The Detroit Lions must establish their 53-man roster by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. As of Sunday night—following their 19-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers—the Lions were down to 80 players. That means Detroit must make 27 roster moves in less than 48 hours—a devastating stretch of time for coaches and players.
After watching every single training camp practice open to the media and every snap of the preseason, you’d think that I would have a pretty solid grasp of how these cuts will go down. And for the first 45-48 players, I think I do. But the Lions have some seriously tight competition at several different positions, making the decisions for coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes really tough.
Rather than create a collective 53-man roster with Erik Schlitt, like we have in the past, we decided to each do our own to display a couple of different ways the Lions could go about it.
Here’s my final 53-man roster predictions for the 2022 Detroit Lions.
In: Jared Goff, David Blough
Out: Tim Boyle
After Sunday’s game, coach Dan Campbell said he got “clarity” on the Lions' backup quarterback situation. While that could very well mean that he has learned that Detroit needs to look elsewhere for a backup quarterback, it almost certainly has to spell the end of, at least, Tim Boyle. Boyle got the start against the Steelers and did not look poised, accurate, or dependable. There weren’t many—if any—positives to take out of Boyle’s 5-of-15 for 64 yards and an interception performance. When David Blough took over, it didn’t look much better early on, but he rebounded with a pretty solid fourth quarter—going 13-of-23 for 110 yards and a touchdown in the final 15 minutes.
Running back (4)
In: D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Godwin Igwebuike
Out: Jermar Jefferson, Justin Jackson
I still feel somewhat confident in the top three running backs here. But Justin Jackson has made the fourth job incredibly hard to decide He’s been a very solid back in the past two games, and the Lions pulled a fast one by having him take the opening kickoff.
Meanwhile, the Lions’ usage of Godwin Igwebuike continues to befuddle me. Between Jackson and Maurice Alexander, they seem to be testing anyone to take away Igwebuike’s starting job, but at the same time, Campbell called Igwebuike the starting returner “right now” last week.
Jackson may honestly be the team’s third-best running back, but when you’re already that far down the depth chart, you aren’t going to get many touches on offense. You need to bring it on special teams, so I still have the other two guys ahead of him. In an ideal world, the Lions trade one of these guys for a late-round pick. If not, perhaps they can convince Jackson to stick around on the practice squad at the time they release him.
Wide receiver (6)
In: Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, Tom Kennedy
Out: Trinity Benson, Maurice Alexander, Kalil Pimpleton
Despite Tom Kennedy dropping a potential touchdown against Pittsburgh, there wasn’t enough that happened in Sunday’s game to change my mind on any of these calls. Poor quarterback play meant it was tough to evaluate this group.
Tight end (4)
In: T.J. Hockenson, Brock Wright, James Mitchell, Shane Zylstra
Out: Devin Funchess, Derek Deese
With Jason Cabinda already on reserve/PUP, the Lions can afford to keep an extra tight end, which is perfect news for rookie James Mitchell, who is still acclimating to the game.
Offensive line (8)
In: Taylor Decker (LT), Jonah Jackson (LG), Frank Ragnow (C), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (RG), Penei Sewell (RT), Matt Nelson (OT), Evan Brown (C), Tommy Kraemer (IOL)
Out: Logan Stenberg (LG), Dan Skipper (OT), Obinna Eze (OT), Kevin Jarvis (OG), Darrin Paulo (T/G), Kendall Lamm (OT)
I tried really hard to get Stenberg on this roster, because he has played really well over the last few weeks, but it’s hard to justify keeping a third reserve interior offensive lineman, and I can’t justify putting him in over Evan Brown or Tommy Kraemer. Both of those guys have been just as good, and Kraemer brings a lot more versatility than Stenberg, who has taken every preseason snap at left guard.
Interior defensive line (5)
In: Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike, Isaiah Buggs, Demetrius Taylor
Out: Bruce Hector, Jashon Cornell
Changes: Cornell OUT, Taylor IN
Hector made a couple plays against the Steelers, but Cornell remains MIA. Detroit’s recent hosting of Malcolm Brown could be trouble for Isaiah Buggs, but for now, I feel pretty good about this group, who continues to play well.
Edge rusher (5)
In: Aidan Hutchinson, Charles Harris, Julian Okwara, Austin Bryant, John Cominsky
Out: James Houston (LB), Eric Banks
While Okwara sits, the Lions carry an extra edge rusher. Austin Bryant has been one of the Lions’ best defensive players all preseason, while John “The Comish” Cominsky has provided consistent play—justifying why so many teams put in a waiver claim for him.
In: Alex Anzalone, Malcolm Rodriguez, Derrick Barnes, Chris Board, Josh Woods
Out: Jarrad Davis, Anthony Pittman
Changes: Josh Woods IN, Anthony Pittman OUT
Pittman was my last player out. He’s not an easy cut considering his special teams value and versatility both as a MIKE and SAM linebacker. However, I never really saw it click with him at SAM this training camp. Still, if I were the Lions, I would hope Pittman slips through waivers and you can either bring him back if a roster spot opens up or you stash him on the practice squad. Essentially, you can only carry so many special teamers, and I think Board and Woods do the job well enough while providing more promise on defense.
Jarrad Davis had a nice preseason finale, and while I don’t have him on the 53-man roster, I think there will be mutual interest in hanging around on the practice squad.
In: Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, Will Harris, Bobby Price, AJ Parker (NB), Mike Hughes (NB)
PUP: Jerry Jacobs
Out: Chase Lucas (NB), Mark Gilbert, Saivion Smith, Cedric Boswell
Changes: Hughes IN, Lucas OUT
The Lions avoided putting Jerry Jacobs on the reserve/PUP earlier this week, but Dan Campbell said that is still an option with him. Ultimately, I am already carrying too many injured defenders (Onwuzurike, Melifonwu, Okwara) to justify activating him—especially since it seems like he will likely miss a few games anyways.
As for the nickel job, the Lions simply never put Lucas in a real position to win the job. It was always between Hughes and Parker, and with Hughes contributing more on special teams as of late, both players will contribute more immediately than the seventh-round rookie. Lucas has practice squad written all over him, assuming he gets there.
In: Tracy Walker, DeShon Elliott, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Kerby Joseph, JuJu Hughes
Out: C.J. Moore
Changes: C.J. Moore OUT, JuJu Hughes IN
The Lions need someone they can trust on defense to be their primary backup safety on Day 1. With Melifonwu and Moore dealing with injuries, that leaves just Kerby Joseph and JuJu Hughes. While Joseph has gotten a ton of reps and has seen some improvement, he still seems a little ways away from trusting to be the third safety. Hughes has been reliable and brings special teams experience.
Special teams (3)
Starters: Jack Fox (P), Scott Daly (LS), Austin Seibert (K)
Out: Riley Patterson (K)
The Lions didn’t get a ton of kicking opportunities on Sunday, but every one of them—including kickoffs and the onside kick attempt—went to Seibert. That says it all.