NFL rosters can change drastically over the course of a 16-game season. Players get waived. Players get claimed on waivers. Players get traded. Players get put on the Injured Reserve. New faces are signed and old faces are replaced.
The 2018 Detroit Lions are no exception. In the summer months, we spent weeks wondering who will claim a spot on the final 53-man roster. We attempt to rationalize their role on the team. We debate whether or not another player can do that job better. Eventually, the Lions make their moves, and there is much discussion about who they kept and who they should have kept.
Let’s look back at the Lions’ original 53-man roster and see who is still on the active roster today.
QB Matthew Stafford
QB Matt Cassel
RB Kerryon Johnson RB Ameer Abdullah
RB LeGarrette Blount
RB Theo Riddick
FB Nick Bellore
WR Marvin Jones Jr. WR Golden Tate
WR Kenny Golladay
WR TJ Jones
WR Brandon Powell
WR Bradley Marquez
TE Michael Roberts
TE Luke Willson
TE Levine Toilolo
TE Hakeem Valles
OT Taylor Decker
OT Rick Wagner
OT Tyrell Crosby
OG T.J. Lang
OT Andrew Donnal
G/C Graham Glasgow
OG Frank Ragnow
G Kenny Wiggins
G Joe Dahl
DE Ezekiel Ansah DE Anthony Zettel
DE Kerry Hyder
DE/DT Da’Shawn Hand
DT A’Shawn Robinson
DT Ricky Jean Francois
DT Sylvester Williams
LB Devon Kennard
LB Jarrad Davis
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
LB Christian Jones
LB Eli Harold
LB Miles Killebrew
LB Trevor Bates
CB Darius Slay
CB Nevin Lawson
CB Teez Tabor
CB Quandre Diggs
CB Jamal Agnew
CB Dee Virgin
S Glover Quin
S Tavon Wilson
S Charles Washington
S Tracy Walker
K Matt Prater
P Sam Martin
LS Don Muhlbach
For those counting, that’s 14 players who are no longer on the active roster. Eight of these players are on the Injured Reserve: Johnson, Jones Jr., Roberts, Lang, Ansah, Hand, Reeves-Maybin, and Washington.
Let’s look at the other six players:
RB Ameer Abdullah — Waived on November 6, claimed by Minnesota Vikings. Currently on their roster.
WR Golden Tate — Traded to Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for third-round pick. Currently on their roster.
WR Bradley Marquez — Waived on September 11. Currently a free agent.
TE Hakeem Valles — Waived on October 6, signed to practice squad on October 9. Released on November 7. Currently on New York Giants’ practice squad.
DE Anthony Zettel — Waived on September 5, claimed by Cleveland Browns. Currently on their roster.
DT Sylvester Williams — Released on October 25. Signed with Miami Dolphins. Currently on their roster.
This doesn’t account for players that were cut then re-signed—such as Dee Virgin or Trevor Bates—nor does it include players who were signed then cut—such as Don Carey or Robert Ayers.
RB Zach Zenner — Zenner was placed on the Lions’ Injured Reserve to start the season, as he was recovering from a back injury. He was waived on September 12. However, after waiving Abdullah in November, the Lions brought him back. With Johnson on the Injured Reserve, Zenner has got extended looks at the running back position.
WR Chris Lacy — Lacy was signed to the original September practice squad; he was the longest-tenured member of the practice squad prior to his promotion on December 22.
WR Andy Jones — Jones started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He was activated on November 3 and played against the Vikings the next day. He was waived on the 5th and signed to the practice squad on the 7th. His stint on the practice squad was short, as he was promoted on November 17.
TE Jerome Cunningham — Cunningham bounced from the practice squad to unemployed multiple times this season before finally getting promoted to the active roster on December 11.
OL Leo Koloamatangi — Koloamatangi technically made the original 53-man roster, but he was waived on September 2 once waiver claims were awarded, so I didn’t include him. He spent most of the season on the practice squad before being promoted on December 11.
DE Romeo Okwara — Okwara was claimed on waivers from the Giants on September 5 and has been a starting end for the Lions, racking up 7.5 sacks.
DT Damon Harrison — The Lions traded a fifth-round draft pick to the Giants for Snacks on October 25, and this might be the steal of the century for the Lions. Maybe the Lions should acquire more former Giants players? No, not you, Eli.
DT John Atkins — Atkins was a member of the practice squad for a majority of the season, though he was released from it on November 30. He was re-signed and promoted a few weeks later.
DE Eric Lee — Lee earned an early promotion for the Lions in September, but was soon waived and re-signed to the practice squad. He was promoted again on December 5.
LB Nicholas Grigsby — Grigsby is a recent acquisition, having only been signed to the practice squad on November 17. He was signed to the active roster on November 26.
LB Kelvin Sheppard — Sheppard was signed on October 31. That’s it. Nothing else to it. These don’t all have to be complicated transactions, eh?
CB Mike Ford — Ford was an early practice squad signee, and, along with Lacy, is the only member of the original September practice squad to still be with the team. He was promoted to the starting lineup on November 14.
CB Marcus Cooper — Cooper was claimed on waivers from the Chicago Bears on November 23.
CB DeShawn Shead — Shead was originally billed as a possible starter when he was signed last offseason. After a mediocre preseason, he was released on cut down day, though he would be re-signed on September 19.
Overall, the Lions have been pretty quiet when it comes to acquiring outside talent. Of the 14 new players listed above, only four of them—Okwara, Harrison, Sheppard and Cooper —were not part of the Lions prior to their acquisition. A majority of the players spent time on the practice squad, illustrating the importance of knowing scheme.
We talk about the 53-man roster as though it is a safe haven—if you survive the September cuts, you’ve suddenly made it big. A roster spot in the NFL is never secure. In the end, players are cut. Some find a home on the practice squad. Some find a home with another team. Some do not.