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Lions' Dan Campbell says preseason will play significant role in roster battles

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — How much do preseason games matter? For the guy fighting for a job at the end of the roster, or to earn a spot on a practice squad, they're everything.

The exhibition slate, reduced from four games to three this year, are an audition — not just for the team they currently play for, but the league's other 31 franchises. 

Lions head coach Dan Campbell says he'll be paying close attention to preseason games as roster battles shake out. "If you want a job, we're looking ..." he said.

After two weeks of practice, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell is ready to be wowed. He and general manager Brad Holmes already have been poring over the film from those daily sessions at the team's facility, determining the players who are separating themselves since they've begun working in pads. 

But the preseason? That's more important than anything that happens on the practice field for the Lions coach. 

“It weighs a lot," Campbell said. "Sometimes I think of it like, how much are the tests are weighted versus the quizzes or the everyday homework? Certainly the people that put out the work day in, day out you know who they are. You can't lose track of that, but yet, even those guys, if you do that every day, but then all of a sudden, every time the lights come on (you fade), those are red flags. You can't ignore those, you just can't.

"...I don't think you can’t ignore that," Campbell continued. "I think where there's smoke, there's fire. I just think those things show. They have to be taken into account because that's what Sunday is. It's about the lights and the pressure and everything that comes with it and the guys that rise up.”

In reality, at least 40 of Detroit's roster spots already are settled. Guys like Jared Goff, T.J. Hockenson, Romeo Okwara, their immediate future is stable. 

At this point, there are generally between 5-10 jobs still up for grabs on the 53-man roster. And while it may seem cruel to think of it in these terms, the mounting injury issues the Lions have been dealing with during training camp is opening the door for some of the roster's younger players to see increased playing time Friday against Buffalo. 

“It's an unbelievable opportunity for a lot of these guys," Campbell said. "Brad (Holmes) and I both, our eyes are open. They're open, we're looking. 

"...If you want a job, we're looking," Campbell continued. "I don't care who you are, what you play, where you are on the depth chart, if you want a job, Brad and I are looking for it. We told them that from day one, and that's the truth. We're going to give you a chance.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers