DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 30: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a first quarter touchdown with Matthew Stafford #9 while playing the Buffalo Bills during a pre season game at Ford Field on August 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
For the first time in the Jim Schwartz/Martin Mayhew era, the Detroit Lions enter the season with only 24 players on offense. In the past, the Lions have had 25 players on offense to go along with 25 on defense and three on special teams. This year, however, the Lions only have 24 offensive players because they kept only four running backs. With Jahvid Best on the PUP list and Mikel Leshoure suspended, the Lions decided to go with what they have rather than bring in somebody new.
Let's take a look at the 24 offensive players who stuck around after the final round of cuts.
There was a lot of talk about the Lions going into the season with only two quarterbacks, but they ultimately ended up keeping three. Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill are clearly at the top of the depth chart, and barring an injury, that won't change. Kellen Moore isn't expected to dress for a single game this season, and really he will spend 2012 developing as an NFL quarterback more than anything after being included on the 53-man roster.
What the running back position looks like now compared to later in the season could be very different. Not only will the Lions get Mikel Leshoure back in Week 3, but they are hoping to also get Jahvid Best back after Week 6. This means that guys like Joique Bell and Stefan Logan could be fighting to stay on the roster (Logan will be doing the same on special teams), whereas guys like Kevin Smith and Keiland Williams could be fighting for their spot on the current depth chart.
The top four at this position has been set with Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles ever since the draft took place in April. The only thing up for grabs was the No. 5 wide receiver spot. Kassim Osgood came in and won the job thanks to his special teams play despite spending only a little more than a week on the roster before the final cuts. That says a lot about what the Lions think he can bring to the special teams units.
The Lions have had the same three tight ends for a while now, and there was no change this year. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are a big part of the Lions' offense, and Will Heller is an excellent backup who can also line up in the backfield as a fullback and H-back. Needless to say, the Lions are very happy with this group of tight ends.
Usually the Lions only keep four offensive tackles on the roster, but the talent dictated they keep five this year. Jeff Backus andare the starters for now, and Riley Reiff is the main backup. He can play left and right tackle and even some guard, and his versatility is a big reason why the Lions were able to go light at offensive guard and center. The same goes for Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard. Both players are good backups who can play multiple positions on the offensive line.
In all reality, the Lions kept only the two starters at this position. The only reason they ended up with three guards is because they recently started listing Dylan Gandy as an offensive guard. He can play both guard and center, and he's the primary backup at both positions. Officially, though, he is one of the three guards who made the team. Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman, the starters at offensive guard, are the others.
Center (1): Dominic Raiola
There will come a time when the Lions decide to make a change at the center position, but 2012 wasn't the year. The Lions are comfortable moving forward with Dominic Raiola for at least one more season, as evidenced by him being the lone player who is officially listed as a center on the team.