Continuing with our Detroit Lions 53-man roster prediction, it is now time to take a look at the defense and special teams. Earlier, we took a stab at which 25 players on offense would make the team, and now there are 25 slots to fill on defense and three on special teams. I did consider using the spot freed up by keeping only two quarterbacks on an extra defensive player, but I ultimately decided to keep the numbers even, which is what the Lions have done in the past.
It's becoming quite clear that the Lions have six defensive ends worthy of making the team. Unfortunately, I just don't see there being room to keep all of them. Ideally, the Lions will make a trade to free up some space, but if that doesn't happen, then Everette Brown is the odd man out. The Lions aren't going to cut Cliff Avril or Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young are safe as well. The same goes for Ronnell Lewis, who was a fourth-round pick and has value on defense and special teams. Brown deserves to make the team based on what we've seen so far during camp, but there just isn't room.
Much like defensive end, there aren't enough spots for all of the defensive tackles who deserve to make the team. Last time around, I had Nick Fairley being suspended to start the season, which freed up room for Andre Fluellen. However, with both of Fairley's trials being pushed back (to September and November), I'm getting the feeling that Roger Goodell is going to wait to punish him until during the season. Goodell did say that Fairley could be suspended before his cases are resolved, but for right now I'm no longer expecting that to happen. As a result, Fairley is on the 53-man roster to start the season, meaning there is no room for Fluellen.
Linebacker is just about as set as any position on the roster right now. The three starters aren't going anywhere, and Ashlee Palmer and Travis Lewis have established themselves as key backups. Tahir Whitehead and Doug Hogue could theoretically be fighting for one spot should the Lions decide that they do want to keep 10 defensive linemen, but I would bet on both of them making the team. Somebody like Carmen Messina could play his way into the conversation during the rest of the preseason, but he's probably headed to the practice squad.
PUP list to start season: Chris Greenwood
A lot has changed at cornerback since the last 53-man roster prediction. Aaron Berry is gone, and Chris Greenwood is on the PUP list. Considering there are only two weeks until the final round of cuts, I don't expect Greenwood to be removed before the start of the regular season. This means your top four at cornerback likely consists of Chris Houston, , Jacob Lacey and Alphonso Smith. I was originally going to add Jonte Green as well, but I decided to put him on the cut list in order to keep a fifth safety.
The reason for keeping five safeties on the initial 53-man roster is for insurance with Louis Delmas coming off of knee surgery. If Delmas makes it clear that he is ready to go for the start of the regular season, then the Lions probably only need four safeties. However, I expect there to be some uncertainty with just how ready Delmas is, which is why I added Don Carey to the 53-man roster. He was getting some first-team reps before suffering an injury of his own, and considering he has played cornerback in the past, his versatility is an added bonus.
Keep (1): Jason Hanson
Cut: Derek Dimke
While Jason Hanson did miss a field goal against the Cleveland Browns and Derek Dimke made his lone attempt, I don't believe there's actually a competition going on at this position. It would take a disastrous finish to the preseason for Hanson to be cut in favor of Dimke.
Keep (1): Ryan Donahue
Cut: Ben Graham
Neither Ryan Donahue nor Ben Graham stood out last week in the preseason opener. As a result, I'm sticking with my prediction from a couple months ago that Donahue will once again beat out a veteran to make the team.
Keep (1): Don Muhlbach
Don Muhlbach is once again the only long snapper on the roster, and that will remain the case after the final round of cuts.
Changes From The Last Prediction (June 19)
Added to the 53-man roster: DT Nick Fairley, CB Alphonso Smith, S Don Carey
Removed from the 53-man roster: DT Andre Fluellen, CB Aaron Berry (no longer on the team), CB Chris Greenwood (PUP list)