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Roster cuts: Final 2017 Detroit Lions 53-man roster prediction

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A final crack at what the Lions’ roster may look like in 2017.

NFL: New York Jets at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have to cut their roster down to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. Thanks to Thursday’s poor preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, Lions coaches have a tough job on their hands. Several bubble players failed to make an impact. In fact, some really hurt their case with penalties, drops or missed tackles.

So for my final 53-man roster prediction, there were quite a few changes. I also get the feeling that due to injuries, the Lions’ initial 53-man roster will get altered by three or four players by the time Week 1 rolls around.

But without further ado, here is my final roster prediction.

Quarterbacks (2)

QB Matthew Stafford
QB Jake Rudock

QB Brad Kaaya (Practice squad)

Kaaya looked okay in his longest action in the preseason, but it’s also clear he has a long way to go before being NFL ready by any means. A year on the practice squad should do it.

Running backs (4)

RB Ameer Abdullah
RB Theo Riddick
RB Zach Zenner
RB Dwayne Washington

RB Matt Asiata
RB Tion Green (Practice squad)

Tion Green was the star of Thursday’s game, which only solidifies his position on the Lions’ practice squad. There’s really no point in keeping five running backs on the roster, seeing as the Lions will only keep, at most, four on the active gameday roster. None of the top four running backs played on Thursday, indicating that they are locks.

Wide receivers (4)

WR Marvin Jones Jr.
WR Golden Tate
WR Kenny Golladay
WR TJ Jones

WR Jace Billingsley (Practice squad)
WR Jared Abbrederis
WR Dez Stewart
WR Dontez Ford (Practice squad)
WR Michael Rector
WR Noel Thomas

Out: Jared Abbrederis

The biggest disappointment on Thursday was the play of both Jace Billingsley and Jared Abbrederis. Both had plenty of opportunities to impress against the Bills and both of them blew it. Billingsley muffed a couple punts and looked otherwise flat in the return game. Abbrederis had just a single catch and quickly fumbled it away.

I thought this team had enough talent to justify having a fifth receiver on the team. I was wrong.

Tight ends (4)

TE Eric Ebron
TE Darren Fells
TE Michael Roberts
TE Cole Wick

TE Khari Lee (Practice Squad)
TE Scott Orndoff
TE Robert Tonyan

No changes here. I’m not sure if Wick didn’t play on Thursday because of his injury or because he’s a roster lock, but either way, keeping four tight ends is a must, especially if the Lions only carry four receivers.

Offensive line (9)

OT Greg Robinson
OT Rick Wagner
OT Cornelius Lucas
OT Corey Robinson
OG T.J. Lang
OG Graham Glasgow
OG Joe Dahl
OG Brandon Thomas
C Travis Swanson

OT Taylor Decker (PUP)
OT Storm Norton (Practice squad)
OT Nick Becton
OG Connor Bozick
C Leo Koloamatangi (Practice squad)

In: Brandon Thomas, Corey Robinson
Out: Laken Tomlinson (traded), Storm Norton

I tried every which way to get Storm Norton off this roster. He proved Thursday he is just not ready for the big time, and that is completely understandable for an undrafted rookie. So I took a big leap of faith here by putting Corey Robinson on the final roster. Hear me out.

The Lions should carry four tackles, especially with Cornelius Lucas leaving Thursday’s game with an injury. The Lions released Cyrus Kouandjio earlier in the week, which tells me one of two things: either they’re confident with Norton or Corey Robinson is close to coming off the PUP list. I just see no way that it’s the former, because Norton has struggled all preseason.

With the Laken Tomlinson trade, I have Brandon Thomas taking his place on the roster. He’s slowly improved as the preseason went on, and he’s a guy Bob Quinn specifically targeted with a trade last year.

Defensive line (10)

DE Ezekiel Ansah
DE Cornelius Washington
DE Anthony Zettel
DE Alex Barrett
DE Jeremiah Valoaga
DE Pat O'Connor
DT A'Shawn Robinson
DT Haloti Ngata
DT Akeem Spence
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter

DE Kerry Hyder (IR)
DE Brandon Copeland (IR)
DE Armonty Bryant (Suspended list)
DT Jordan Hill (IR)
DT Khyri Thornton (Suspended list)
DE Giorgio Newberry
DT Ego Ferguson
DT Caushaud Lyons
DT Derrick Lott (Practice Squad)

In: Pat O’Connor

I don’t really think Pat O’Connor makes this roster. I think he’ll be on the practice squad this year, but his replacement, in my opinion, will be someone that’s not currently on the roster. I’m hoping by the time this is published, the Lions have swung a trade for someone (sure, Sheldon Richardson would be fine).

Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga have played well enough to justify roster spots, which should be terrifying for Lions fans. This whole unit is terribly thin. Six of the 10 players I have making the team are first or second-year players.

I don’t know much about Derrick Lott, but I know he’s practice squad eligible and he had a pretty decent game against the Bills. The Lions need DL help, so why not keep him around on the practice squad?

Linebackers (6)

LB Tahir Whitehead
LB Jarrad Davis
LB Paul Worrilow
LB Antwione Williams
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
LB Steve Longa

LB Thurston Armbrister
LB Nick Bellore

No changes here. The Lions can easily afford to keep a sixth linebacker and Longa makes a lot of sense.

Defensive backs (11)

CB Darius Slay
CB Nevin Lawson
CB Teez Tabor
CB DJ Hayden
CB Quandre Diggs
CB Jamal Agnew
S Glover Quin
S Tavon Wilson
S Miles Killebrew
S Don Carey
S Charles Washington

CB Tramain Jacobs
CB Adairius Barnes (Practice squad)
CB Josh Thornton
CB Johnson Bademosi
S Alex Carter (Practice squad)
S Rolan Milligan

In: Don Carey, Charles Washington
Out: Johnson Bademosi, Alex Carter

Johnson Bademosi was still playing deep into the Lions’ final preseason game, and that just can’t be a good sign for him. Luckily for the Lions, they have a slew of special teams players that can take his spot on the roster, including veteran Don Carey, who finally saw his first preseason action on Thursday.

Another one of those guys is Charles Washington, who continued to get playing time over Alex Carter early in the game. Washington had a bad missed tackle in the first quarter, but otherwise played okay. Carter failed to make an impression, and was still out there at the end of the game. I think this is the end of the road for the former third-round pick. I’m going to put him on the practice squad, but I think there’s a good chance a team puts a claim in for him.

Special Teams (3)

K Matt Prater
P Sam Martin
LS Don Muhlbach

P Kasey Redfern

In: Sam Martin
Out: Kasey Redfern

Call it a hunch, but I think Sam Martin is fine and the Lions were playing it safe with him.

Practice squad (10)

QB Brad Kaaya
RB Tion Green
WR Jace Billingsley
WR Dontez Ford
TE Khari Lee
OT Storm Norton
C Leo Koloamatangi
DT Derrick Lott
CB Adairius Barnes
S Alex Carter