ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are assured of finishing under .500 for the second straight season and won't go to the playoffs for the third straight year.
So with four games remaining in another lost season, there is a chance for the franchise and some of its players to get a jump on 2020 -- especially younger players who either haven’t been given a chance or have no assurances of being on the roster next season.
And for some veteran players, these games can help solidify their standing on the team or in their current roles.
So with that in mind, here are a few players to pay attention to over the final four games:
RB Bo Scarbrough: That the 23-year-old was a free agent a month ago is almost unbelievable now considering the Alabama product’s emergence the past three weeks. He hasn’t had a 100-yard game yet, although long runs called back against Washington and Chicago kept him from back-to-back 100-yard weeks. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry and if he keeps this up over the final month, he might be playing himself into a fairly safe roster spot for next season as a complementary option for Kerryon Johnson. Scarbrough is a better between-the-tackles runner and pushes piles forward. Rarely is he brought down by the first tackler and he has a bruising style that could give balance to the more elusive Johnson and the pass-catching J.D. McKissic.
“It builds confidence in us with them,” running backs coach Kyle Caskey said. “Because everything going into the offseason is about building the roster and when you’ve got guys on the roster that are performing at a level of we want to keep this guy and we want to work with him some more, it does lend to easier decisions in the spring when guys are putting the rosters together.
“It’s good that he’s doing that.”
CB Amani Oruwariye: One of Detroit’s offseason needs is going to be a cornerback with Darius Slay entering a contract year, Rashaan Melvin a free agent and the depth in question. Oruwariye, a rookie out of Penn State, has started to show, over the past couple of weeks, that he could be one of those answers. Oruwariye had his first career interception against Washington and then six tackles against the Bears. Considering it usually takes time for a cornerback to adjust to the NFL, picking up snaps in the last month of the season could give him experience to build upon for 2020. By then, he should be competing for a starting spot either opposite Slay or in place of him if the Lions move him in the offseason.
TE Isaac Nauta: With T.J. Hockenson on injured reserve, snaps have become available for the seventh-round pick out of Georgia, who began the season on the practice squad. He’s mostly played in an H-Back/fullback role after Nick Bawden went to IR, but Hockenson’s ankle injury could give him a chance to prove he could be a No. 2 or No. 3 option behind Hockenson and Jesse James next season.
LB Jarrad Davis: The Lions have a decision to make on whether to pick up Davis’ fifth-year option. While they love his leadership, his on-field play has been scattershot in his three years in Detroit. It’s reasonable to think Detroit will pick up the option, especially since there’s no guarantee on it until the start of the 2021 league year, but a good final four games from the linebacker could go a long way toward solidifying his spot with the franchise in the future.
RT Rick Wagner: The Lions gave Wagner a five-year, $47.5 million contract in 2017 to help protect Matthew Stafford and give Detroit a rejuvenated run game. Wagner’s cap hit remains $11.9 million next season but there’s no more guaranteed money in his deal and his dead cap number drops to $5.8 million. Wagner has been a decent player in his time with the Lions, and if the team moved on from him he’d surely find work elsewhere, but with the 30-year-old having a high cost he could be a player to watch. Now, if he is able to find consistency in the last four games -- particularly considering potential holes coming on the line at right guard due to free agency -- he might show he’s worth holding on to for another season.
QB David Blough: This isn’t for a starting gig, obviously, but Detroit has been searching all year for a backup quarterback. Blough could get the last month of the season to pick up valuable in-game snaps. And if he plays well, win or lose, he might give Detroit enough comfort to keep him as the No. 2 quarterback behind Stafford. It’s a role that could add greater value in the future since back injuries have plagued Stafford the past two seasons.