valuable for him to see a little more action if he's going to end up Matthew Stafford's backup. Josh Johnson is still in play for that backup job, as well. He's made the best of a tough situation, quickly finding a comfort level during his short stay in Detroit. But, at this point, it still feels like it's Savage's job to lose.
Mark Thompson: The Lions had a crowded running back room, but Zach Zenner's unexpected release gives Thompson a narrow opening to earn a roster spot. With his large frame and tendency to get north-south in a hurry, he's the type of player who could put up big numbers in the finale, a la Tion Green a couple years back, making the decision tough for Detroit's brass.
Jonathan Duhart: Of all the contenders for one of Detroit's backup receiving jobs, Duhart is a dark horse. He's played well throughout the preseason and is coming off a performance where he caught a 21-yard pass and drew a lengthy pass interference. Duhart recorded 74 catches for 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns as Travis Fulgham's teammate at Old Dominion a year ago. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Duhart combines desirable measurables with some under-the-radar playmaking ability.
Isaac Nauta: Through three preseason games, Nauta has dropped as many passes as he's caught. That's not the best way to earn a roster spot. Beyond his role as a passing-game target, the seventh-round draft pick has done a decent job as a blocker, while playing on multiple special teams units. Showing a little more consistency against the Browns could give the Lions a reason to carry a fourth tight end into the regular season.
Micah St. Andrew: We wanted to highlight Ryan Pope, the offensive tackle who got the most guaranteed money of any undrafted free agent this offseason, but he's struggled mightily on the practice field and barely has seen the field during the preseason. St. Andrew, on the other hand, has averaged 14 snaps through the first three games and shown steady improvement throughout the offseason. Tipping the scales at 328 pounds, he's a massive man and offers an intriguing developmental option for the practice squad.
P.J. Johnson: Another player who has shown improvement throughout the preseason, Johnson is coming off a performance where he was highly disruptive, despite playing just 10 snaps. Surprisingly athletic despite weighing 320 pounds, the raw interior lineman is another player proving worthy of continued development.
Garret Dooley: Dooley started the offseason with promise, getting significant work with the first-team defense early in training camp before the injury bug bit. The former Wisconsin Badger has some NFL experience and offers a versatile skill set, positional flexibility and ability to play multiple special teams. If Jarrad Davis' injury looks like it could linger into the regular season, it increases Dooley's odds of making the roster.
Charles Washington: Washington has managed to stick with the Lions for three years despite dwindling defensive responsibilities. Even in the fourth preseason game, where the majority of starters will be glued to the sideline, Washington might play little to no defense snaps. His entire resume is built on his special teams ability. No one covers kicks quite as effectively as he does on this roster.
Lions at Browns
When: 7:30 Thursday, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
TV/radio: Ch. 2/760
Line: Browns by 4