Now that the Detroit Lions are into the swing of things at training camp, it’s time to start projecting what the team’s roster may look like in September. We’re about a month away from the Lions cutting their roster down to 53 players, and plenty of spots are still up for grabs.
That being said, a week of training camp has already taught us a lot about how the team views some of their players. After having attended every single practice, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of where the players currently stand. So here is my 53-man roster prediction for the 2019 Detroit Lions.
Note: I know some of these choices don’t match up with what I said in this week’s Bubble Watch, but I’m fickle and change my mind on some of these players hourly. (ed. note: can confirm this)
Let’s get the easy ones out of the way:
IN: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage
OUT: David Fales
Tom Savage may be the best backup the Lions have had since Shaun Hill. He’s got a strong arm, and while his decision making hasn’t been the best, it’s been well ahead of David Fales.
Running backs (5)
IN: Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Zach Zenner, Ty Johnson, Nick Bawden (FB)
OUT: Mark Thompson
Thompson is starting to make a bigger impression now that the pads are on, but he still has a long ways to go to make a crack at the 53. Theo Riddick’s early release really cleared this one up.
At first, I was wary about keeping a fullback on this roster, but the amount of playing time Nick Bawden is getting in training camp and the level of his performance has me believing he’ll be an important part of this offense.
Tight ends (4)
IN: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Logan Thomas, Isaac Nauta
OUT: Jerome Cunningham, Austin Traylor
Of the four I’m keeping, only Jesse James has really disappointed in camp thus far. Hockenson has been a beast. Thomas has ups and downs but far more ups, and Nauta is already showing some long-term potential.
Wide receivers (5)
IN: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Jermaine Kearse, Travis Fulgham
OUT: Deontez Alexander, Jonathan Duhart, Andy Jones, Tom Kennedy, Chris Lacy, Brandon Powell, Tommylee Lewis
Okay, here’s where things get hairy.
Jermaine Kearse hasn’t exactly been impressive in camp, but he’s still the most versatile player they’ve got. I’m willing to wait and see if he develops chemistry with the quarterbacks. Remember, he didn’t have the benefit of OTAs and minicamp that some of these other receivers had.
As for that last spot, it really could belong to anyone right now. If not Fulgham, I probably would’ve put either Chris Lacy or Brandon Powell. At this point, I feel that spot will be won in the preseason.
Offensive linemen (9)
IN: Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner, Oday Aboushi, Joe Dahl, Tyrell Crosby, Andrew Donnal
OUT: Leo Koloamatangi, Ryan Pope, Beau Benzschawel, Micah St. Andrew, Luke Bowanko, Matt Nelson
I’m pretty confident in the first eight players in, but that last spot is tricky. The Lions have enough movable parts on the inside with Dahl and Glasgow that I think they may keep a fourth offensive tackle, especially since UDFA Beau Benzschawel hasn’t proven much of anything at camp yet.
His UDFA class companion Ryan Pope still has a long way to go, so I’m keeping Andrew Donnal. The Lions liked the veteran journeyman enough that they kept him on the roster almost all of 2018, despite not getting any playing time.
Defensive linemen (8)
IN: Da’Shawn Hand, Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson, Mike Daniels, Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Eric Lee, P.J. Johnson
OUT: Darius Kilgo, Fredrick Jones, Ray Smith, Kevin Strong, Jonathan Wynn, Mitchell Loewen, John Atkins
Man, making the defensive cuts this year is going to be a huge headache. The Lions’ top six defensive linemen are pretty much set in stone, but how many spots are available after that? And who of the remaining nine players will make their case in the next month?
Maybe it’s just recency effect, but I like what Eric Lee and P.J. Johnson have done with their early reps in place of injured players. Lee has a little more versatility than a guy like Mitchell Loewen, who is also playing well at camp.
P.J. Johnson is a tougher sell here. The Lions don’t really need to keep a backup nose tackle on the roster and Johnson is still a little (or a lot) raw. However, he’s already made some strides at camp. If he continues to play well, the Lions may not want to risk losing the late round selection during the waiver process.
IN: Devon Kennard, Jahlani Tavai, Jarrad Davis, Austin Bryant, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin
OUT: Garret Dooley, Tre Lamar, Anthony Pittman, Miles Killebrew, Steve Longa, Malik Carney
This was a little easier for me, although I was tempted to cut one defensive lineman and sneak Killebrew or Longa onto the roster.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin has made a believer out of me. While Christian Jones looked to be losing playing time even before he was injured, he’s still clearly above the remaining options on the roster.
IN: Darius Slay, Rashaan Melvin, Justin Coleman, Amani Oruwariye, Marcus Cooper, Jamal Agnew
OUT: Teez Tabor, Andre Chachere, Mike Ford, Dee Virgin
Teez Tabor is repping well ahead of guys like Amani Oruwariye and Marcus Cooper right now, but I think they’re just giving him a chance to prove himself.
Tabor is clearly playing better than ever, but I can sense the optimism slowly draining out. Cooper is taller and longer than Tabor, two traits the Lions value in cornerbacks, and I feel he’s been playing pretty well with the second-team defense. Oruwariye has the same length, and brings more promise for the future than Tabor.
I’ve severely underestimated Jamal Agnew’s value as a backup nickel cornerback, and he looks to be the leading candidate to be the team’s returner, both in the punt and kickoff game.
IN: Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Andrew Adams, Charles Washington
OUT: C.J. Moore, Tavon Wilson
The big “surprise” cut here is Tavon Wilson. While I love having the veteran presence on the team during training camp, there is just too much talent to justify keeping Wilson around in a coach-like role, even if Wilson took a pay cut. Ultimately, Charles Washington’s invaluable contribution on special teams wins him the final place in the secondary.
Special teams (3)
IN: Matt Prater, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach
OUT: Ryan Santoso
Same as it ever was.