The Detroit Lions have to cut their roster down from 75 to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. They have some tough decisions to make before then, and below is my final projection for their 53-man roster.
Keep (2): Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky
Cut: Kellen Moore
Let me make this clear. If it were up to me, I would keep Moore, make him the backup quarterback and cut Orlovsky. Moore clearly outplayed Orlovsky in the preseason. However, I think the Lions made up their minds on the backup job when they signed Orlovsky, and they have shown no indication that Moore is even in consideration for the No. 2 role. As a result, Moore is the odd man out.
I originally went into this projection expecting to keep three quarterbacks after the job Moore did in the preseason, but I just couldn't find room for him. Ideally, Moore will clear waivers and stick around with the Lions as a member of the practice squad even if he is released, but there's obviously no guarantee that will happen. That's a chance I think the Lions will be willing to take in order to keep an extra wide receiver, though.
Keep (3): Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick
Cut: George Winn, Mikel Leshoure
If the Lions opt to keep four running backs, Winn seems to have the edge over Leshoure. Winn ran the ball better in the preseason and did more on special teams. However, I don't see either player making the team. With Montell Owens able to play running back and fullback and contribute on special teams, it'd be a bit redundant to have Winn as well. And Leshoure simply is not one of the 53 best players on this team, so his time in Detroit should come to an end this weekend.
Winn does seem like a pretty safe bet for the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers, of course.
Keep (2): Jed Collins, Montell Owens
Cut: Emil Igwenagu
Two fullbacks? Is that really necessary? It is when the two fullbacks bring such different things to the table. Collins is the more traditional fullback, and he is expected to be in a starting role. Owens, meanwhile, can do a few different things, as mentioned earlier. I think his versatility will keep him on the team going forward.
Keep (6): Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross
Cut: Corey Fuller, Patrick Edwards, Andrew Peacock
Durham and Ogletree seem like they are safe after starting games in the preseason and being so involved with the No. 1 offense. Ross is also safe considering he is the Lions' starting returner. If the Lions only keep five receivers, that would leave both Broyles and Fuller on the outside looking in, but I just can't see them releasing Broyles after he battled back from another serious injury and looked so impressive in the preseason. Fuller was also impressive in the preseason, but like Moore, I think the Lions will take a chance on him clearing waivers and ending up on the practice squad.
Keep (3): Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, Eric Ebron
Cut: Jordan Thompson, Michael Egnew
This is about as simple as it gets. The top three is pretty clear, and the two backups are really just candidates for the practice squad.
Keep (4): Riley Reiff, LaAdrian Waddle, Corey Hilliard, Cornelius Lucas
Cut: Michael Williams
We still don't know if Waddle or Hilliard is going to start at right tackle, but they're both going to make the team. This means that the only spot on the roster that is up for grabs is between Lucas and Williams. Williams has really come a long way since converting from tight end to offensive tackle a few short months ago, but I still think Lucas has the edge, meaning Williams will likely end up on the practice squad.
Keep (5): Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola, Larry Warford, Travis Swanson, Garrett Reynolds
Cut: Rodney Austin, Darren Keyton
Four spots are locked in here, leaving the final spot between Reynolds and Austin. Although Austin has been viewed as a lock by many for that final spot, he really got outplayed by Reynolds in the preseason. Rather than keep two developmental backups (Austin and Swanson), I have the Lions keeping Reynolds over Austin for some veteran experience in the interior of the offensive line. As a result, Austin gets pushed back to the practice squad in this scenario, unless he's claimed off waivers by another team.
Keep (6): Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Devin Taylor, Larry Webster, George Johnson, Darryl Tapp
It's a safe bet that the first five players listed above are going to make the team. Tapp is really the only one in question at this point, but with Kyle Van Noy sidelined after having surgery, there should be room for him on the 53-man roster. Tapp has the ability to be a pass-rushing linebacker, and he could help make up for the loss of Van Noy in addition to playing defensive end.
Keep (4): Ndamukong Suh, C.J. Mosley, Nick Fairley, Caraun Reid
Cut: Andre Fluellen, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Xavier Proctor
Like tight end, this is a pretty straightforward position. The top four is set, meaning that some talented backups are going to be released. Look for at least one of Saddler-McQueen and Proctor to end up on the practice squad, and the Lions could even keep both of them like they did last year.
Keep (5): DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Tahir Whitehead, Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis
Put on IR with designation to return: Kyle Van Noy
Cut: Julian Stanford, Brandon Hepburn, Shamari Benton
After having surgery to repair a "core muscle injury," I just can't see Van Noy being ready to contribute in the first couple months of the season. As a result, the Lions would be better off freeing up a roster spot by putting Van Noy on injured reserve with the designation to return. He will miss the first half of the season if that happens, but the Lions could use an extra roster spot, and they should be able to get by with Whitehead starting at strongside linebacker. This leaves room for Palmer and Lewis as the backups, with Tapp potentially filling in at linebacker as well.
Keep (5): Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Nevin Lawson
Cut: Chris Greenwood, Mohammed Seisay
I'm pretty comfortable with the top five, and I'm pretty comfortable predicting that Seisay will end up on the practice squad. I'm not quite as sure about what will happen with Greenwood, but I just think the Lions will keep a fifth safety for now and try to get Greenwood back to the practice squad, at least for the start of the season.
Keep (5): Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo, Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jerome Couplin
Cut: Nate Ness
One of the toughest calls on the entire roster is how many safeties will make the team. Abdul-Quddus has seemingly played his way on to the roster, but will the Lions simply go with him and Carey as the backups? Could Couplin and Abdul-Quddus be the backups with Carey being released or put on injured reserve (he's dealing with a hamstring injury)? It's tough to say, but I don't think the Lions will release Couplin at this point. If anybody is let go from that group, I actually think Carey will be the odd man out, but again, I'm really not sure since we know so little about his injury and how severe it is.
Keep (3): Nate Freese, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach
Since the Lions released their backup kicker and backup punter earlier in the week, their three special teams spots are already set.
This has really been the toughest year for 53-man roster predictions in some time. A big part of that is that the Lions have a new head coach and we haven't yet had a chance to learn Jim Caldwell's tendencies at certain positions. That's only part of it, though.
The other major thing making this so difficult is that the Lions have so much talent. They only have room for 53 players, but you could make a case for 56 or 57 guys being deserving of a spot on the team. As a result, some tough decisions will have to be made, and there will almost certainly be some risks when it comes to trying to get players to the practice squad. I suppose that's the nature of the beast, though, and it's nice that the Lions are overflowing with talent for a change instead of struggling to find 53 players worthy of actually making the team.