The Depth Chart series on Side Lion Report takes a closer look at some of the football players who may go unnoticed on the Detroit Lions depth chart. Be sure to follow this series if you are interested in learning about some of the lesser known players that the Lions are bringing to training camp on July 23.
Jersey #: 40
Unless the Detroit Lions and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have decided to retool the offense, I doubt that James Bryant, the former CFL player, makes the Lions final 53-man roster. Bryant was signed to play fullback; however, the Lions rarely use a fullback. The last fullback the Lions had on their roster was Jerome Felton in 2010.
Not to mention the Lions like to utilize their tight ends as H-backs from time to time. Tony Scheffler and Will Heller have historically lined up in the backfield and on the wing when Linehan deemed it necessary to have an extra blocker between the tackles.
Bryant is a great project player to take to training camp, but it is highly unlikely that he pans out to be a final 53-man roster player. The Lions will most likely continue to use Will Heller in H-back situations and give a roster spot to the veteran tight end seeing as he can be a backup to Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, and continue to be a special teams ace.
What the experts have to say:
05/27/08 – It didn’t take long for Ron English to realize he wasn’t in Michigan anymore. The former Wolverines defensive coordinator has the same job at Louisville, and after one particularly poor spring performance by his guys, English said, “it’s hard to be positive. I haven’t been through this in many years.” The defense was bad last year and was decimated by graduation. There are no returning linebackers with significant experience. Miami transfer James Bryant and junior college import Chris Campa were supposed to shore things up, but they had mediocre springs. At one point, the first-string spring linebacker unit included two former walk-ons.
05/27/08 – TOP NEWCOMERS: LB James Bryant — He never lived up to his considerable hype at Miami, switching from linebacker to fullback. But Louisville doesn’t have many other options at linebacker, so he’ll play a lot. He’s a beast physically and only needs to play within the system.
08/22/07 – LB James Bryant transferred to Louisville from Miami this August. He’ll walk on next season as a senior.
07/31/07 – In what seems to be a recurring theme, the University of Louisville football team has landed a linebacker transfer with ties to the University of Miami — along with some baggage. James Bryant, a 6-foot-3 250-pounder who played his first three seasons at Miami, has enrolled at U of L, school officials confirmed last night. He will sit out this season because of NCAA rules and have one year of eligibility left. Bryant, who’s from Reading, Pa., was one of the nation’s top-ranked high school linebackers, but his college career has been up and down. He played mostly on special teams as a true freshman, switched to fullback as a sophomore and rotated between fullback and linebacker last season. He is expected to play linebacker for the Cardinals. Bryant was suspended three times last season and had to sit out Miami’s appearance in the MPC Computers Bowl. He told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that most of the suspensions stemmed from missing class. Bryant resisted making the switch to fullback and decided to transfer this spring after new head coach Randy Shannon made it clear he didn’t have a starting role on the team, according to the paper. – Brian Bennett, Louisville Courier-Journal
05/12/07 – FB James Bryant’s career at Miami has come to an end. Bryant, who never really found a home between linebacker and fullback and was suspended numerous times for his behavior, requested his release when it became clear he didn’t figure in this season’s plans. He did not redshirt with the Hurricanes and will have one season of eligibility if he transfers to a Division I-A school, which, he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, is his preference. Bryant became a prominent figure in much of the coverage in last fall’s brawl between Miami and Florida International players when it was reported inaccurately that he bowed toward the FIU bench after scoring a touchdown. He actually had taken a bow toward the northwest corner of the Orange Bowl, not the sidelines.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Detroit Lions fullback James Bryant’s journey to the NFL is an incredible story.
However, there are no guarantees Bryant’s story will have a happy ending.
Detroit recently signed Bryant, a former boxer, arena football league player and BC Lions (Canadian Football League) practice squad member. The Lions do not use a traditional fullback in their offense, but were convinced to sign him by running backs coach Sam Gash.
Bryant’s attempt to make this year’s team will begin on April 16 when players can report for voluntary workouts at Allen Park.
“The problem with that position is, with our offense, that guy is playing maybe 10, 12, plays a game,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. “He has to do something else. Whether that’s playing special teams at a very high level, or whether that’s playing tight end type of roles as well, that guy has to be versatile enough to do things for you other than go in on third-and-short in the ‘I’ (formation) and isolation block for somebody.
“Whether James makes our team or not, it kind of remains to be seen. We like his skill level. We like his background and profile. Great guy when you meet him and talk to him.”
Despite Bryant’s long odds, the Lions are willing to give him a shot this offseason.
“It’s one of those offseason projects,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “Saw him down at a workout. Obviously, a physically talented guy. We’ll see if we can find him a job description that fits. See if we can find him a home. We don’t play any games tomorrow, so we have plenty of time to work through that.
“If you look across the NFL, it (fullback) is not as important of a position. We had a fullback. It was Will Heller. He played that position for us and was able to do that. There’s a lot of different skills that go into fullbacks. People look into a lot of different things. The ability to catch the ball and the ability to pass protect, the ability to play special teams. All of those things are really import for the position.”