Several rookies getting extended looks as Lions look ahead
Allen Park — Earlier this month, a handful of Lions rookies got together and supported the Red Wings at a morning skate and game, checking out a rare win for the hockey team at Little Caesars Arena.
A few of those players are now similarly trying to buoy their own franchise forward, with fresh roles as regulars trying to lift the Lions.
Cornerback Amani Oruwariye saw his first regular action in the secondary, and tight end Isaac Nauta and defensive end Austin Bryant made their NFL debuts in Sunday’s 19-16 loss at Washington.
There were some positives, most notably Oruwariye’s step-in-front interception of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Playing in his fourth game of the season, Oruwariye added five tackles and two passes defensed.
“They ran it all game, and I finally got a chance to slip around and get my head around. We fought for the ball, and I came up with it,” the fifth-round pick from Penn State said Sunday. “It was a good play, but we’ve just got to try to keep trying to build on little things so we can get a win.”
Lions coach Matt Patricia said Oruwariye could have gotten more playing time earlier if not for a knee injury he suffered last month.
“It was good to see him make some plays,” Patricia said. “(He had) some communication things out there that I thought were good, some plays that we have to get better on.”
Nauta was moved up from the practice squad for the game because of a season-ending injury to fullback Nick Bawden.
Nauta, a Red Wings fan growing up in Grand Rapids, was the historian among the group of novice hockey fans. He had his own new experience Sunday in his first NFL game.
“It was incredible,” Nauta said. “That as the most fun I had playing in a long time. Definitely a dream come true. Definitely an experience that I’ll remember forever.”
The seventh-round pick from Georgia played fullback, which he said was an adjustment throughout the week.
“In this game, I felt really calm, I felt prepared. So that was good, I didn’t go into it with any anxiety or any of that,” he said. “Definitely a few plays I wish I could have back.
“I just want to take the things I did good and build on those, and take the things I did bad and try to eliminate that from the game, and get one percent better.”
Nauta said he could stay more under control, as his exuberance maybe caused him to fall off a couple blocks.
Bryant, a fourth-round pick from Clemson, registered a quarterback hit among his 16 plays.
“He worked hard, he tried to compete and just some different looks and things like that – recognition stuff, that we have to keep working through,” Patricia said.
Bryant was added to the 53-man roster after working through a pectoral muscle injury he suffered during training camp.
Still another rookie, sixth-rounder Travis Fulgham, could be in the mix for his debut on Thursday against Chicago. Wide receiver Marvin Hall Jr. left Sunday’s game with a foot injury and was listed as a ‘no practice’ player on Monday’s report.
Along with Chris Lacy and Tom Kennedy, Fulgham could be a candidate to be pulled up from the practice squad if Hall can’t go.
Patricia said he was pleased with the play of the new guys, noting that Bryant and Nauta may have been overwhelmed by the moment at first.
“Obviously we’re hoping as we push forward all of that will get better, and we’ll just be a little bit more consistent from the start,” he said.
Justin Rogers contributed to this report;
Matt Schoch is a freelance reporter.