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Updating the Detroit Lions' position battles: Defense

Just days away from the Detroit Lions' final cuts, we take a look at where the defensive players stand in their position battles.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

With the final cuts looming just days away, let's turn our focus to the defensive side of the ball and take a look at the Detroit Lions' most interesting position battles.

Defensive end

Featured camp battle: Larry Webster vs. Darryl Tapp vs. Devin Taylor vs. Corey Wootton vs. Phillip Hunt for the No. 3 DE job

Other camp battles: The runners-up from the featured camp battle for the No. 4 and No. 5 DE jobs

All preseason, injuries have forced the Lions to test their depth on the defensive line. Unfortunately, Detroit hasn't seen any of their defensive ends step up in Jason Jones' absence. Phillip Hunt has been the closest player to making an impact, but he hasn't done it on a consistent basis yet. On the other side of the spectrum, you'd be hard pressed to find someone with a more disappointing preseason than Larry Webster. The good news for Webster is he is still practice squad eligible, if the Lions decide to pass on him. I think Darryl Tapp and Devin Taylor are safe for the time being, despite a quiet, uneventful preseason.

Defensive tackle

Featured camp battle: Tyrunn Walker vs. Caraun Reid vs. Gabe Wright for the second starting DT job

Other camp battles: The runners-up from the featured camp battle for the No. 3 DT job, the battle for the No. 4 DT job

Gabe Wright is basically out of the discussion for a starting DT job. His preseason hasn't been awful, but it hasn't been good. Tyrunn Walker, however, has shown that he's more than capable stepping into a big role on the defensive line, especially during his performance in Jacksonville. The jury is still out on Caraun Reid, since he has been sidelined with an ankle injury since the second preseason game.

Beyond Reid and Walker, who have roster spots locked up, the Lions are waiting for someone between Wright, Jermelle Cudjo and Corey Wootton to step up. It hasn't been pretty, but Wright has an edge up on a roster spot simply by being a 2015 draft pick and having one heck of a frame.


Featured camp battle: Tahir Whitehead vs. Travis Lewis for the starting SLB job

Other camp battles: Kyle Van Noy vs. Julian Stanford vs. Brandon Copeland vs. Josh Bynes for the final spot at linebacker

Kyle Van Noy doesn't seem to be in the mix for the starting job any longer, after suffering an injury and just looking lost in his last preseason game. Tahir Whitehead was deemed a lock as a starter a few weeks ago, but the Lions have been giving Travis Lewis all of the starting reps over the past week. This may just be a test to see what they have in Lewis, but he may have a real crack at the starting lineup, and Thursday's final preseason game may be his final chance to make his case.

With Van Noy's seemingly miraculous recovery from his injury, he no longer seems like a lock for the short-term IR list. That means he's right in the middle of the linebacker battle for the final few spots on the roster. Assuming Van Noy is going to be fully healthy by the start of the season, he has to be the leader to earn a roster spot. After him, Stanford, Copeland or Bynes will likely win that final spot via special teams talents.


Featured camp battles: Quandre Diggs vs. Josh Wilson vs. Nevin Lawson for the No. 1 nickelback job

Other camp battles: The runners-up from the featured camp battle vs. Alex Carter vs. Crezdon Butler for the final few CB roster spots

The starting nickelback position is likely more of a two-man battle between Josh Wilson and Nevin Lawson. Quandre Diggs has shown enough to warrant a roster spot, but he's a bit of a longshot to win the nickelback job. Between Wilson and Lawson, I think the Lions are leaning toward the younger, more-promising Lawson, but Wilson's experience brings a nice sense of security to the position.

If Alex Carter can shake his injury, he's a near-lock to make the final 53-man roster. This is bad news for Crezdon Butler, the only cornerback left on the current roster.


Featured camp battle: Don Carey vs. Nate Ness vs. Isaiah Johnson vs. Brian Suite for the No. 4 spot at safety

Other camp battles: Isaiah Johnson vs. Brian Suite for a practice squad spot

I have a hard time believing the No. 4 spot is actually up for grabs. Although he hasn't had a great preseason, Don Carey has the versatility and special teams skills that the Lions want out of the backup safety position. That means Nate Ness is very much in danger of being cut on his birthday.

Isaiah Johnson and Brian Suite are likely to get the axe as well, but they have the fortune of being practice squad eligible. Johnson has been getting more playing time in the preseason games, which is usually an indication that he's ahead of Suite on the depth chart.