Detroit Lions 53-man roster prediction

Heading into the fourth and final week the NFL preseason, the Detroit Lions are going to have some tough personnel decisions to make in the following days. The final 53-man roster needs to be set by this Saturday at 4pm EST.

Before the purge begins, there is still one last game to be played. It’s one final shot for all of the bubble players to demonstrate their value to GM Bob Quinn and the staff.

Don’t be surprised if Quinn brings in other team’s castaways either. Quinn has been very active recently addressing the pass rush and he is far from done tinkering.

Considering the new coaching staff and scheme, there are plenty of positions that could go a lot of different ways. Here are my thoughts:

Quarterback (2)

In: Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel

Out: Jake Rudock

Overview: I think experience is going to win in this case. Rudock has been pretty consistently the third quarterback and he still has practice squad availability. My hunch is the Lions will take the risk of Rudock getting poached and will try to stash their third QB there.

There is no point keeping a fringe NFL talent on the 53-man roster that will not help win games– unless you still believe Rudock can develop into anything more than decent backup. I’m very skeptical of that.

Running Back (5)

In: LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, Nick Bellore

Out: Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington

Overview: This position actually went from a weakness to a strength in the span of a year. With the additions of Blount and Johnson, Riddick and Abdullah can now be properly utilized in situations that fit them best. No longer will two scat backs have to be relied upon for heavy early-down and short yardage work. Abdullah’s versatility will give him the edge over the remaining backs.

I don’t see Zenner’s special team value as enough to hold a spot on the roster. And Washington, he has just been an afterthought so far this preseason.

The Lions also appeared to be serious about keeping a fullback on the roster after drafting FB Nick Bawden. Somewhat surprisingly, no competition was brought in to challenge converted linebacker, Nick Bellore, for the spot after Bawden tore his ACL.

Wide Receiver (5)

In: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones, Brandon Powell

Out: Jace Billingsley, Bradley Marquez, Teo Redding, Brian Brown, Chris Lacy, Andy Jones, Dontez Ford

Overview: The top four wideouts are basically set in stone, but if the Lions keep a fifth, it’s going to be a toss up. Powell has had the best preseason by far and currently leads the NFL for receptions. The 5-foot-8, 181-pound rookie is also a perfect practice squad candidate though.

You can’t count out Marquez and Billingsley as they both have some regular season experience which makes them an interesting possibility as well.

The camp darling, Teo Redding, has been a disappointment in the preseason games after so many raving early reviews.

It’s a what have you done for me lately league, so I’ll give Powell the nod, but my confidence level on the pick is low.

Tight End (4)

In: Luke Willson, Michael Roberts, Levine Toilolo, Hakeem Valles

Out: Marcus Lucas, Sean McGrath

Overview:  Not going to lie, I hate the thought of keeping four tight ends– especially when none of them are even considered average NFL starters.

If Roberts wasn’t only a second-year player and a fourth-round draft pick, he would be my odd man out. Valles, who was on the Lions practice squad last year, has been a pleasant surprise with his ability to get open and move the chains. Of the remaining two tight ends, Toilolo is considered the best blocker and Willson is the most versatile.

It might be too early to tell which tight end is the weakest link, but keeping four for the time being might be the best option until it plays itself out.

Does anybody miss Eric Ebron yet?

Offensive Line (9)

In: Taylor Decker, Rick Wagner, T.J. Lang, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Corey Robinson, Tyrell Crosby, Joe Dahl, Wesley Johnson

Out: Kenny Wiggins, Brian Mihalik, Leo Koloamatangi, John Montelus, Beau Nunn, Dan Skipper, Jamar McGloster

Overview: The backup tackles are looking like they will be the rookie, Tyrell Crosby, and Corey Robinson. Mihalik had a couple of decent games for the Lions last year, but he has not been given much opportunity this season.

It gets a little more interesting on the interior. Dahl, Wiggins, Johnson, and Koloamatangi are all probably fighting for two spots. Wiggins has familiarity with the OL coach, Jeff Davidson, but is also very pricey for a backup.

Koloamatangi can play all three inside positions and saw time mixed in with the first-teamers against Tampa Bay. I would be fine with him on the roster, but he still has practice squad eligibility that can be exploited. That leaves Dahl, who might not be as much of a lock as people think, and Johnson grabbing my two final interior line spots. Neither has been able to protect the quarterback particularly well this preseason though.

Defensive Line (8)

In: Ziggy Ansah, Sylvester Williams, Ricky Jean Francois, Anthony Zettel, Kerry Hyder, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand, Alex Barrett

Out: Jeremiah Ledbetter, Cam Johnson, Jeremiah Valoaga, Toby Johnson, Christian Ringo, Josh Fatu

Overview: This is where the predictions get dicey. I would say there are seven “locks” for the roster between defensive end and tackle. Considering that there are three starting defensive linemen and usually a JACK linebacker as the fourth rusher, how many D-linemen are necessary?

Alex Barrett has been receiving quite a bit of playing time and works the edge position when LB Devon Kennard leaves the field. Now healthy, Cam Johnson dabbled in that same role last week and could have a real chance as well– but Barret has the leg up as of now.

Surprisingly, the Lions have given second-year DT Ledbetter very few preseason reps. He has played in all three games so far and only logged a total of 25 defensive snaps. For whatever reason, he just doesn’t seem to be in the team’s plans despite a semi-promising rookie year.

Important to note, Ledbetter would be the fifth tackle on the roster and Patricia only carried four true inside players for a majority of last season with the Patriots.

Linebacker (7)

In: Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Eli Harold, Jonathan Freeny, Miles Killebrew

Out: Trevor Bates, Darnell Sankey, Freddie Bishop, Chad Meredith

Overview: With Kennard and Harold being considered more edge players, that would leave five off-ball linebackers for a base defense that needs two.

I’m not sure if you can even consider Killebrew a full-blown linebacker yet, but due to solid special team play and versatility, I want to believe the Lions will give him a shot. If the Lions brass doesn’t think that Killebrew worth keeping around, Trevor Bates is a more traditional linebacker.

Cornerback (5)

In: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, DeShawn Shead, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew

Out: Dexter McDougle, Sterling Moore, Chris Jones, Mike Ford

Overview: The first five corners are pretty cut and dry. The only surprise would come if the Detroit Lions decided to keep a sixth cornerback. I don’t foresee that happening though with Quandre Diggs also playing plenty of slot corner in his hybrid safety role.

Safety (5)

In: Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Rolan Milligan

Out: Charles Washington, Marcus Cromartie

Overview: The Lions base defense will deploy three safeties. Diggs can play in the slot against receivers yet also stays in the game against heavier formations.

Once again referencing what Patricia had in New England, the Patriots had six safeties on their roster to start last season.

My dark-horse candidate this year is Rolan Milligan.

Milligan had a couple days in training camp in which he practiced with the starters and actually has the most snaps played this preseason for any Lions defender. He hasn’t looked great in the early goings, but the Lions feel his skill set and mentality is similar in style to SS Tavon Wilson.

Charles Washington played in all 16 games last year and is more athletic than Milligan, but Washington might now be a redundancy. The rookie third rounder, Tracy Walker, could supplant Washington’s backup free safety role– whether Walker is NFL-ready or not.

Special Teams (3)

In: Matt Prater, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach

Out: Ryan Santoso

Reasoning: This is self-explanatory but necessary to round out those last three slots on the roster. Throw in Angew as an All-Pro returner and this is one good looking group of special teamers the Lions have.

Follow Lion Lowdown on Twitter @LionLowdown or Logan Lamorandier @LLamorandier

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