Detroit Lions UDFAs that are taking advantage of injured players

Detroit Lions, Alex Barrett (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions, Alex Barrett (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Jeremiah Valoaga

Valoaga didn’t get the start on the first team like Barrett did, but he seems to be progressing well in the first few days of camp. So much, in fact, Patricia got animated when Valoaga made a nifty play on one-on-one drills against Michael Roberts by planting him in the ground. Valoaga falls more in the mold as a defensive end with his height and weight at 6-6 and 275 lbs competing against the likes of Cornelius Washington; who is currently on the NFI list.

Valoaga is also taking full advantage of the reps in practice he might not have gotten if not for the injuries across the line. They have him testing his versatility by playing him both standing and hands in the dirt. With his length, power, and versatility, he could be a nice weapon to have for the defensive line rotation. If he continues to get the reps like he did in Day 3 of camp, he could easily push Cornelius Washington to the roster bubble if Washington stays on the NFI for an extended period of time.

We are not sure when Ansah, Kennard, and Washington are going to return to practice. From all accounts, Ansah and Kennard are close with the amount of conditioning they have been doing on the sidelines. So it looks like it is only a matter of time before they return. There hasn’t been much word on how Washington is progressing. But with those players out, Barrett and Valoaga are getting the valuable reps in their stead. With the complex scheme in place, every player is going to need those much-needed reps to fully comprehend what Patricia wants to do on defense.

The defensive line was the biggest question mark heading into this season, but this may lay in the answer why it was not addressed heavily in the draft or in free agency. They already had the right guys in place to do what Coach Patricia is looking to do in the complex scheme. They were being overlooked because of their statuses from last season.

Will Barrett beat out Kennard? No. For how much money that was spent to bring Kennard in, there is no way he will be regulated to a reserve role. The only question will be once Kennard returns will Barrett still get the same amount of reps as he is now. It looks like Barrett is understanding this defense and he has earned high praise from Coach Patricia, so I think he could easily be in the defensive rotation to open the season.

Will Valoaga beat out Washington? That is possible. With how much cap space is going towards Washington, they could easily let him go.  If Valoaga can harness his power and versatility, he could make more static Washington expendable. That would save the Lions valuable cap space. If Washington’s stays on the NFI list for a significant amount of time, things could get real interesting when the time comes for roster cuts.

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It is really good to see the Lions are grasping the concept of next man up. Most of us were not anticipating these players getting the reps they are this early in camp especially Barrett. This will not only help them understand this complex scheme but leave an impression on the coaches if they are on the fringe for roster spots. They might not beat out these injured players, but they will provide valuable depth just in case something happens. Barrett and Valoaga are taking advantage and running with it. Glad to see these underdogs making a name for themselves.