With training camp wrapping up and the preseason half-over, the abundance of rookies in Lions' training camp is nearing their last chance to make an impression on the team.
Some of the rookies will make the final roster; some will even be major impact players in 2012. Others will be cut and never heard from again in the NFL.
Most will fall somewhere inbetween, on the practice squad or special teams units, but every rookie on the roster is running out of time to get noticed before wholesale cuts start coming down.
Of course, that impression-building process is already well underway, for better or worse. Most likely, the Lions already have a very good idea of which rookies they want and where, and the last two weeks of the preseason will be more about confirming early impressions than discovering new talents.
In other words, we can get a very good idea of who has a shot at the roster by looking at grades from the first two weeks of the preseason. And what a coincidence! I happen to have some grades right here.
You can get a pretty good indication of how likely of a shot R.J. Archer has at the roster by the fact that the Lions haven't even let him play in a preseason game yet.
The Lions have thrown all their chips in behind Kellen Moore, which is to say either he's going to be the third quarterback or nobody is. More on that later.
The point here is that Archer is, in roster terms, a dead man walking. Hopefully, he's still effective in the Arena League because the Lions clearly had no intention of ever making him a serious competitor for Moore.
If there's one good thing to be said for Rodney Austin, it's that the Lions have had great success running the ball in the second half of their two preseason games.
Of course, the credit for that is mostly flowing to Joique Bell and the running backs. Surprisingly, the interior line has looked serviceable for most of the first two preseason games, top to bottom.
That's actually not good news for Austin. His best shot at making the roster was the ineptitude of the interior linemen in front of him.
But, the interior line (even my usual punching bag, Stephen Peterman) has not been inept so far in the preseason. So even though Austin hasn't been exceptionally bad so far in the preseason, his shot, at even the practice squad, is slim.
Bentley is clearly a rookie cornerback, and it may be weeks (or even a full season or more) before he establishes a comfort zone and consistency out on the field. That's OK, as consistency is the last thing to come to an NFL cornerback.
What Bentley has shown is playmaking ability. Against the Browns, Bentley was burned for a long gain, but also jumped two short routes for an interception and a dropped interception. Of course, at some point, opposing quarterbacks will notice Bentley's willingness to jump a short route and use some sort of double-hitch or stop-and-go action to catch him out of position.
It will happen, and Bentley will look foolish. It's all part of the growing pains of being a young NFL cornerback. The important thing is that he learns from his mistakes, which is a skill that Bentley has shown a propensity for in training camp.
Bentley has a long way to go before he's a shutdown corner. But, his early performance seems to suggest that he'll have the opportunity to get there.
Pay Boyle is facing basically the same situation as Rodney Austin: No matter how they performed in training camp and preseason, their roster hopes were based primarily on the performances of the guys in front of them.
Considering the solid performances of the Lions' starters thus far, as well as a surprisingly strong showing from C/G Dan Gerberry, Boyle is on the way out pretty much no matter what he does.
It's not that Boyle has been overwhelmingly negative, but he hasn't been an incredible difference-maker, and he needed that and some help to remain with the team, and neither has happened.
Ryan Broyles already gets a passing grade just for being healthy enough to play in the preseason against the Baltimore Ravens last weekend.
That means that Broyles, who was drafted in 2012 while in the midst of recovery from a torn ACL, has made his Detroit Lions debut earlier than Mikel Leshoure, who was drafted in 2011 fully healthy. That's the NFL for you.
Leshoure aside, Broyles is playing, and that's reason to grade him well, as his primary goal after being drafted was "be healthy for the regular season." If Broyles is playing in the preseason, he is definitely on track to be 100 percent for the regular season.
As far as his actual play in the game, Broyles caught two passes for 28 yards, which is encouraging, if unspectacular.
But Broyles isn't going to earn his second-round draft status in the preseason. These are games in which he is just adjusting to NFL speed and knock the rust off from his injury, and he's on a good pace with that goal in mind.
The Lions running game is still full of question marks, most of them surrounding the health of key backs.
But, the Lions have shown a lot of promise running the ball, particularly in the second halves of football games.
While that likely has a lot to do with the second- and third-team defenses of the Browns and Ravens, it may also have a great deal to do with James Bryant, who has largely been a lead-blocking bulldozer for the Lions.
