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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Jeff Risdon

Updated 53-man roster projection after the Lions 2nd preseason game

Roster cutdowns around the NFL come in just over a week. The Detroit Lions, like all NFL teams, will have to get down to an initial 53-man roster from the current 90. With just one roster cutdown this year, it builds the dram of who makes it and who does not.

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With one preseason game left and a little over a week before roster cutdown day, here’s the current projection for how that initial 53-man roster will look for Detroit.

Quarterbacks - 2*


Jared Goff

Teddy Bridgewater

*Hendon Hooker – NFI

For a position where the starter is set in stone, there is a considerable change to the projection here from the last time.

The team signed Bridgewater to be Jared Goff’s backup. Not only does he push Nate Sudfeld out of the No. 2 spot, but Bridgewater also gives the Lions the confidence to not worry about activating Hooker from the NFI list.

Could Sudfield make it? Possibly, but the preventable interceptions in both preseason games are troublesome.

Running backs - 4

(Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

David Montgomery

Jahmyr Gibbs

Craig Reynolds

Jason Cabinda (FB)

There isn’t much drama about the pecking order as much as there is about how many the Lions will keep.

My current working theory is that Reynolds will the third RB and he’ll be active each week, and the Lions will promote a fourth RB from the practice squad as they feel the need. Because there is no real differentiation between the value of Benny Snell, Jermar Jefferson, Devine Ozigbo or a free agent they can sign after roster cutdowns, the prediction is the Lions open up a roster spot at another position and roll with three true RBs.

Then there’s Cabinda. He’s not had a good preseason and isn’t a real asset on special teams. Yet I still think his leadership, paired with the lack of a standout TE to maybe take away his blocking role, keeps Cabinda safe. He’s No. 52 of 53 on my list.

Wide receivers - 7*

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Amon-Ra St. Brown

Josh Reynolds

Kalif Raymond

Marvin Jones

Dylan Drummond

Maurice Alexander (if he’s healthy)

*Jameson Williams

There isn’t much debate about the top four or Williams.

Williams gets the asterisk because he’ll immediately be suspended for the first six games following the roster establishment. That leaves the door open for the Lions to instantly bring back one of the players left on the cutting room floor here, namely undrafted rookie Chase Cota or veteran Trinity Benson.

Alexander makes it as a return specialist option as well as being the most natural slot option of the reserves.

The only real drama here is between Drummond/Alexander or the aforementioned Cota or Benson. Drummond has been the more consistently better receiver all summer than any of them, so he gets the tentative nod. Cota could edge out Alexander if the Lions decide they have enough return specialist options aside from him and Raymond, who will be the team’s punt returner as well.


Tight ends - 3

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Sam LaPorta

Brock Wright

James Mitchell

This trio is pretty sett. The only real question here is if the Lions opt to keep a fourth TE as a designated blocker and special teams player. The leading candidate is Darrell Daniels, but at this point I don’t expect it.

Offensive line - 10

Tackles: Taylor Decker, Penei Sewell, Germain Ifedi, Matt Nelson

Interior: Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Graham Glasgow, Colby Sorsdal, Kayode Awosika

The starting tackles (Decker, Sewell) and top five on the interior (Jackson, Ragnow, Vaitai, Glasgow, Sorsdal) are locked in. The reserve tackle spot(s) and interior depth after Sorsdal are still completely up in the air.

Updating the Lions camp battle for the No. 3 offensive tackle

I went to 10 here with the notion of keeping Nelson as a 4th tackle who also serves as the de facto blocking TE, something he’s done capably the last two seasons. If the Lions keep a fourth TE, axe Nelson or Ifedi–who has been better than Nelson in pass protection throughout the summer.

I also kept Awosika as an extra interior lineman due to the ongoing injury statuses of Ragnow and Vaitai. It’s more about practicing; both the vets are expected to not practice often for self-preservation, and the Lions need to have reinforcements ready both for practice and in case of a late-week tweak that sidelines one of the starters. I do believe Awosika would get claimed on waivers, too.

Defensive tackles - 4

Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

Alim McNeill

Isaiah Buggs

Brodric Martin

Levi Onwuzurike

The first three here are easy. McNeill and Buggs both figure to play a lot, with rookie Martin getting as many snaps as he can earn.

Keeping Onwuzurike is a complex projection. It’s essentially a somewhat educated guess on my part that the team will value his valiant fight from a back injury that many–including some on the team itself–expected to be career-ending for the 2021 second-rounder. He’s not been better this summer than Benito Jones, who offers more stoutness against the run and gets off blocks better. This position, the 4th DT, is No. 53 on the roster.

The thought is, Jones can get through to the practice squad easier than Onwuzurike. Guys like Cominsky, Paschal and Romeo Okwara have also lined up on the interior fairly regularly this summer, so there is enough positional flex to not have to keep a fifth on the active roster.


EDGE - 6

Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Aidan Hutchinson

Charles Harris

Josh Paschal

John Cominsky

James Houston

Romeo Okwara

The debate over Julian Okwara won’t likely be settled easily. My rationale for why the vet is on the outside looking in is special teams. As a seventh edge, he’d almost certainly be a weekly inactive. Nothing Julian Okwara has done on special teams indicates he’s irreplaceable there.

He might have some limited trade value, on the same scale as the now-abortive Denzel Mims trade Detroit made earlier this summer.

Linebackers - 5

Alex Anzalone

Jack Campbell

Derrick Barnes

Malcolm Rodriguez

Jalen Reeves-Maybin

The biggest question here is, do the Lions keep five or just four off-ball LBs? Reeves-Maybin has shown enough in his return to merit sticking. He could very well be a special teams captain, and that fifth LB role will almost never play outside of special teams.

It’s hard to envision Anthony Pittman making it for another year. He and undrafted rookie Trevor Nowaske are both players the Lions should be able to keep on the practice squad, if they want.

Cornerbacks - 5

Cam Sutton

Jerry Jacobs

C.J. Gardner-Johnson – DB

Starling Thomas

Will Harris – DB

Sutton, Jacobs and Gardner-Johnson will be the starters, with “CJGJ” morphing between playing slot cornerback and safety depending on the offensive set.

Thomas earns his role as an undrafted rookie in part because he’s proven to be an asset on special teams, both in the return game as well as on coverage units.

Harris can back up any position in the secondary and the coaching staff values his presence and leadership.

All this presumes that Emmanuel Moseley remains on the PUP list into the season, which seems more likely by the day. Moseley is recovering from a second surgery on his knee and has yet to be cleared to practice with his new team.

Safeties - 4

Kerby Joseph

Tracy Walker

Brian Branch – DB

Saivion Smith

The top three here are carved in marble. Branch is like Gardner-Johnson, more of a defensive back than either a straight CB or safety. The second-round rookie gives the team a lot of flexibility and he figures to play quite a bit, too.

The final spot here comes down to a battle between Saivion Smith, Ifeatu Melifonwu and Brady Breeze. Smith, a former CB, has pretty handily been the best of that group on pass defense all summer. Breeze is the top special teams option of the trio, though the margin there is close between all three.

Melifonwu has shown a lot of growth at safety but continues to be a durability question mark; he’s injured now and might be done for the preseason. Hard to see No. 6 making it for a third season if he can’t stay healthy longer than three weeks once again.

Special teams - 3

(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Punter – Jack Fox

Long snapper – Scott Daly

Kicker – Riley Patterson

Fox and Daly are uncontested. Patterson edges out John Parker Romo on the simple fact that the Lions traded a late-round pick for him. Their camp battle has been decidedly inconclusive.

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