The last week or so has been a little hectic for the Detroit Lions. We saw two big injury scares in Friday’s preseason game, but a handful of key backups returned to practice on Monday. The Lions have gone through some personnel changes at the skill positions—quarterback, running back and wide receiver—and the activation of Steve Longa could have a drastic impact on the shape of this roster.
With cut day now less than a week away, it’s time for my penultimate 53-man roster prediction.
IN: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage
OUT: Luis Perez, Josh Johnson
It turns out my intuition about Tom Savage being able to return to play in time for Week 1 was right, and this now seems like a foregone conclusion. Luis Perez was added Tuesday, but there’s no way he’s fighting for the backup job. Realistically, he can only make a case for a practice squad spot.
Running backs (5)
IN: Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Zach Zenner, Ty Johnson, Nick Bawden (FB)
OUT: Mark Thompson, John Stockton
While I’m tempted to put Mark Thompson in Zach Zenner’s spot, Zenner’s special teams value is too much to pass up. Still, it doesn’t seem likely the Lions will keep all five of these active on gameday, so it’s possible Zenner gets the axe.
Tight ends (4)
IN: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Logan Thomas, Isaac Nauta
OUT: Jerome Cunningham, Austin Traylor
No changes here as the Lions really need to carry four tight ends on this roster. I’ve yet to see anyone truly challenge Nauta for that final spot, but Jerome Cunningham has looked good on special teams.
Wide receivers (5)
IN: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Brandon Powell
OUT: Jonathan Duhart, Travis Fulgham, Andy Jones, Tom Kennedy, Tommylee Lewis
I keep waiting for someone to convince me otherwise, but Chris Lacy and Brandon Powell give the Lions the best depth and most versatility at the receiver position.
Offensive linemen (8)
IN: Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner, Joe Dahl, Tyrell Crosby, Oday Aboushi
OUT: Andrew Donnal Leo Koloamatangi, Ryan Pope, Beau Benzschawel, Micah St. Andrew, Luke Bowanko, Matt Nelson
Changes: Andrew Donnal out, Oday Aboushi in
Okay, finally we have some differences. With the return of Tyrell Crosby, the need for another depth offensive tackle is lessened. Andrew Donnal hasn’t played well enough to deserve a roster spot, so now that it’s not as big of a need, he’s an easier cut.
Meanwhile, with Frank Ragnow’s status up in the air for Week 1, the Lions should probably keep some additional depth on the inside. I debated keeping a center over Aboushi, but Joe Dahl could slide over in a pinch.
Defensive linemen (8)
IN: Da’Shawn Hand, Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson, Mike Daniels, Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Kevin Strong, Mitchell Loewen
OUT: Eric Lee, Fred Jones, Ray Smith, P.J. Johnson, Jonathan Wynn, John Atkins
Changes: Eric Lee out, Mitchell Loewen in
Eric Lee returned from injury on Monday, but even when healthy, it was hard to justify a roster spot for him. Mitchell Loewen has a little more experience and has made a few more plays in training camp to justify a spot here. But, in reality, none of the Lions’ reserves should feel safe right now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lions poach another team’s cuts like they did last year with Romeo Okwara.
IN: Devon Kennard, Jahlani Tavai, Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Miles Killebrew, Steve Longa
OUT: Garret Dooley, Anthony Pittman, Malik Carney
IR: Austin Bryant
Changes: Steve Longa in
The Jarrad Davis injury necessitates another roster spot devoted to the linebackers, in my opinion. With Steve Longa’s timely return from the Physically Unable to Perform list, he seems like the best candidate to step in. He’s a special teams ace, and the rest of the Lions’ linebacker depth has been underwhelming, to say the least.
IN: Darius Slay, Rashaan Melvin, Justin Coleman, Amani Oruwariye, Jamal Agnew, Teez Tabor
OUT: Andre Chachere, Mike Ford, Dee Virgin, Jamar Summers, Johnathan Alston
With Teez Tabor returning to practice, it makes this corner situation a little easier to figure out. Though a guy like Dee Virgin may provide more special teams value, the Lions need guys who can play defense. And while Tabor has yet to prove his improvements this offseason are real, he’s shown more potential than anyone else on reserve.
IN: Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Andrew Adams, Charles Washington
OUT: C.J. Moore, Tavon Wilson (trade)
Changes: Tavon Wilson out
The addition of an extra linebacker means the Lions have to part ways with their overcrowded safety room. You can make a serious case for all seven of Detroit’s safeties to make the roster, but ultimately C.J. Moore is out due to his practice squad eligibility and I have the Lions moving Tavon Wilson. Maybe he reunites with the Patriots—who could be without Patrick Chung early on. Maybe he finds a home elsewhere. Either way, I think he has the most trade value of anyone in danger of getting cut at safety.
Special teams (3)
IN: Matt Prater, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach
OUT: Ryan Santoso
Same as it ever was.