Bryant is maybe one of the least-versatile players the Lions have right now, as his talent is basically just hitting people and nothing else. But that's a skill the Lions approve of, and Bryant is really, really good at it, especially when he does it in front of a ball-carrier.
Jerome Felton would argue that's not enough to keep a pure fullback on the roster, but the Lions struggled in short-yardage situations without Felton, so maybe Bryant is just the guy they need to put the power back in the Lions' power run game.
If nothing else, he's made his case thus far.
It must be some sort of unwritten rule that the Lions have to have an extra kicker in camp to play sacrificial lamb to living legend Jason Hanson.
Maybe, they're just trying to take reps away from the 42-year-old Hanson to keep him as fresh as possible. I mean, what does he really need to prepare for that he hasn't seen in the last 20 years?
He can kick, and kick well, end of story. Dimke has been fine, maybe even good enough to catch on with another team with a need at kicker. But the Lions haven't had a need at kicker since 1992, and it doesn't look like that's about to change now.
GRADE: B, but ultimately an F because of an impossible curve
Patrick Edwards was, for a time, the darling of the undrafted free-agent class. He caught everything, was quick and shifty and looked like a very solid replacement plan for Ryan Broyles when Broyles was injured.
Of course, Broyles wasn't going to stay injured forever, and the Lions are somewhat loaded at wide receiver now (although much of the talent at the position is young and prospective). To make the roster, Edwards was going to have to prove his mettle on special teams.
Edwards has certainly proven to be capable of returning kicks and punts, but he doesn't appear especially talented. With Stefan Logan out injured, Edwards may get a lot more reps as a return man, and that will be his chance to excel.
It also doesn't help Edwards at all that he hasn't been especially impressive as a receiver in preseason games. Part of that might have to do with playing while Kellen Moore is at quarterback, but that doesn't explain him dropping a perfectly good pass.
The Lions love to have tight ends available, and so, they tend to overload them in training camp and on the practice squad.
That doesn't mean any of them have a shot at the roster.
With Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller forming, perhaps, one of the more underrated TE corps in the league, the Lions don't have much use for new blood at the position.
Even if they did, nothing Alex Gottlieb has done in either practice or games has shown that he's extraordinary enough for a second look.
If Bill Bentley is a third-round pick at cornerback who looks like a potential first-round talent, Jonte Green looks, thus far, like a sixth-round pick who looks like a sixth-round talent.
It's not that he's really bad; Green definitely has some talent. He just also has a whole lot to learn, and he has proven it to this point in camp.
Green has a decent shot at the roster because the position is thin, and he was an actual draft selection, but he won't be stepping in to shut anyone down anytime soon.
This grade goes up a little because Green is seemingly one of the only cornerbacks on the team who has managed to stay healthy throughout camp, but if he is nowhere near ready to take the field on defense yet.
So basically, he's on a pretty good pace for a sixth-rounder.
Stephfon Green's candidacy for the Lions' roster is predicated on two things, and only two things.
One is the rampant injuries the Lions have had at the running back position, not just this year, but for multiple years running.
The other is this 76-yard garbage-time touchdown in which Green showed good vision and lateral agility to bust through a gap and turn on the jets to pass everyone by.
So admittedly, Green has good speed—or, at least it looks that way on a field full of fourth-stringers. But that touchdown run certainly didn't hurt his candidacy.
No matter how impressive his size, speed and other measurables, Chris Greenwood can't be a freak of nature, because freaks of nature don't get injured. And Greenwood hasn't attended so much as a single practice in training camp due to injury.
With nothing to go on, there is only one grade that makes any sense for Greenwood at this point.
I watched a lot of Ronnell Lewis during the Lions-Browns game, mostly because I expected him to look somewhat uncomfortable with his hand in the dirt.
Surprisingly, I did not find what I was looking for. Lewis has proven nothing but effective, thus far.
He's not Julius Peppers, but Lewis isn't a complete miscast at DE, either. It seems he'll pick up the game just fine, and in the meantime, the Lions get to look for "The Hammer" on special teams.
Travis Lewis has not been the most impressive linebacker in training camp, but the seventh-round pick wasn't supposed to be, either.
Despite some tightness in drills and a propensity to get lost on a play or two, Lewis is performing relatively well, thus far.
