With training camp opening on Friday, the race to make the 53-man roster is about to begin for many Detroit Lions players. There are 90 guys set to battle for only 53 spots, and the Lions will have some really tough decisions to make this year when the time comes to cut down their roster.
Below is my latest stab at predicting the Lions' 53-man roster. I fully expect some of these predictions to change in the coming weeks as we gain more information about certain camp battles, but this is my best guess at what the 53-man roster will look like going into the 2013 season.
Cut: Thaddeus Lewis
I fully expect Lewis to make things interesting at quarterback, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he beats out Moore for the third spot on the depth chart. However, right now I'm leaning in the direction that Lewis won't be able to do quite enough for the Lions to cut Moore.
If Miller emerges as the Lions' return man, go ahead and add a fifth spot at running back to the roster. If not, I just don't see any need to keep him or Riddick around. The Lions' top three is solid, and Owens will be a major contributor on special teams.
Keep (0): None
Cut: Shaun Chapas
The fullback position just doesn't have a place in the Lions' offense.
This was one of the toughest positions to predict since there is so much uncertainty after the top three spots. I gave serious consideration to keeping Edwards, Durham and even Schilens on the 53-man roster. In the end, though, I went with Thomas winning the No. 4 spot at wide receiver, Fuller doing enough on offense and special teams to make the 53-man roster and Spurlock making the team as the starting returner. (Of all the positions, this prediction is probably the most likely to change in the coming weeks.)
I really want to buy into the Fauria hype, but unless he puts together a stellar camp and preseason or if there's an injury or trade, it's tough to find room on the roster for him. Williams seems like a solid bet to make the team as an H-back/blocking tight end, and really you'd have to take off a wide receiver to open up a spot for Fauria. I just don't see it happening right now.
Cut: Austin Holtz
This is about as straightforward as it gets. The top three is already set, and I like Waddle to beat out Holtz for the fourth spot at offensive tackle.
The interior of the offensive line is much tougher to predict. Ultimately, I went with Austin as one of the backups because he is young and seems to have a lot of upside. For the veteran backup spot, I went with Harris over Nagy, Gandy and Scott. That's really just a guess based on the contract the Lions gave Harris, though, so my confidence isn't exactly all that high when it comes to predicting this position.
This is pretty simple: If the Lions feel comfortable enough with only keeping three defensive tackles because of Jones and Idonije's versatility, then there is room for Lewis. Since I have four defensive tackles making the team, I just don't see a reason to keep a sixth defensive end who struggled to even contribute on special teams last year.
I didn't go with six defensive ends because I think the Lions would prefer to have four true defensive tackles on their roster. We should expect to see Jones and Idonije get work inside, but more on a situational basis. Keeping Nwagbuo around would allow the Lions to run a four-man rotation of true defensive tackles.
The only question at linebacker this year is who to keep as the sixth player at this position. Since the sixth linebacker will contribute quite a bit on special teams, I went with Greenwood because of his track record of success on that unit.
I think there are 10 spots available this year for defensive backs, and I originally planned to give six of those spots to the cornerback position. I don't think the Lions want to release Greenwood, but as you'll see below, there just wasn't room for him with five safeties making my 53-man roster.
If we knew that Delmas would stay healthy and make it through the entire season, I would switch Hope out for Greenwood. Since that's not the case, I see a need to keep five safeties. Having both Carey and Hope around as backups provides extra insurance, and Wendling probably isn't going anywhere considering he's one of the Lions' top special teamers.
It's pretty clear that Rugland is the fan favorite in his competition with Akers, but I would be surprised if Akers doesn't make the team unless he still isn't healthy. Similarly, I would be quite surprised if Martin doesn't make the team considering the Lions liked him enough to spend a fifth-round draft pick on him.