Although the first game week of the season has arrived, I'm not completely ready to start looking ahead to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just yet. Before all focus is turned toward Sunday's game, I want to take a look at the Lions roster and close the book on the NFL roster cuts. To do this, I will spend today evaluating the roster as it currently stands. First up is the offense.
As soon as Stanton decided to re-sign with the Lions after the lockout ended, the quarterback position was basically set. Obviously things could have changed if an injury happened, but all three quarterbacks made it through the preseason unscathed. This left the Lions with no tough decisions to make at this position, as Stafford, Hill and Stanton were the obvious choices to keep on the roster.
Unlike quarterback, the Lions' stable of running backs is much different than it looked right after the lockout ended. With Mikel Leshoure going down for the season because of an Achilles injury, the Lions added Harrison, who improved over the course of the preseason. He solidified his spot on the roster and is going to be Best's backup along with Morris, who missed all of the preseason because of a hand injury. Williams will also get playing time, as he was claimed off waivers just days ago to help fill the power back type of role in the Lions' offense. Also don't be surprised if you see Logan take a snap or two out of the backfield to mix things up.
The Lions decided to eliminate their fullback position during the preseason. They will still use Will Heller as an H-back every now and then, but the fullback position is extinct for the Lions.
The top three spots at wide receiver were locked down even before the lockout ended. Johnson and Burleson are going to be two of Stafford's favorite targets in 2011, and Young is expected to make some plays as well. Davis quickly became a favorite of the coaches, mainly for his special teams play. Stovall, on the other hand, stepped it up big time as a receiver during the preseason. His big frame could cause headaches for defenses, and unlike other receivers, he was very consistent, which is why he made the team over guys like Derrick Williams and Nate Hughes.
Similar to quarterback, there wasn't any uncertainty at tight end. Pettigrew is back after a stellar 2010 season and is ready to do even more damage to opposing defenses this year. Scheffler is hoping to bounce back from a down year in 2010, and Heller is back as a solid backup who can play multiple positions.
There were no real surprises at this position. Although injuries were an issue at the beginning of August, all of the tackles have battled back to overcome them. Fox is the only one who won't be ready to go to start the season, but once he is healthy, he will join Hilliard as the backups at tackle. Backus and Cherilus return as the two starters.
The Lions brought in a number of different players during the preseason as they tried to find a solid backup at guard. Interestingly enough, the backup ended up being McClendon, who was just claimed off waivers. He will have to be ready to fill in for Sims and Peterman in case one of them goes down with an injury.
It looked like some changers could be made to this position, but the Lions once again went with Raiola and Gandy. Raiola returns as the starter, whereas Gandy is back as the backup. He can also play guard, which is a big reason why the Lions decided to keep him around.