The Detroit Lions cut down their roster to 53 players, as NFL rules dictate. As expected, there were a few surprises along the way. So let’s jump right into it. Here are my six takeaways from this weekend’s initial cuts.
Surprises at quarterback
Not only did the Lions surprise many by trading for what will apparently be their third-string quarterback in David Blough, but the Lions went against the grain by picking veteran Josh Johnson as the backup over Tom Savage.
While Johnson finished the preseason strong with a great performance against the Browns, he has only been with the team for three weeks. Going into the regular season with a backup that fresh is a little risky, but Johnson did everything he could to give the Lions confidence in that decision.
Short on skill position players
The Lions went with just four running backs (including fullback), three tight ends and five receivers. Compare that to last year: 5 RBs, 6 WRs and 4 TEs. Having fewer skill position players allowed the Lions to keep a third quarterback and a whopping 12 defensive backs.
Speaking of defensive backs, I don’t think anyone expected the Lions to keep seven cornerbacks and for none of them to be named Teez Tabor. Mike Ford and Dee Virgin were the surprises that landed on the roster, with Ford having a fantastic preseason finale and Virgin showing his chops as a special teamer. In fact, it may have been Virgin’s special teams skills that knocked Charles Washington off the roster—one of the more surprising cuts of the night.
Good injury news?
The Lions didn’t keep any reserve linebacker that were long shots to make the roster, including Steve Longa. Does that potentially mean that fourth-round draft pick Austin Bryant is closer to a return than we expected? The fact that Detroit cut Mitchell Loewen and Eric Lee are also positive signs for that outcome, as both played some jack linebacker during the preseason.
On the other hand, the fact that the Lions kept Beau Benzschawel—who really struggled against the Browns—could mean that Detroit is preparing for at least one week without starting center Frank Ragnow.
Congratulations to three undrafted rookies, who ended up making the Lions’ 53-man roster: guard Beau Benzschawel, DT Kevin Strong and safety C.J. Moore.
Considering those three made it ahead of two draft picks that were cut—P.J. Johnson and Isaac Nauta—that’s a serious accomplishment worth acknowledging. Strong and Moore particularly earned their spots with a fantastic showing from the start of training camp and beyond.
And as a little reminder, we’re following Moore’s path throughout the entire rookie season. Part 1 of this UDFA ongoing series is here.
Practice squad prediction
Here’s my best guess for the players waived this weekend that will make the Lions’ 10-man practice squad. You may notice I didn’t pick 10 players, as the Lions could potentially add other teams’ cuts:
- TE Isaac Nauta
- RB Mark Thompson
- DT P.J. Johnson
- LB Malik Carney
- LB Anthony Pittman
- WR Jonathan Duhart
- CB Andre Chachere