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Erik’s Detroit Lions training camp 53-man roster prediction 1.0

Who’s in and who’s out?

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Welcome to the first day of the Detroit Lions 2021 training camp.

The long wait is over and what better way to kick off the day than with a pre-training camp 53-man roster prediction article. If you’ve been following along with my Lions training camp battle preview series, then you’ve probably got a fairly good idea of how this article will play out. But if you happened to miss any of the pieces—or just want to read them again—I’ve provided a link to the preview article that matches each position group.

Let’s get started

Quarterbacks (2)

Jared Goff
Tim Boyle
David Blough

Tim Boyle vs. David Blough for QB2

Throughout the spring, this battle was an even race but Boyle consistently received second-team reps over Blough, leading to Boyle getting the nod here. The next question becomes, is there room for three quarterbacks on the roster, because being one injury away from only rostering one signal-caller who knows the system is a bit scary.

Running backs (4)

D’Andre Swift
Jamaal Williams
Jermar Jefferson (R)
Jason Cabinda (FB)
Dedrick Mills (R)
Michael Warren II

Is Jermar Jefferson RB3 or will he face competition?

1-2-3 feel pretty safe to me, and both the Saints (coach Dan Campbell) and Chargers (offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn) have kept a traditional fullback in recent years, which bodes well for Cabinda’s chances of making the roster.

Wide receivers (6)

Tyrell Williams
Breshad Perriman
Amon-Ra St. Brown (R)
Quintez Cephus
Kalif Raymond
Damion Ratley
Victor Bolden
Geronimo Allison
Sage Surratt (R)
Chad Hansen
Tom Kennedy
Javon McKinley (R, NFI list)

Who will fill the all-important WR4 role?

After the top four receivers, the other two spots feel very unsettled, but I’m leaning towards the hand-picked free agents for now. Raymond vs. Bolden is going to be a tight battle, while Ratley will have to hold off Allison, Surratt, and Hansen. Kennedy, who missed most of spring camp, and McKinley, who is currently on the NFI list, need to get healthy if they want to get back in the mix.

Tight ends (3)

T.J. Hockenson
Darren Fells
Alizé Mack
Jake Hausmann (R)
Hunter Thedford
Brock Wright (R)
Charlie Taumoepeau

How many tight ends will make the roster?

When I wrote this preview article I was leaning towards the Lions keeping Hausmann as an H-back, but after giving the rest of the roster a closer look, I just can’t justify keeping a fourth tight end over some other spots of need. I’ll be keeping a close eye on if my gut feeling was right or if I made the proper adjustment.

Offensive Tackles (4)

Taylor Decker - LT
Penei Sewell (R) - RT
Tyrell Crosby - Swing OT3
Matt Nelson - Swing OT4/G
Dan Skipper
Darrin Paulo

Rounding out the offensive line

There are certain position groups that are so critical that you need three capable starters in case one player is injured and offensive tackle is one of those groups. Seeing Crosby back in a swing tackle role fills my heart with warmth and security.

Guards/Centers (5)

Frank Ragnow - C
Jonah Jackson - LG
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - RG
Logan Stenberg - reserve G
Evan Brown - reserve C/G
Drake Jackson (R)
Tommy Kraemer (R)
Evan Heim (COVID list)

Rounding out the offensive line

The starters are locked in, while the reserves are anything but. Stenberg gets the nod based on his upside but we haven’t seen him practice in a contact environment in almost a year, so I’m banking on some development. Brown gets the nod over Jackson from me based on his position versatility. I believe Jackson has the higher ceiling, but he needs to prove he can also play guard.

Interior defensive line (6)

Michael Brockers
Levi Onwuzurike (R)
Alim McNeill (R, NT)
Da’Shawn Hand
Nick Williams
John Penisini (NT)
Jashon Cornell (suspended)
Kevin Strong
Bruce Hector

Balancing youth and experience on the IDL

Strong should push for a spot as he is a nice fit in this new scheme, but if he doesn’t make the 53, he should be a priority for the practice squad. The decision on Cornell can wait until after his suspension, but he seems headed to the practice squad as well.

EDGE (4)

Trey Flowers
Romeo Okwara
Julian Okwara
Charles Harris
Austin Bryant (PUP list)
Robert McCray
Reggie Gilbert

Establishing the EDGE

Bryant and Harris will be in a battle for the four EDGE spot, but starting off camp on the PUP is putting Bryant behind the eight ball.

Linebackers (5)

Jamie Collins
Alex Anzalone
Derrick Barnes (R)
Jahlani Tavai
Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Shaun Dion Hamilton
Tavante Beckett (R)
Anthony Pittman

Sorting out the inside LBs

After the starting two and rookie Barnes, the other spots are up for grabs. The coaching staff has shown high praise for Tavai, but his fit in this scheme remains in question. Could Hamilton’s coverage ability earn him a spot? Is Beckett a sleeper? Lots of questions about depth.

Cornerbacks (6)

Jeff Okudah
Amani Oruwariye
Quinton Dunbar
Ifeatu Melifonwu (R)
Mike Ford
Corn Elder
Alex Brown
Jerry Jacobs (R)
A.J. Parker (R)

Starting roles up for grabs at CB

This is pretty straightforward in my eyes. The three players left off are not in the mix for me right now, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on them to see if they can prove me wrong.

Safeties (5)

Tracy Walker
Will Harris
Dean Marlowe
C.J. Moore
Jalen Elliott
Bobby Price
D’Angelo Amos (R)
Godwin Igwebuike
Alijah Holder

Looking for depth at safety

Walker, Harris, and Marlowe are the top three options on defense, and Moore plays key roles on special teams, but the fifth spot is wide open. For now, I went with Elliott because he was running with the second team in the spring, but I’m not confident slotting him in there.

Special Teams (3)

P Jack Fox

K Randy Bullock
K Matthew Wright

LS Don Muhlbach
LS Scott Daly

Special teams turnover

I’m leaning on the veterans in the special teams battles until the younger players have a chance to impress.