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2018 Detroit Lions roster: Preseason Week 4 53-man roster prediction

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Our final prediction before the preseason finale.

Detroit Lions v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions players have one more chance to impress their coaches and make their best case for a spot on the 53-man roster. Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns could be the difference between employment and retirement for some players.

But before we jump into post-game analysis, let’s take a look at where things stand prior to the game. Here’s my 53-man roster prediction based on performances throughout training camp and the first three preseason games.

Quarterbacks (2)

QB Matthew Stafford
QB Matt Cassel

QB Jake Rudock

Changes: None

It was nice to see Rudock go out there last week against the Buccaneers and lead a game-winning drive, but I already know who Rudock is, and he doesn’t belong on an NFL roster. Even though Matt Patricia talked up his outstanding studying behavior this week, the Lions need someone who can play. Cassel isn’t necessarily the answer, but if there are only two options, he’s the one.

Running backs (5)

RB Kerryon Johnson
RB Ameer Abdullah
RB LeGarrette Blount
RB Theo Riddick
FB Nick Bellore

RB Zach Zenner
RB Dwayne Washington

Changes: None

Nothing has changed my mind about any of these guys. This is the most clear-cut position on the team. Expect to see a lot of Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington Thursday night, as the other five backs will not only make the team, but could all be active on gamedays.

Wide receivers (4)

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

WR Teo Redding
WR Jace Billingsley
WR Brian Brown
WR Chris Lacy
WR Brandon Powell
WR Dontez Ford
WR Bradley Marquez

Changes: None

Brandon Powell has made a hell of a case to be the team’s fifth receiver, but I’m just not buying it. He’s too limited as a slot receiver only, making him far less valuable than TJ Jones, who could essentially fill in if any of the top three receivers go down. Powell’s return ability is a nice bonus, but the Lions are all set there, too.

Ultimately, there’s just no space for Powell on this roster, despite his obvious talent. Cross your fingers and hope that he makes it to the practice squad. If not, the Lions don’t really lose out on anything in 2018.

Tight ends (4)

TE Michael Roberts
TE Luke Willson
TE Levine Toilolo
TE Hakeem Valles

TE Marcus Lucas
TE Sean McGrath

Changes: Valles in.

I almost did it last time, but there’s no denying Hakeem Valles. Normally, I would downplay preseason performances from third or fourth-string players, but Valles was getting time with the first-team offense last week, and he remained productive. That’s all I needed to see to know this guy is not only making the team, but could be getting some targets once the regular season starts.

I’m tempted to give Michael Roberts the boot here, but the Lions just don’t have enough talent at the tight end position to be kicking last year’s fourth-round pick to the curb.

Offensive line (9)

OT Taylor Decker
OT Rick Wagner
OT Corey Robinson
OT Tyrell Crosby
OG T.J. Lang
G/C Graham Glasgow
OG Frank Ragnow
G/C Leo Koloamatangi
G Kenny Wiggins

OG Joe Dahl
OT Brian Mihalik
OT Jamar McGloster
OT Dan Skipper
OL John Montelus
C Wesley Johnson

Changes: Dahl out.

Last prediction I kept 10 offensive linemen, but if this preseason has proven anything, it’s that the Lions’ offensive line depth just doesn’t have enough talent to justify that many roster spots. Joe Dahl is the odd man out after a very up-and-down preseason, while Kenny Wiggins hasn’t exactly been good, but he has significant starting experience.

The question here is who will be the Lions’ backup center. Frank Ragnow obviously has positional versatility there, but so does Wesley Johnson and Leo Koloamatangi. Johnson seems to have been the first guy in throughout camp, but he’s play has been uninspiring, at best. Koloamatangi, too, has been inconsistent, but give me the guy with a higher upside.

Defensive line (8)

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
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter

DE Alex Barrett
DE Jeremiah Valoaga
DE Cam Johnson
DT Josh Fatu
DT Christian Ringo

Changes: Valoaga out, Barrett out

It’s pretty clear the Lions aren’t exactly happy with this set of players, as evidenced by Robert Ayers’ brief cameo with the team this week. I’m not exactly thrilled with this bunch either, so much like the offensive line, I’m just straight removing some of the depth here. In this case, two players.

While that may seem drastic, I may be cutting Alex Barrett, but I’m essentially replacing him with a linebacker who plays the same SAM/left defensive end position as him.

Valoaga misses the cut simply because the guy didn’t even play a defensive snap last week. He’s clearly behind the eight ball right now.

Linebackers (8)

LB Devon Kennard
LB Jarrad Davis
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
LB Christian Jones
LB Jonathan Freeny
LB Eli Harold
LB Miles Killebrew
LB Trevor Bates

LB Freddie Bishop
LB Chad Meredith
LB Darnell Sankey
LB Steve Longa (IR)

Changes: Longa out (IR), Harold in, Killebrew in, Bates in

Adding two more linebackers seems drastic, but eight overall linebackers is really not all that much for a team that is going to show a lot of 3-4 looks. And it makes logical sense when you think about who the additions are. Eli Harold is essentially taking Alex Barrett’s spot. Miles Killebrew is simply adding some coverage skills to the group, and Trevor Bates is replacing Longa’s special teams ability.

I chose Bates simply because he is regularly getting more preseason playing time both on defense (58 snaps) and special teams (31 snaps) than guys like Freddie Bishop (49, 26) and Chad Meredith (only one game played). It doesn’t hurt that he was formerly with the Patriots, too.

Defensive backs (10)

CB Darius Slay
CB Nevin Lawson
CB Teez Tabor
CB DeShawn Shead
CB Quandre Diggs
CB Jamal Agnew
S Glover Quin
S Tavon Wilson
S Charles Washington
S Tracy Walker

CB Mike Ford
CB Chris Jones
CB Antwuan Davis
S Rolan Milligan

Changes: None

The only thing I considered changing was putting Rolan Milligan over Charles Washington, simply because Milligan is getting a lot more playing time in the preseason. However, Milligan’s play has been rough, so I can’t justify that decision.

Special Teams (3)

K Matt Prater
P Sam Martin
LS Don Muhlbach

P/K Ryan Santoso

Changes: None

I’d write something witty about Don Muhlbach, but that’s Kent’s shtick.