The Detroit Lions will trim their roster down to 53 players on Friday. With one preseason game left to play, a few things could change at certain positions, but most of the roster appears to be set at this point. As a result, I have put together what should be my final roster prediction before the cuts are made on Friday. If something significant happens on Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills, I may revise my prediction, but this is likely my final stab at predicting which 53 players will make the team.
Cut: Kellen Moore
This is one of the positions on the roster where I'm not all that confident about my predictions. While I don't think the Lions should keep Kellen Moore on the 53-man roster, part of me thinks they will do just that based on some of the comments Jim Schwartz has made about him lately. Schwartz just gives off the impression that the Lions are much higher on Moore than fans. Regardless, I ultimately ended up deciding to leave Moore off the 53-man roster. I just think the Lions will conclude that using that spot on extra depth at another position will be more worthwhile, especially if Moore ends up clearing waivers and makes it to the practice squad.
Suspended to start season: Mikel Leshoure
While Martin Mayhew is apparently hoping to acquire a running back, right now it doesn't look like a move is going to happen before the final round of cuts. As a result, I have only four running backs making the initial 53-man roster (that doesn't include Mikel Leshoure, who is suspended for the first two weeks of the season). By Saturday, I fully expect Mayhew to have claimed someone off waivers like he did last year with Keiland Williams, but on the first 53-man roster after the cuts are made, I only see four backs being on the team.
If the Lions do add another running back on Saturday or sometime before their first regular season game, it's very possible that spot will come at the expense of a wide receiver. Specifically, it's likely that Maurice Stovall or Kassim Osgood would be cut to make room for an extra running back. Osgood seems like the more likely of the two since he just recently joined the Lions and hasn't been around nearly as long as Stovall, but on the initial 53-man roster, I have both making the cut over Patrick Edwards for special teams purposes. Edwards has really faded in recent weeks, and I no longer expect him to make the team.
Cut: Alex Gottlieb
Not a whole lot needs to be said about this position. The top three is set, and Alex Gottlieb and Austin Wells are really battling for a shot at the practice squad more than anything else.
With the Lions putting Jonathan Scott on injured reserve earlier this week, no moves need to be made at offensive tackle. These five players should make the team, and unless there is a trade, I can't see any of them going anywhere.
With the Lions now listing Dylan Gandy as a guard, I have them keeping three players at this position. It was tempting to keep Rodney Austin on the 53-man roster considering how much praise he's received from teammates, but he seems more like a practice squad player right now.
Keep (1): Dominic Raiola
Cut: Dan Gerberry
It was also tempting to give Dan Gerberry the edge over Gandy. Gerberry has been on the practice squad the last few years and is no longer eligible going forward, so it's either keep him on the 53-man roster or not have him around any longer. While Gerberry probably is as close to being worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster as it gets, I think the Lions will go with Gandy over him again.
If the Lions don't use the extra spot created by keeping only two quarterbacks on a sixth wide receiver, then they may keep Everette Brown around. It's tough to even imagine the Lions having six defensive ends on the roster, but Brown is probably worthy of a spot. Unfortunately for him, there's just not room with five other defensive ends already locked in.
I could also see the Lions using that extra spot on Andre Fluellen. In fact, it might actually make more sense to keep him around instead of Brown. Fluellen can play both defensive tackle and defensive end, and when Nick Fairley is inevitably suspended, the Lions will need somebody to step in for him. If Fluellen is let go and not picked up by another team, he probably would get the call, but there's no guarantee he will remain a free agent. Regardless, I do think the Lions will release him. I just have a tough time believing they will keep 10 defensive linemen.
Cut: Carmen Messina
If the Lions do opt to keep another defensive lineman around, perhaps they will part ways with a linebacker. This position seems set and I don't think any of the seven on the keep list will be let go, but you never know what might the Lions might do.
This is one of the more interesting positions on the roster in terms of who will be kept. Part of that is because there's just not a lot of talent at cornerback. Chris Houston andaren't going anywhere, and I doubt the Lions traded for Kevin Barnes just to release him a few days later. I also don't see Jacob Lacey going anywhere, which really leaves one spot open. I gave it to Justin Miller for two main reasons. For one, he seems to have passed Alphonso Smith on the depth chart based on when they got into last week's game. Also, he brings a lot more to the table on special teams than Smith. While Smith certainly shows promise at times, I just think Miller will get the edge as the fifth cornerback.
Cut: Reshard Langford
I don't really think the Lions will keep five safeties around beyond the first couple weeks of the season. However, with Louis Delmas' status for Week 1 up in the air right now, it seems like it would be wise to have Ricardo Silva around for extra depth, especially on special teams with John Wendling potentially being in the starting lineup. If Delmas appears to be 100 percent ready to go, then the Lions could release Silva and put him on the practice squad, but to start the season, I see a need for insurance because of Delmas' health.
Keep (1): Jason Hanson
Jason Hanson once again won the Lions' kicking competition with Derek Dimke being released earlier this week.
Keep (1): Ryan Donahue
Cut: Ben Graham
The battle at punter is going right down to the wire because neither player has stepped it up and separated himself as the clear starter. Even so, I see Ryan Donahue ultimately winning this job again.
Keep (1): Don Muhlbach
As always, there's not much to say here. Don Muhlbach is the Lions' long snapper.
Keep (8): QB Kellen Moore, WR Patrick Edwards, WR Wallace Miles, OG Rodney Austin, DE Ugo Chinasa, DE Edmon McClam, LB Carmen Messina, CB Jonte Green
Usually the Lions will end up adding at least a few guys who were cut by other teams to their practice squad. I expect that to happen again this year, so guys like Wallace Miles, Ugo Chinasa and Edmon McClam may not end up on the practice squad. I'm pretty confident about Kellen Moore, Patrick Edwards, Rodney Austin, Carmen Messina and Jonte Green, though. If they don't make the 53-man roster and clear waivers, I expect them to stick around on the practice squad.