He would do well to notch a good play or two before the preseason is over to make sure he has something for the Lions to remember him by, but it's unlikely that Lewis is in any real danger of losing a theoretical roster spot.
Pictured here is not Edmon McClam, but rather the greatest reason McClam has no shot at the roster: Everette Brown.
The Lions' defensive-line rotation is likely very nearly too full to fit Brown, who has played an outstanding camp and couple of preseason games. If Brown makes it onto the roster, it will be extremely surprising.
So if McClam, who has had nowhere near the camp that Brown has, also makes the roster, or even the practice squad, something is probably very wrong somewhere.
There may not be a UDFA in camp with the Lions who has helped his stock as much as Carmen Messina did in the first two preseason games.
Messina notched a handful of tackles against the Browns and a game-clinching interception against the Ravens and both were in relatively limited action.
I don't know if Messina has yet done enough to take himself from complete unknown to the 53-man roster, but I'm not sure there's much more he could have done in his first two preseason weeks, aside from maybe post a putaway stop against Cleveland.
The Lions have quite the logjam at wide receiver, and suffice to say, Miles is not at the better end of it.
It's going to be difficult enough for the Lions to justify keeping noted playmakers Patrick Edwards and Maurice Stovall. Cutting Wallace Miles will not be as difficult a decision.
After seeing him for two preseason games, I am rapidly coming to the personal conclusion that Kellen Moore may not be cut out for this level.
I'm not a big believer in arm strength as a primary virtue of an NFL quarterback, but even Moore's short passes looked like high lobs, and that's not good at all.
Moore was much sharper against the Ravens than he was the Browns, which would seem to indicate some sort of improvement, but I have yet to see anything that makes keeping Moore seem like a better idea than, say, taking an extra RB or CB on the roster.
After all, Moore isn't fighting another quarterback for his spot. He's fighting to show that the Lions should have a third quarterback to begin with.
This is not J.C. Oram. This is Dan Gerberry.
Gerberry is having a great camp and preseason. Oram is not.
Gerberry has some history with the team and can play both guard and center. Oram does not and cannot.
Oram is a camp body who has faded into the background, Gerberry has stood out.
The only question left is which round of cuts Oram ends up leaving in.
Riley Reiff is having a good camp and had a strong showing against the Ravens, especially as a run blocker.
But he's having an odd experience in camp overall because nobody knows quite where he falls on the depth chart. Left tackle or right? Second string or third? Does he need more time, or is he ready?
Reiff definitely needs to improve his pass blocking, but he has basically done everything asked of him so far in camp.
It's hard to complain about a first-round pick doing everything you expect of him.
Generally speaking, Nick Fairley is having a very poor offseason and preseason, thus far. He has, to this point, looked undisciplined on and off the field.
But he's not going anywhere unless he gets arrested (via ESPN) another time or two before the start of the season.
And that means Tracy Robertson has no chance at the roster whatsoever. I would go so far as to argue that Andre Fluellen will have a difficult time making the roster.
So Robertson? Dictionary definition of a camp body.
While Carmen Messina has done everything in his power to get noticed, it seems like Ronnie Sneed could not be more invisible.
Perhaps, it is Messina's visibility that makes Sneed seem like just "the other UDFA linebacker," but that doesn't change the fact that I haven't heard Sneed's name called once so far this preseason.
If a long shot like Sneed wants to make the roster, or even the practice squad, he needs to find a way to make himself visible or known. He has failed to do that on any level.
I've mentioned before that the Lions' tight-end rotation is among the most difficult positions to crack on the entire team.
It's worth adding to that the fact that the only distinct memory I have of Austin Wells this preseason is him dropping a sure first-down pass from Kellen Moore.
Those aren't the types of memories you want to be associated with when you're an impossibly long shot for the roster in the first place.
But that's where Wells finds himself now: on the way out.
Tahir Whitehead has been excellent in practice, and decent in game action, and I'm still not precisely sure what to expect from him.
Whitehead still has some things to work out, as do all rookies. But, he moves around the field well and doesn't appear mystified or overwhelmed by the idea of pass coverage.
Bottom line, Whitehead hasn't been a major playmaker or stats machine in the Lions' first two preseason games, but he also hasn't blown assignments or made any huge mistakes.
He's been solid, and that's more than you can say about most rookies, especially ones from the fifth round.