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Dan Campbell says ‘best’ players not a lock to make roster

The late hip-hop icon Prodigy once rapped, “There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from.” Based on the comments from Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell on Tuesday afternoon, making the 53-man roster will be “Survival of the fittest.”

Like all 32 NFL clubs, the Detroit Lions have some tough decisions over the next two weeks. Next Tuesday, by 4 p.m. EST, all teams must trim their rosters to 80 players. And the following Tuesday, by the same time, teams must finalize their 53-man roster heading into the season. 

Campbell and his staff are evaluating tons of things regarding this roster. And one of the big things they’re determining is who’ll be an excellent fit for the season’s starts vs. their long-term fit. 

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell talks to linebacker Alex Anzalone (34)during training camp at practice facility in Allen Park, Tuesday, August 10, 2021.

“Those hard ones, but those are ones that we’ve talked about,” said Campbell. “And, you know, I think the end game has always been what’s best for us long-term, ultimately. However, not at the expense of us being non-competitive or not having a chance to compete. You know, not at that expense.”

“Look, we’ve good a lot of young guys on this roster that we like. And a lot of them need development, but we like them. And so we’ll just see where this thing plays out…we have conversations every night, every day about this stuff.”

One of those guys Campbell could be referring to is Jahlani Tavai. As previously reported, Tavai is in excellent shape. Last year, Tavai said former Lions’ HC Matt Patricia had him playing at close to 270 pounds. The last time Tavai openly spoke about his weight was during minicamp. At that time, he said he was around 245 pounds. While his weight has makes his physique look impressive, it has yet to make him a better player.

Last Friday’s preseason opener vs. the Bills is proof of it. He often appeared lost in coverage during several moments in the first half. One of those moments led to Devin Singletary scoring for the Bills. It was utterly blown coverage on Tavai’s side of the ball. While the Lions surely appreciate Tavai’s efforts to slim down, he’ll need to perform better in the next two games.

RELATED: Lions lose preseason opener to Bills, 16-15 off late field goal.

Another young guy that Campbell and his staff could be talking about is Craig Reynolds. The Lions signed Reynold less than 24 before their game vs. the Bills. It was a move to add depth at the running back position with D’Andre Swift, and Jermar Jefferson sidelined. Despite having yet to introduce himself to his teammates fully, Reynolds scored the Lions’ only touchdown. He also had six carries for 49 yards. 

Detroit Lions running back Craig Reynold
Detroit Lions running back Craig Reynolds (46) runs against Buffalo Bills cornerback Nick McCloud (38) during the second half of the preseason game at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Based on his performance, there is an expectation the Lions will give him a fair shake. With Dan Campbell stating he plans to rest his starters this week, Reynolds may get another shot to impress the coaching staff.

As the Detroit Lions continue to evaluate the players they have, Dan Campbell says they’re paying attention to whom other teams are releasing as well. 

“Absolutely, every day,” said Campbell. “Brad [Holmes] and I have been on it every day, for every team. And so… I’ve told the team this, and these guys know, we’re always looking.”

“Just because you may be the No.1 guy here or the No. 2 guy here, it doesn’t mean that it’s gonna stay that way or that even you make it here. Because we’re looking for the best that are out there to help upgrade us, roster-wise. That’s what Brad does. That’s what his crew does. And we’re always looking there.”

Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.

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