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Evaluating the Lions roster: Defense & special teams

The Detroit Lions have established their 2014 roster. Let's take an in-depth, position-by-position look at the defense and special teams.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have established their 53-man roster for the 2014 regular season. Let's examine each position on defense and special teams by breaking down who made the team. (You can see the offensive breakdown here.)

Defensive end (6): Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Devin Taylor, George Johnson, Larry Webster, Darryl Tapp

Initially, the Lions only had five defensive ends, but they went up to six by re-signing Darryl Tapp on Tuesday. He gives them even more depth at an already deep position. Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones are the starters, and the primary backups are Devin Taylor and George Johnson, who was the surprise of training camp. The Lions also have rookie Larry Webster, who showed a lot of promise in the preseason. This position looks to be in excellent shape right now, and the Lions really appear to be set here going forward as well.

Defensive tackle (4): Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid

The future of the defensive tackle position is quite uncertain with the top three all headed for free agency next year, but this is another extremely deep position. Ndamukong Suh is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, and Nick Fairley has the potential to be quite good as well (if he can keep his weight down and stay motivated, that is). Behind them, C.J. Mosley is an excellent backup who can start if called upon, and Caraun Reid is another promising rookie on the D-line.

Linebacker (5): DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Tahir Whitehead, Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis

With Kyle Van Noy going on injured reserve with the designation to return, the Lions are down to five linebackers. DeAndre Levy is the starter on the weak side, and Tahir Whitehead is the starting strongside linebacker after an excellent finish to the preseason. In the middle is once again Stephen Tulloch, and Ashlee Palmer and Travis Lewis are the backups who will see a lot of time on the special teams units.

Cornerback (5): Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Nevin Lawson

The Lions are pretty young at cornerback despite the fact that 34-year-old Rashean Mathis is one of their starters. Darius Slay is the other starter, and he's hoping to play much better this year after a tough rookie season. Bill Bentley, meanwhile, figures to be the Lions' nickelback again, and Cassius Vaughn figures to be the primary backup. The Lions also have rookie Nevin Lawson, but he should only see the field if injuries pile up ahead of him.

Safety (5): Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo, Don Carey, Jerome Couplin, Isa Abdul-Quddus

Glover Quin is set to be the Lions' starting free safety, while James Ihedigbo will step into the strong safety role. Don Carey is expected to be the top backup at safety if he's healthy, and he also has the ability to play nickelback and special teams. The Lions also have Isa Abdul-Quddus and undrafted free agent Jerome Couplin, who both made the team after strong performances in the preseason. They will be featured mainly on special teams unless an injury gives them a chance to play on defense.

Special teams (3): Nate Freese, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach

With Sam Martin and Don Muhlbach back at punter and long snapper, the only new player here is seventh-round pick Nate Freese. He beat out Giorgio Tavecchio to become the Lions' starting kicker, and he will try to give the team some long-term stability at this position after the David Akers experiment didn't exactly work out last year.

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