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NFL Roster cuts: Mathbomb's Detroit Lions 53-man roster prediction

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A bunch of players have changed my mind from training camp until Week 1 of the regular season, so it’s time to make a prediction for who makes the final roster.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

In a normal season, the starters don’t change and the depth players maybe only shift in a couple spots from training camp to regular season. In 2016, the roster has changed quite a bit from the time training camp ended to now and that is both a positive and a negative for some players. Some many assumed were locks were already cut before the 4th preseason game even commenced. Others once considered the longest of long shots have played their way into consideration. We’ve looked before at how grim I felt the roster looked in 2016, and I’ve made at least one prediction prior to this point, but it’s time once again to try and project what the Detroit Lions roster will look like this season.

Players currently on roster: 53
QB Matthew Stafford TE Eric Ebron DE Ziggy Ansah CB Darius Slay
QB Dan Orlovsky TE Andrew Quarless (suspended) DE Devin Taylor CB Nevin Lawson
QB Jake Rudock TE Cole Wick DE Wallace Gilberry CB Quandre Diggs
TE Orson Charles DE Kerry Hyder CB Johnson Bademosi
RB Ameer Abdullah TE Adam Fuehne DE Anthony Zettel CB Alex Carter
RB Theo Riddick
DE Brandon Copeland CB Darrin Walls
RB Zach Zenner
CB Adairius Barnes
RB Dwayne Washington OT Riley Reiff DT Haloti Ngata CB Charles Washington
RB George Winn OT Taylor Decker DT Tyrunn Walker
OT Michael Ola DT A'Shawn Robinson S Glover Quin
FB Michael Burton OT Cornelius Lucas DT Khyri Thornton S Rafael Bush
OT Corey Robinson DT Stefan Charles S Tavon Wilson
WR Marvin Jones OT Luke Marquardt DT Gabe Wright S Miles Killebrew
WR Golden Tate DT Caraun Reid S Don Carey
WR TJ Jones OG Laken Tomlinson
S Isaiah Johnson
WR Anquan Boldin OG Larry Warford LB DeAndre Levy
WR Jace Billingsley OG Joe Dahl LB Tahir Whitehead K Matt Prater
WR Jay Lee OG Brandon Thomas LB Josh Bynes
WR Andre Roberts LB Kyle Van Noy P Sam Martin
WR Quinshad Davis C Travis Swanson LB Antwione Williams

C Graham Glasgow LB Jon Bostic (IR) LS Don Muhlbach
C Gabe Ikard LB Jayson DiManche
C Lemuel Jeanpierre LB Zaviar Gooden
LB Khaseem Greene

Quarterbacks

In: Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky, Jake Rudock

Jake Rudock didn’t do enough to convince me he was worth rostering in 2016. That said, my initial look at the roster only netted 49 out of 53 players, so I had to fill it out somehow. Rudock was the last player I added, as I’m confident he would clear waivers if cut and end up on the practice squad, but barring a better roster he ends up on a team he’ll be inactive for 16 games.

Running Backs

In: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, Michael Burton
Out: George Winn

George Winn was given no blocking to try and showcase his rushing skills for other teams, but it wouldn't have mattered anyhow by this point. From training camp to now, no player has improved more than Dwayne Washington, and while I feel people are getting ahead of themselves with how much impact he’ll have early, it is a very promising sign that he neither dropped a pass nor fumbled a football this preseason. A big play waiting to happen is what the Detroit Lions need, but it helps when the big plays trend positive instead of potentially game breaking and we've seen that this preseason. Michael Burton becomes more important than ever on runs with Washington, since that one big block may be all he needs.

Tight Ends

In: Eric Ebron, Cole Wick, Orson Charles, Andrew Quarless (Suspended), Brandon Pettigrew (PUP), Tim Wright (IR)

Practice Squad: Adam Fuehne

What a tough position. So many injuries and so little return so far. The good news is that Eric Ebron looks ready to play Week 1. The bad news is that the team’s best blocker is Andrew Quarless, and he’s on suspension, while its second best blocker is an injured and on PUP Brandon Pettigrew. Cole Wick, hyped throughout the preseason, barely justified his spot during the games, but due to depth, he makes the team until at least Quarless comes back and at best until Pettigrew returns. Charles hasn’t been great, or even good, but due to depth he’ll fill a spot until someone else comes back.

