Skip to main content

Why the final preseason game is so important

Don't try and tell Detroit Lions wide receiver Jace Billingsley the last preseason game is meaningless.

Pat O'Connor, Detroit's seventh-round draft pick, doesn't want to hear it either.

Kerry Hyder Jr. might just laugh if you try telling him that the fourth and final preseason game doesn't mean much.

While Lions fans might already have their eye on Detroit's regular season kickoff Sept. 11 vs. Arizona, for players like Billingsley and O'Connor, the last preseason game is one final opportunity to stake their claim for inclusion on the 53-man roster.

"I think this game means a lot," said veteran safety Glover Quin, whose roster spot is secure and isn't likely to play Thursday. "I think every year you see one or two players that either earn a roster spot or at least earn a practice squad job off the fourth preseason game. The fourth preseason game matters."

Hyder is a perfect example of a player making the most of their final preseason game. Back in 2015, in the preseason finale vs. Buffalo, he made headlines by recovering three fumbles. He'd had a nice training camp that year and a good preseason, but that performance was eye-catching and helped earn him a spot on Detroit's practice squad.

Last year, Hyder ended his preseason with three sacks vs. Buffalo. That performance helped win him a roster spot. He went on to lead the team in sacks during the regular season.

"Kerry (Hyder) set the standard for all players on the bubble," O'Connor said. "Coming out of nowhere and making a name for yourself. I'd say it's super important to go out there and make every opportunity count and just play."

That includes the last preseason game, where a lot of these bubble players are going to get nearly a whole game's worth of reps.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn and his staff can probably name 40-something players they know for a fact right now are on the 53-man roster. It's those remaining spots that might be up for grabs with one more dress rehearsal for players to state their case. And Quinn will be watching.

O'Connor is battling Alex Barrett, Jeremiah Valoaga and Giorgio Newberry for what might end up being just one roster spot at defensive end. If one of those players has himself a terrific game Thursday night, it might just propel him ahead.

"You have to make every opportunity count when your name is called," O'Connor said. "You have to go out and show up."

Billingsley had seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown in last year's preseason finale. It put an exclamation point on a terrific preseason for him, and earned him a spot on the practice squad.

Fast forward one year and Billingsley is hoping another big performance in the final preseason game puts a bow on another good training camp/preseason and earns him a roster spot this time around. He's right in the mix for a fourth or fifth receiver spot.

"It's definitely important," Billingsley said of the final preseason performance. "But at the same time, it's important not to overthink it. We've been practicing together for however long now. They see us every day in practice. It's not all going to come down to just this game.

"Obviously, you want to go out with a bang and have the best day you can, but it's not all necessarily riding on this game, but at the same time I'm just going to go out there and do my best and have fun."

Fans aren't likely to see many starters on the field in Buffalo Thursday night. That doesn't mean there isn't much to watch. For a number of players fighting for the last few roster spots and one of 10 practice squad spots, there's a plenty on the line in Buffalo.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content