Training camp and the pre-season are in full swing around the NFL. It is the perfect time to take a look at the potential 53 man roster for the Detroit Lions before the September 1st (75 man) and September 5th (53 man) cut dates.
Matt Stafford is the clear cut starter. Backup quarterbacks Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore are battling for the second spot. Both should make the 53 man roster. I would be surprised if Detroit only kept two Quarterbacks. Kellen Moore signed a new two year deal this offseason and was the top backup so far this pre-season. Both QBs split 2nd reps in camp. If someone is getting cut; it would be Orlovsky.
Running Back/Full Back (5)
The Lions will keep four running backs and one full back. Rookie second round pick, Ameer Abdullah, incumbent starter, Joique Bell and third year pro Theo Riddick are roster locks. Michael Burton was a 5th round pick this past draft and should be the starter at fullback.
The fourth RB position comes down to George Winn and undrafted rookies Zack Zenner and Desmond Martin. Winn has a year of experience with Detroit and is better on special teams coverage. Zenner and Martin may be the better pure runners with power, vision and ball security. Special teams will rule the day and Winn makes the roster over the rookies. Zenner and Martin could both remain on the practice squad.
Wide Receiver (6)
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are clearly the starters. Corey Fuller is a deep threat in his 3rd year and plays with the top unit when Calvin is resting. Lance Moore was added in free agency for the slot WR job and knows the Lombardi system well.
Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, TJ Jones, Andrew Peacock are battling for the two remaining roster spots. Jones showed good return ability in pre-season and is fully healed from his rookie season nerve damage. Coverage on special teams is important too and Ross is a solid gunner in coverage. Ross receives more time with the top unit but struggles to get separation. Broyles had a minor injury but played in the first pre-season game. Ryan Broyles is on his last chance and may be out of luck due to lack of versatility to play outside and special teams coverage ability. Peacock is a small receiver that has had a good camp but there is no room for him on the roster.
Tight Ends (3)
Ebron, Fauria and Pettigrew will be the tight ends on the roster. Undrafted rookie Casey Pierce and 2nd year TE Jordan Thompson are still battling for the practice squad.
Offensive Tackle (4)
Riley Reiff and Cornelius Lucas should make the team. Lucas may start at right tackle depending on the health of LaAdrian Waddle. LaAdrian Waddle will be the starting right tackle if he is healthy enough to avoid regular season PUP. Waddle is inching closer to return while cutting and hitting the sled during practice.
The final tackle spot will be decided between Michael Williams or Corey Robinson. Williams was a 2013 7th round pick that converted from tight end. Robinson is a rookie 7th round pick from South Carolina that could play left or right tackle. Williams appears to be winning the job so far in camp. However, look for Robinson to remain the practice squad if Williams’s wins the spot.
Right Guard, Larry Warford, center Travis Swanson, guard/center, Manny Ramirez and rookie left guard Laken Tomlinson are roster locks. Detroit will not keep five interior linemen; which means Taylor Boggs will just miss the cut. Boggs has been excellent in camp and has several years of experience. If Detroit only retains 5 receivers, then Boggs could make the roster. Undrafted rookie guards Torrain Wilson and Al Bond could remain on the practice squad.
Kicker, Matt Prater, punter, Sam Martin and long snapper, Don Mulhbach, will be Detroit’s specialists.
Defensive Line (9)
The Lions will keep only 9 defensive linemen instead of 10. Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker and Carraun Reid are locks at DT. Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones start at DE. Jason Jones is on track to avoid PUP (knee) but he could be a surprise regular season PUP candidate.
Larry Webster and Devin Taylor are 4th round picks from 2014 and 2013 respectively that should both make the roster. Taylor has been playing well in camp and pre-season. Webster has been struggling and is still very raw despite bulking up this off-season. Darryl Tapp can play DE/DT. Tapp starts with the first unit with Jones out. Gabe Wright is a rookie 4th round pick that Detroit traded a future 3rd to obtain. Wright will make the roster as the 4th DT and earn more snaps as the year continues.
Detroit may keep 10 Defensive linemen but will have to only keep 5 WRs and 4 interior linemen to accomplish that. Jeremelle Cudjo is having a great camp. Cudjo could be a 5th DT. Jerrel Worthy hasn’t done enough to win a 5th DT spot after being claimed off waivers. Former Bear/Viking, Corey Wootten, can play DE/DT. Wootten’s versatility could be worthwhile in case of injuries but Cudjo is the most deserving of a spot based on his play alone.
Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Kyle Van Noy and Tahir Whitehead are locks. Josh Bynes will make the roster after signing a 2 year deal. Bynes and Whitehead can both play OLB and ILB and offer special teams value. The 6th spot will be a battle between Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford and Brandon Copeland. Travis Lewis is winning the job and can play on special teams.
Slay, Mathis, Nevin Lawson, Alex Carter and Josh Wilson appear set at corner. Wilson and Lawson will battle for the nickel job and both could slide outside in a pinch. Rookie 3rd round pick Alex Carter has an ankle injury; but Carter should be the top outside backup CB.
The 6th corner spot boils down to Chris Owens, Crezdon Butler, rookie 6th round pick Quande Diggs and RJ Stanford. Owens, Butler and Stanford are veterans that offer some outside and inside slot ability. Diggs is a rookie having a great camp but appears limited to the crowded nickel spot. Detroit will keep Diggs to avoid losing him. Owens, Butler and Stanford get cut.
Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo and Isa Abdul Quddus are good safeties. Don Carey battles undrafted rookies Isiah Johnson and Brian Suite for the final safety spot. Taylor Mays is limited at strong safety due to coverage problems. Carey offers special team value and can play slot CB in a pinch. Carey remains as the 4th safety despite the promise of young Isiah Johnson. Johnson will make the practice squad.
The Lions are deeper than they have been in a long time. The Lions coaching staff and Martin Mayhew have some tough decisions to make at the back of the roster.