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4 thoughts on Detroit Lions 53-man roster and why they only kept 2 RBs

The Detroit Lions roster came with several surprising moves, including just 2 RBs. We break down what’s going on and our initial reactions.

NFL: Preseason-Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster dropped late on Tuesday evening, and there are some big surprises and odd-looking developments. If you want a full look at the roster, head to our tracker or our initial post on the news.

But in this post, let me answer some lingering questions about the initial 53-man roster and why it may look so weird.

21 offensive players and 29 defensive players!

When I made my roster prediction, I thought it was a little weird going with 27 defenders to 23 on offense. Turns out that was far too conservative. To anyone who has watched this team throughout the preseason and training camp, it was obvious there was more depth on the defensive side of the ball, but this is still pretty surprising.

Now, by the time the Lions roster has settled for Week 1, those numbers will look a lot closer to even, but it’s still pretty shocking to see.

2 running backs?

The Lions only have Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery at running back for their initial 53-man roster (and Jason Cabinda, if you count fullbacks). The Lions waived Jermar Jefferson with an injury designation, and released both Craig Reynolds and Benny Snell.

While fans are likely scouring the waiver wire to see who the Lions will be adding, I’m not looking any further than their own cuts.

If I had to guess right now, Reynolds is likely on his way back to the roster. You see, as a veteran player with four years of experience, Reynolds was RELEASED not WAIVED. That means he is not subject to waivers. The Lions may have very well approached Reynolds, told him they are going to cut him with the full intention of signing him back in a couple of days. Reynolds is a good candidate to make this move because he had no guaranteed money on his contract, and therefore, no dead cap after this cut.

Why would they do that?

Because it’s very likely that Detroit is going to make a second round of roster cuts, and the most likely outcome is sending a player or two to injured reserve.

If a team wants to put a player on IR, but have them eligible to return after a minimum of four weeks, that player must make the initial 53-man roster. The Lions just so happened to have two players who are currently injured on the 53-man roster: Julian Okwara and Ifeatu Melifonwu. If Detroit had put either player on IR prior to the cutdowns, their season would be over.

If Detroit puts either of those players on IR after 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, it would open up a spot for Reynolds to return—or a different running back—and that seems like the most likely reason Detroit made the moves they did.

The preseason finale decided the last CB spots + Emmanuel Moseley’s big return

Steven Gilmore and Khalil Dorsey occupied the final two roster spots after both were phenomenal in the team’s preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. That said, it was still very surprising to see Starling Thomas V get waived after taking just about every single training camp rep with the second-team defense. Thomas’ star did fade a little after a strong start to August, but given his speed and special teams abilities, I thought he was still in.

The great development of this group was the activation of Emmanuel Moseley from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He still looked a few weeks away, and while I don’t expect him to play in the opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, I do think Week 2 is in play. Remember, that game is still nearly a full three weeks away.

Riley Patterson survives... for now

With news that the Lions are in the market to upgrade their kicker, I half-wondered if they would go kickerless for the second time in three years. Alas, after failing to come to terms with a trade of another kicker, the Lions have stuck with Patterson.

That said, it’s entirely possible Detroit claims a kicker on waivers, or signs one to their practice squad to continue the competition into the regular seasons.

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