Kicker, Underrated Rookies Lead 10 Lions to Watch vs. Falcons

Riley Patterson

Getty Riley Patterson shakes hands with Jack Fox in 2022.

The Detroit Lions start their 2022 preseason against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, July 11, and the anticipation is building.

While the game represents a contest that doesn’t count, fans can still be very excited to see the team back in action on the field, and that’s just what everyone has in mind for this week.

When the game comes, which players need to be watched the closest? Here’s a look at the names to remember for the first game of the season.

Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez

Easily one of the most anticipated debuts will be that of Malcolm Rodriguez. The rookie linebacker hit anything that moved during training camp, so seeing him unleashed in the preseason should be fun.

Rodriguez figures to play a big role on special teams, but if he shows well on defense, he could push for more there, too. It’s a big game for the youngster in multiple ways, and could well help in determining his future with the team.

Running Back Justin Jackson

The Lions have the welcome problem of too much depth at running back, but Justin Jackson has been impressive in the short time he’s been with the team. Can he show that on game day?

Jackson feels like a good bet to see late snaps, but if he has the kind of performance like Craig Reynolds did last year, he could parlay it into a role with the team or the practice squad. He’s an intriguing name to remember on offense given his NFL experience.

Defensive Lineman John Cominsky

When John Cominsky signed with the Lions, there was plenty of hype about his addition. At this point, however, he’s buried on the depth chart and little has been said about him.

There’s plenty of talent up front the Lions are seeing emerge, including other names that will be on this list as well as players like Jashon Cornell. Cominsky needs a big debut against his former team to grab some attention at this point in the process.

Quarterback Tim Boyle

Detroit’s battle to back up Jared Goff is interesting to say the least, and Tim Boyle continues to look like he could be the leader in the clubhouse for the role. What happens during the preseason will tell the tale of who wins the job.

Boyle needs to prove that the mistakes he made in 2021 are behind him. He’ll face a stiff challenge from David Blough in a battle where one player might have to go. Blough is interesting, but Boyle could leave no doubts with a solid preseason.

Tight End Shane Zylstra

Typically, folks will be focused on other names at tight end, but perhaps Shane Zylstra is a player that more should be keeping tabs on at this point.

Zylstra is a blocker and a pass catcher, and has looked good in camp. Potentially, he could be a player that steals a role from a better-established veteran player such as Devin Funchess. Don’t forget Zylstra in the least bit.

Wide Receiver Kalil Pimpleton

To make the Lions, Kalil Pimpleton will have to show out on special teams. The only problem? He could be blocked there by a by a couple solid contributors in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Godwin Igwebuike.

Pimpleton will have to show he can produce in the preseason to have a roster shot, and could impress enough to stick on the practice squad. How does he look when the lights turn on, though? In practice, he’s been a play machine.

Defensive Lineman Demetrius Taylor

Detroit has seen underrated defensive lineman crack the roster in past seasons, and Demetrius Taylor could be the next in this vein. The Appalachian State product has been solid in camp, and will try to apply those lessons to the game.

Taylor could well steal a role with an impressive performance in between the lines. Watch and see if he can generate some pocket pressure this week.

Kicker Riley Patterson

While plenty of eyes will now be on Austin Seibert to start the preseason, Riley Patterson is the player that fans should be watching closest in the first game of 2022.

Patterson looked good enough to be Detroit’s kicker late in 2021, and seems to have the right power and accuracy in his leg to get the job done along with experience. He’s being asked to win a battle with Seibert to keep his job. Can Patterson level up and show something, especially from distance? The pressure is on him to do so.

Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu

When Lions fans last saw Ifeatu Melifonwu, he was playing at corner. Now, he’s moved to safety, though he does retain cornerback as a skill. Where will he play and how will he look in a new role?

The big-bodied defensive back has all the tools to be great in the NFL, and should get plenty of preseason run to show what he can do for the team. If Melifonwu looks as comfortable as he says, he could see plenty of play time.

Guard Tommy Kraemer

The offensive line doesn’t figure to have any battles in terms of starting roles, but the backup competition is going to be fierce and interesting as it relates to who makes it as a reserve player.

Tommy Kraemer made the Lions practice squad last year, and did enough to impress the team to give him a roster shot. He looked decent in the time he played, so can he look like that kind of player again? Others like Obinna Eze and Logan Stenberg may provide a push.

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