Eddie writes: "I wonder how many of the lower defensive linemen the Lions are going to keep. Is Willie Young gone? Andre Fluellen? Sammie Hill? I guess we will see how it shakes out after training camp, but I like the look of a lot of those guys."
Each of the last two years, the Detroit Lions have kept nine defensive linemen on their roster following the final round of roster cuts. Things can obviously change from year to year depending on what the depth looks like, but I think that's a pretty good indication of how many defensive linemen will be around this year when the 53-man roster is established.
Both in 2009 and 2010, five of the defensive linemen that made the team were defensive ends. A year ago, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Turk McBride, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young made the team, and I expect them all to be back in 2011. Only Young seems in real danger of being on the chopping block, and if he was let go the Lions likely would try to sign him to the practice squad.
At defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen made the team last year. Suh is obviously not going anywhere, and neither is Hill based on how much potential he has. Williams should be back as well. Adding Nick Fairley into the mix means someone's spot is gone if the Lions keep only four DTs again, and I think Fluellen would be the odd man out.
How many players the Lions decide to keep at each position will be interesting to watch, especially this year with the new kickoff rules going into effect. There is now not quite as big of a need to keep players that excel only in special teams with less kick returns being expected. What that could mean for the Lions is keeping fewer linebackers on the team. A lot of their LBs last season were kept in large part for their special teams abilities, so perhaps this year the Lions will keep another defensive lineman instead of an extra linebacker. That is something to keep an eye on as teams react to the rules changes.
In the end, it would be nice if the Lions could hang on to a guy with upside like Young and a solid depth player like Fluellen. I don't know if they will keep both around considering how solid the rotation of players will be without them, but I would expect at least one of the two to make the team. Both making it is probably a stretch right now, but then again, predicting what the roster will look like is a stretch with free agency and training camp yet to take place.