After strong week one showings, tight ends Hakeem Valles and Marcus Lucas may have increased their chances of making the Lions roster
For most of the offseason, it has been assumed that the Lions’ three tight ends will be Luke Willson, Michael Roberts, and Levine Toilolo. However, last Friday’s week one preseason game against the Raiders has made this a little less certain.
Willson, Roberts, and Toilolo combined for only two targets in the passing game, resulting in zero receptions among all three of them. On the other end of the depth chart, Hakeem Valles and Marcus Lucas both made big plays when thrown to.
Valles caught two passes for 26 yards (one of which was a 13-yard reception to convert a 3rd and 11 and set up the Lions only touchdown of the game), and Lucas caught three for 18 (including a 14-yard reception to convert a 4th and 11).
While these aren’t huge stat lines, they are significantly better than what Willson, Roberts, and Toilolo produced. Neither Valles or Lucas dominated the game, but they both made big plays in clutch situations.
Michael Roberts (a fourth-round draft pick a year ago) had a very disappointing rookie season in which he barely ever saw the field and only recorded four receptions. Now, there are reports of him having a bad training camp and speculation that he may not even make the Lions final roster.
This is likely where Valles or Lucas have a chance to steal a roster spot.
Valles has spent two seasons in the NFL and has special teams value besides the ability to potentially make an impact on offense. In 2016 he played in 11 games and made three tackles for the Cardinals.
If Michael Roberts cannot put it together while Valles and Lucas continue to excel, there is a very real chance that one of them will be the third of the Lions tight ends alongside Willson and Toilolo. General manager Bob Quinn has already shown he’s not afraid of admitting his draft mistakes last year when he cut Antwione Williams after just one season. If it came to it with Roberts, Quinn would likely do it again.
It’s too early to cast judgment after just the first preseason game, there are still three more to be played. However, in that first game, Hakeem Valles and Marcus Lucas did open up a window of opportunity that none of us expected to be there.