Offensive Line

In: Taylor Decker, Laken Tomlinson, Travis Swanson, Larry Warford, Riley Reiff, Michael Ola, Graham Glasgow, Joe Dahl, Corey Robinson

Out: Gabe Ikard, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Cornelius Lucas, Luke Marquardt
Practice Squad: Brandon Thomas

At first, my concern was for tackle depth. Against Buffalo, however, the Detroit Lions opted to use Joe Dahl at left tackle and he didn’t flub his ‘emergency’ audition. The little flexibility allows the Lions to move on from Cornelius Lucas, who played down to his competition with each string he faced, while they hope Michael Ola heals quickly. Newly acquired Brandon Thomas was the worst player on the field against Buffalo, but will probably get an extended look as a practice squad player since the former third-round pick has never actually played a down in the NFL.

Wide Receiver

In: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley, Corey Fuller (PUP)

Practice Squad: Jay Lee

Out: Quinshad Davis, Andre Roberts

A strong camp gave Quinshad Davis a busy preseason, but his many drops and tiny production likely keeps him off even the practice squad. Andre Roberts has struggled when asked to do anything other than a comeback route and reminds me of Matt Willis of years past. Between Jay Lee and Jace Billingsley, part of me thinks Lee gets the nod due to the focused role they showed in the preseason. Part of me, however, thinks the job goes to Jace Billingsley, who also brings special teams ability. Ultimately, that is where I deferred and Billingsley got the nod after a strong preseason finale and consistent improvement every time he sees a football field. If he clears waivers, Lee is a lock for the practice squad (assuming it’s the other way around, Billingsley would be as well), but Quinshad Davis flopped three of the four preseason contests and probably won’t be back despite a very strong training camp.

Defensive Line

In: Ezekiel Ansah, Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, Devin Taylor, Wallace Gilberry, Kerry Hyder, A’Shawn Robinson, Khyri Thornton, Gabe Wright, Anthony Zettel

Out: Caraun Reid, Brandon Copeland, Stefan Charles

This was one of the toughest positions, but I’m fairly confident in my final result. Anthony Zettel had a lot to prove and he did so by having a strong preseason from start to finish. Khyri Thornton was the third-best DL this preseason and an easy call. Caraun Reid struggled mightily, being moved further and further down the depth chart, while Gabe Wright managed to tread water. Kerry Hyder is the big surprise out of this group, as the defensive lineman showed he can be very disruptive in spurts if called upon to a regular roster.

Linebacker

In: DeAndre Levy, Kyle Van Noy, Tahir Whitehead, Antwione Williams, Josh Bynes, Jon Bostic (IR), Jayson DiManche

Out: Zaviar Gooden, Khaseem Greene

One of the team’s shallowest positions becomes a focus this preseason. Williams made the strongest case based on his preseason play, but the most impressive linebacker this preseason is Kyle Van Noy, who hadn’t really been campaigning for a roster spot. Recently acquired Jayson DiManche was one of my final additions based on his special teams ability and the depth concerns I have at linebacker. Keeping six LB wasn’t my original intention, but with Williams’ strong play and Bynes’ solid vet ability, I felt it was a good idea to keep an athletic linebacker sized special teamer around.

Cornerback

In: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Quandre Diggs, Johnson Bademosi, Alex Carter, Ian Wells (IR)

Practice Squad: Adairius Barnes

Out: Darrin Walls

Alex Carter hasn’t done anything to justify playing time, but the 21-year-old athlete wasn’t pushed off the roster by Darrin Walls, who flopped against Buffalo, or Adairius Barnes. Barnes is probably headed to the practice squad after redeeming his poor camp in the preseason with few mistakes while displaying super athleticism, but undersized Ian Wells was never released from IR, signalling the team likes his long term potential. Barring injury, Alex Carter will likely be a game day inactive for most if not all of the season.

Safety

In: Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Rafael Bush, Miles Killebrew, Don Carey

Practice Squad: Isaiah Johnson, Charles Washington

Out: None

The only player really in play here through the preseason was Don Carey. The sometimes brilliant, sometimes problematic special teams ace and reserve DB played very well once he was able to see the field and looks ready to wreak havoc on teams with Johnson Bademosi in 2016. Keeping two safeties on the practice squad isn’t common, but both Johnson and Washington bring different things to the table. Based on usage, it looks like they’re grooming both to be hybrid safeties and I’m interested to see how that plays out.

Specialists

In: Matt Prater, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach, Jimmy Landes (IR)

Once Landes went on IR, these positions were all filled out. With no injuries, that’s a strong 2016 squad.