It’s been three weeks since I’ve made a 53-man roster prediction, and a lot has changed since. We’ve seen two preseason games, a few players have been on and off the injury list, and position battles have shifted drastically.
So it’s time to revisit my predictions and take a crack at who may be on this team when the team has to make cuts in under two weeks.
IN: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage
OUT: David Fales, Josh Johnson
This, admittedly, is simply a leap of faith. There has been no update on Savage’s concussion suffered in the preseason opener, which either means that this is a severe concussion that could potentially mean the end of Savage’s football career or that the Lions are simply taking their time with him and not rushing him back. I choose to take the optimistic outlook.
Fales and Johnson haven’t shown me enough to believe either are capable of being the long-term option at backup.
Running backs (5)
IN: Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Zach Zenner, Ty Johnson, Nick Bawden (FB)
OUT: Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson showed some progress in preseason game two, but this still seems like a foregone conclusion.
Tight ends (4)
IN: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Logan Thomas, Isaac Nauta
OUT: Jerome Cunningham, Austin Traylor
The big question here is the status of Isaac Nauta. There’s little question to me that the Lions would prefer to carry four tight ends. We’ve seen throughout the preseason and training camp just how much this offense values versatile tight ends.
Nauta hasn’t helped himself with drops over the last couple of weeks, but I think we tend to all overreact to drops, especially in this case. Nauta didn’t have a drop problem in college and he looked fine in the first few weeks of camp. I’m not going to overreact here.
Wide receivers (5)
IN: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Brandon Powell
OUT: Deontez Alexander, Jonathan Duhart, Travis Fulgham, Andy Jones, Tom Kennedy, Jordan Lasley, Tommylee Lewis
Changes: Lacy in, Kearse out; Powell in, Fulgham out
The reserve wide receiver jobs remain wide open, and there still doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus among writers who is leading the pack. If anyone is distancing himself from the pack, it’s Chris Lacy, and that has more to do with him getting first-team reps than anything he’s actually producing on the field.
For the fifth spot, I handed it to Brandon Powell, simply because the Lions seem to like him, too. He’s getting plenty of reps at returner, we’ve seen some gadget plays with him in the past, and the Lions could probably use a slot receiver option if the injury bug hits Danny Amendola (again). Of all the position groups, however, I have the least confidence in this one.
Offensive linemen (8)
IN: Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner, Joe Dahl, Tyrell Crosby, Andrew Donnal
OUT: Oday Aboushi, Leo Koloamatangi, Ryan Pope, Beau Benzschawel, Micah St. Andrew, Luke Bowanko, Matt Nelson
Changes: Aboushi out
A lot of this rests in Tyrell Crosby’s long-term status. His injury suffered in Week 1 of the preseason is unknown in severity, but we do know that the Lions immediately moved Wiggins to tackle, which is probably not a great sign. Still, I’ll take the conservative route and assume he’ll be back.
Wiggins’ versatility, in my opinion, make Oday Aboushi redundant. Whether Wiggins or Dahl wins the starting left guard job, the ‘loser’ will provide a ton of position versatility for the team. Aboushi can’t make that same claim. Meanwhile, the team could probably use another backup tackle, so Donnal makes it by default.
It may be a little risky running with just eight offensive linemen, but the Lions just don’t have the talent to justify another roster spot. And, no, I’m not buying the Beau Benzschawel hype yet.
Defensive linemen (8)
IN: Da’Shawn Hand, Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson, Mike Daniels, Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Eric Lee, Kevin Strong
OUT: Fred Jones, Ray Smith, P.J. Johnson, Jonathan Wynn, Mitchell Loewen, John Atkins
Changes: Strong in, Johnson out
The top six defensive linemen are as set in stone as could possibly be. From there, it’s completely unknown. Eric Lee has been getting a ton of playing time early in preseason games, but hasn’t exactly flashed positively. However, I don’t have anyone else I can justify putting ahead of him.
Lions seventh-round pick P.J. Johnson just doesn’t look ready yet, so I’m putting Kevin Strong—who is way undersized to be a prototypical Matt Patricia defensive linemen—in instead. Strong has just been making play after play in training camp, and I can’t deny him any longer, despite his unusual fit in this defense.
IN: Devon Kennard, Jahlani Tavai, Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Miles Killebrew
OUT: Garret Dooley, Anthony Pittman, Steve Longa, Malik Carney
IR: Austin Bryant
Changes: Killebrew in, Bryant out (IR)
I hate predicting injuries, but I think Austin Bryant has a good chance of landing on IR. There’s no need to rush him into the defense, and his injury seemed significant enough at the time to justify the move.
It’s easy enough to slip Miles Killebrew into his spot, as the fourth-year linebacker/safety has played extremely well in the preseason and brings plenty on special teams to justify the roster spot.
IN: Darius Slay, Rashaan Melvin, Justin Coleman, Amani Oruwariye, Jamal Agnew, Teez Tabor
OUT: Andre Chachere, Mike Ford, Dee Virgin, Jamar Summers, Johnathan Alston
Changes: Tabor in, Marcus Cooper out (already released)
Teez Tabor is a hard guy to slot right now. He was trending to be an easy keep this year until an injury has had him sidelined for over two weeks now. Unfortunately for Detroit, they haven’t really shown enough depth to justify having anyone jump him in the depth chart. They’ve brought in a few new faces in Summers and Alston, but I’ll need to see more of both before I slot them a roster spot.
IN: Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Andrew Adams, Charles Washington, Tavon Wilson
OUT: C.J. Moore
Changes: Tavon Wilson in
By cutting the extra offensive linemen, it gives the Lions the opportunity to keep pretty much all of their talented safeties. Of the six I’m keeping, I think Charles Washington is the one with the least job security, even if he is one of the team’s best special teamers. He hasn’t shown much as a defender, and if you’re going to be carried on the gameday 46-man roster, you better bring it defensively in case of injury.
Special teams (3)
IN: Matt Prater, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach
OUT: Ryan Santoso
Same as it ever was.