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Lions 53-man roster prediction

The final round of NFL roster cuts is almost here. Here's my latest (and likely final) stab at predicting the Detroit Lions' 53-man roster.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday's game only caused me to make one change to my Detroit Lions 53-man roster prediction. However, it got me thinking about some different scenarios that could play out on the offensive side of the ball, and I want to take a look at some of them. First things first, though, here's my latest (and likely final) Lions 53-man roster prediction:

QB Matthew Stafford
QB Shaun Hill
QB Kellen Moore

RB Reggie Bush
RB Mikel Leshoure
RB Joique Bell
RB Montell Owens
RB Theo Riddick

RB Steven Miller

FB Shaun Chapas

WR Calvin Johnson
WR Nate Burleson
WR Ryan Broyles
WR Patrick Edwards

WR Matt Willis
WR Kris Durham
WR Corey Fuller
WR Micheal Spurlock
TE Brandon Pettigrew
TE Tony Scheffler
TE Michael Williams
TE Joseph Fauria

OT Riley Reiff
OT Corey Hilliard
OT Jason Fox
OT LaAdrian Waddle

OT Kevin Haslam

OG Rob Sims
OG Larry Warford
OG Jake Scott
OG Dylan Gandy

OG Rodney Austin
OG Darren Keyton

C Dominic Raiola

C Leroy Harris
DE Ziggy Ansah
DE Jason Jones
DE Israel Idonije
DE Willie Young
DE Devin Taylor

DT Ndamukong Suh
DT Nick Fairley
DT C.J. Mosley
DT Justin Bannan

DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen
DT Andre Fluellen
DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo
DT Xavier Proctor

LB Stephen Tulloch
LB DeAndre Levy
LB Ashlee Palmer
LB Tahir Whitehead
LB Travis Lewis
LB Chris White

LB Rocky McIntosh
LB Brandon Hepburn
LB Jon Morgan
CB Chris Houston
CB Darius Slay
CB Jonte Green
CB Bill Bentley
CB Rashean Mathis
CB Ron Bartell
CB Chris Greenwood

S Glover Quin
S Louis Delmas
S Don Carey
S John Wendling

S Tyrell Johnson
S Amari Spievey
S Martavius Neloms

K David Akers

P Sam Martin
P Blake Clingan

LS Don Muhlbach

Changes to the 53-man roster

Tyrell Johnson in, Ron Bartell out - The only change is one that I nearly made earlier in the week. I pulled the trigger on it this time around in part because Johnson actually started at safety on Thursday. Yes, Bartell came into camp as a starter, but would he bring more value to the team as a backup cornerback than Johnson would as a backup safety? I just don't think so. Johnson can contribute in a big way on special teams, and with Louis Delmas, Glover Quin and John Wendling banged up, keeping an extra safety makes sense. Plus, Rashean Mathis has essentially made Bartell expendable at cornerback.

Tough calls

The running back conundrum - I fully expect Theo Riddick to make this team. He has shown an ability to run and catch the ball, and the Lions have given him a look as a returner. I don't necessarily expect him to be a big-time contributor in 2013, but I don't think the Lions want to risk losing him. Unless Montell Owens goes on injured reserve (likely with the designation to return), there isn't room for both Riddick and Steven Miller, who flashed some potential as a running back and a returner on Thursday night. I'd love to keep both of them, but I'm expecting Riddick to make the team and Miller to end up on the practice squad.

Five wide receivers or four tight ends - Because there is so much talent at running back, there doesn't seem to be room for five wide receivers and four tight ends. This is unfortunate because Matt Willis deserves to make this team as the fifth wide receiver, but the Lions really can't afford to let Joseph Fauria go with Michael Williams injured. Like with Owens at running back, perhaps the Lions will put Williams on IR (again, likely with the designation to return), freeing up room for both Willis and Fauria. If not, though, Willis seems like the odd man out.

Interior offensive line - I still have absolutely no idea about which backups at offensive guard and center will make the team. Dylan Gandy, Jake Scott, Leroy Harris and Rodney Austin are all in the mix, and nobody has really jumped out in this competition. The Lions have a really tough decision on their hands since these players are all pretty similar.

Other close calls - The defensive line seems set, but there are still spots up for grabs at linebacker and in the secondary. At linebacker, Chris White, Rocky McIntosh and Brandon Hepburn are vying for a roster spot, and you have Bartell, Johnson, Amari Spievey and Chris Greenwood vying for one in the secondary.

Practice squad projection

My projection for the practice squad remains the same as earlier in the week. I have the following eight Lions cuts making the practice squad:

RB Steven Miller
FB Shaun Chapas
WR Corey Fuller
WR Kris Durham
OG Rodney Austin
DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen
LB Brandon Hepburn
CB Chris Greenwood

As mentioned earlier in the week, the Lions like to bring in guys from the outside for their practice squad. With so many notable players potentially getting released this year, perhaps they will keep more of their own cuts than usual, but it'd surprise me if at least one or two new faces aren't added to the practice squad despite my above projection.

Closing thoughts

You don't necessarily want to use your one spot on IR that allows a player to return later in the year on a backup before the regular season even begins, but it may be necessary to free up a roster spot on offense. Owens and Williams both seem like candidates for that, and using it would allow the Lions to keep Riddick, Willis and Fauria. Perhaps you could even throw Miller into the mix if the Lions decide they are content with four receivers.

The other possibility that keeps crossing my mind is a trade. Mikel Leshoure seems like the top candidate to be moved considering Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are established as the Lions' top two backs. With both Riddick and Miller emerging as being worthy of making the team, moving Leshoure would make a lot of sense, especially if you can make an upgrade at wide receiver at the same time. Perhaps the Lions view things differently, but it's something to consider going into the final round of cuts.

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