By Saturday night, the Detroit Lions will have made their final cuts and will have only 53 players left on their roster. Who will take up those 53 spots is a tough call with many position battles still undecided, but things have been cleared up quite a bit at many positions over the past few weeks.
I'm not ready to call this my final 53-man roster prediction considering there is still one more preseason game to further clear things up, but this very well could be my final stab at the roster going into Saturday's cuts. It all depends on if anything noteworthy happens in Buffalo tonight. If nothing happens to change my current predictions, this is my last take at the Lions 53-man roster:
Cut: Zac Robinson
Although there was some talk at one point this preseason about Robinson pushing Stanton for the third QB job, nothing that has happened suggests Stanton will lose his spot. As a result, I once again went with Stafford, Hill and Stanton as the three quarterbacks.
Cut: Ian Johnson
Best, Morris and Logan all seem to have spots on the roster locked up. Brown and Harrison have spent the past few weeks battling for the other spots at running back, and I think both have played well enough to make the team. Harrison outlasted Mike Bell, and Brown has performed very well both as a runner and a receiver, and I can't see the Lions cutting him instead of Johnson.
I do want to point out that even if Brown and Harrison do make the roster, their spots aren't necessarily safe. I have a feeling the opening game roster will include a running back not currently on the team. Martin Mayhew could bolster the depth at this position with a trade or by signing a player let go by another team, so it isn't out of the question that the 53-man roster will ultimately include a running back currently on another team.
Keep (0): None
Cut: Matt Clapp
Going into training camp, I never would have imagined that I would predict the Lions to keep zero fullbacks. However, the move to release Jerome Felton earlier this week made it clear that the fullback position just isn't that important in the Lions offense anymore. As a result, I don't see Clapp making the team. When the Lions need a fullback it seems they will use Heller, so there just doesn't seem to be a spot on the roster for Clapp.
Johnson, Burleson and Young have been locks to make the team all preseason. The other spots at wide receiver were up in the air, but not anymore. Davis and Stovall have locked down the fourth and fifth receivers spots, clearly outperforming the other players at this position. While Williams has shown flashes of potential, he just hasn't been consistent enough to edge out Davis or Stovall.
Cut: Joe Jon Finley
If the Lions decide to keep one less running back, I could see Finley making the roster. He clearly has potential at tight end, and the Lions could also possibly use him at fullback like they have with Heller. I do have five backs making the team, so there just isn't room for Finley.
Cut: Kirk Chambers
Backus, Cherilus, Fox and Hilliard are locks to make the 53-man roster. The one question mark for me is what happens with Culbreath. Previously I had Thomas edging him out for the ninth spot on the offensive line, but I think Culbreath has done enough to secure a spot on the roster. He may not have more talent right now than Thomas, but after losing former seventh-round pick Lydon Murtha two years ago by putting him on the practice squad, I have a feeling the Lions won't take the same risk with Culbreath.
Cut: Donald Thomas
Because Hilliard has taken reps at guard as of late, the need to keep someone like Thomas is diminished. That is another reason why I think the Lions will hang on to Culbreath over Thomas. Depth at guard can be filled by the Lions' versatile offensive linemen like Hilliard and Gandy.
Although I do have Gandy making the roster, I would not be surprised if Niswanger ended up edging him out for the backup center/guard role.
Like quarterback, this is one position that hasn't changed at all during my previous predictions, and there's no reason to change it now. Vanden Bosch, Avril, Jackson and Young are going to make the team, and Williams and Dawson are likely going to be cut.
Suh, Williams, Fairley and Hill are locks to make the team. Although Fluellen's stranglehold on the fifth defensive tackle spot has loosened a bit with his hand injury and the great camp Callaway and Pitcock have had, I still have Fluellen making the team.
The interesting thing to watch for me at linebacker is if the Lions do in fact keep seven of them. If they decide six is enough and want to open up a spot at another position (like safety, for example), I could see the Lions parting ways with Ekejiuba or Hogue. That doesn't seem likely, though.
Vasher had a good enough preseason to make the team, but there just isn't a spot for him. Keeping six cornerbacks isn't possible if seven linebackers are going to make the team. Even if only six linebackers were kept, I have a feeling that would be to take an extra safety as opposed to someone like Vasher.
Cut: Ricardo Silva, Aaron Francisco
One of the hardest parts about this prediction was figuring out if Silva should be included on the 53-man roster. He has had an outstanding preseason and has made a lot of great plays. His preseason sort of reminds me of the one Berry had a year ago as he went from an undrafted free agent to making the team.
When it came down to it, I just couldn't create a spot for Silva. I know some have called for him to make the team over Coleman or Wendling, but I think the Lions value Coleman's experience and Wendling's special teams abilities too much to cut either of them. I could see Silva making the team over a seventh linebacker, but in the end I went with Hogue over Silva for the last spot on the defense. Obviously it will be a risk to try and put Silva on the practice squad, but it would be an even bigger risk to let go of Hogue, who was a fifth-round pick.
In any case, I think Silva will end up on the 53-man roster at some point; he may just have to wait a few weeks.
Cut: Nick Harris
Going into training camp, all eyes on special teams were focused on the battle at kicker between Hanson and Dave Rayner. That has since changed with Rayner already being released and Hanson retaining his starting job. The new battle to watch is at punter. The battle for that starting job is going down to the wire, and I think Donahue, the undrafted free agent from Iowa, will unseat the veteran Harris. I would have never imagined going into camp that Donahue would do well enough to take Harris' spot, but that is what appears to be happening as we head into the preseason finale.
Keep (8): RB Ian Johnson, FB Matt Clapp, WR Tim Toone, C Dan Gerberry, LB Caleb Campbell, LB Cobrani Mixon, CB Prince Miller, S Ricardo Silva
First, an explanation about the players not on the above list. I think QB Zac Robinson will be signed to another team's 53-man roster and therefore not be headed to the practice squad. If he clears waivers then clearly he will be on the practice squad. I also think guys like WR Nate Hughes and DT Robert Callaway will land a job with another team and therefore not end up on the Lions practice squad.
As for the players I have on the practice squad, there's not really a whole lot to discuss. Johnson and Clapp provide depth in the backfield in case of an injury, and Toone adds depth at receiver in case somebody goes down. Gerberry, Campbell and Mixon all have talent, but there just wasn't room on the roster for them. The same goes for Miller, who I have edging out Paul Pratt for a spot on the practice squad, and Silva, who has played well enough to make the 53-man squad.