When the Detroit Lions make their final roster cuts to get down to 53 players on Friday, one of their biggest decisions will come at the quarterback position. The Lions will need to choose whether they will carry two or three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. In other words, they will need to decide if Kellen Moore should make the team or be released.
What makes this situation so interesting for the Lions is that they've always kept at least three quarterbacks on the roster in recent memory. This year, however, it's entirely possible that the Lions will decide to keep only Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill on the roster to start the season. A variety of factors go into a decision like this, including the health of the top two quarterbacks, if Moore is really one of the 53-most talented players on the roster and whether or not the Lions think Moore will clear waivers and make it to the practice squad.
Focusing specifically on the decision to keep two or three quarterbacks, it's worth noting what head coach Jim Schwartz said earlier this week when asked about potentially going light at one position and heavy at another in terms of roster numbers. Here's what he had to say:
"Good talent; good players. If you're going to keep nine in a position and you have ten Pro Bowlers, well keep them. Go light at a different position. The other thing is: wherever we start during the year, doesn't necessarily mean we'll finish with that. You saw that with our offensive line last year. We started with nine, and then went to eight and we only keep seven actives so there's a lot of different leeway. A couple years ago we kept Willie Young and he was inactive pretty much the whole year. There's a lot of different ways to work your roster when it comes to the end. The main thing is letting talent be the judge; the guys that are talented and the guys that can do the job, finding a way to keep those guys."
That last sentence is the most important one from the above quote. You have to let talent be the judge, not numbers. If you're someone like Schwartz, you would rather keep talent than worry about having a certain number of players at certain positions. That is why the quarterback situation is so fascinating. On the one hand, based on how he's looked in the preseason to some, Moore doesn't seem like he is truly among the top 53 players on the roster. While I'm sure the Lions would prefer to have more than two quarterbacks, using that spot to keep an extra defensive linemen or defensive back around might be more worthwhile in the long run. At the same time, perhaps we shouldn't ignore the fact that Schwartz has praised Moore quite a bit. Here's what Schwartz had to say about Moore earlier this week:
"I think he's improved in all the games as far as command of our offense. He's shown he's a smart player. He's done a good job not just in the preseason games; he's done a good job at camp. We thought a lot of him coming out of Boise (State) and he's shown the reason that he was so successful in college."
That doesn't exactly sound like a coach who is about to cut Moore and risk losing him on waivers. Then again, Schwartz isn't exactly always truthful in his comments to the media, and what's more, just because Schwartz has praised Moore doesn't mean he will keep him on the roster. As mentioned, a lot of different factors go into a decision like this.
In any case, Moore will have one more opportunity to strengthen his chances of making the team on Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills. The final game of the preseason is about as unmeaningful as it gets in the NFL, but not for players on the roster bubble. With starters not seeing much action, this is the time to shine for players who are hoping to play their way onto the 53-man roster. Moore is especially in a position where he can do a lot for his chances of making the team considering he should get a lot of playing time at quarterback. If he plays well, that final impression on the coaches before the final cuts might make the difference between being on the 53-man roster and ending up on the practice squad.