Detroit Lions: Breaking down the 53-man roster

The Detroit Lions finalized their 53-man roster on Saturday just before the 4 p.m. deadline. It’s a harsh weekend for a lot of players in the NFL; many hopefuls have their lifelong dream snatched away from them.

But this is the NFL, home to the most elite football talent in the world. Everyone knows how brutal the business is to crack into. Teams do what must be done to get down to the magic number of 53.

In that light, it’s one heck of an accomplishment for an undrafted free agent to work their way onto a roster like Jerome Couplin or Cornelius Lucas did in Detroit. Congratulations are deserved and well earned.

Let’s take a look at Detroit’s initial roster:

3 Quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky, Kellen Moore

This was was one of the bigger surprises of the day — keeping three quarterbacks despite having a clear-cut starter in Stafford. Nonetheless, Moore did all the right things this preseason and earned a spot. He finished the preseason with a team-high 108.4 QB rating, 361 passing yards, three touchdowns and one game-winning drive.

3 Running backs: Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick

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Joique Bell

It’s been said all preseason long, but expect all three of these guys to be involved this season. The only surprise here is that neither Mikel Leshoure nor George Winn made the cut, leaving Detroit with little depth.

2 Fullbacks: Montell Owens, Jed Collins

The reason neither Winn or Leshoure made the roster was because Detroit opted to keep both of these two. It remains to be see which will operate as the main blocker, but the two were kept because Owens is so great on special teams.

6 Wide receivers: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree, Corey Fuller

In one of the thickest preseason position battles —the fight for the backup receiver spots— Broyles, Ogletree and Fuller made their way onto the team while Kris Durham, Andrew Peacock and Patrick Edwards were shown the door. Durham is probably the most shocking cut of the weekend, but Broyles and Fuller had very impressive preseasons and deserved a spot on the team.

3 Tight ends: Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, Eric Ebron

The only question here is how will these three be used during the regular season?

4 Tackles: Riley Reiff, Corey Hilliard, LaAdrian Waddle, Cornelius Lucas

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Riley Reiff

The positional battle at right tackle between Hilliard and Waddle has yet to be resolved, as both have been rotating in the preseason. Lucas, an undrafted free agent, made the cut by inching out Michael Williams, last year’s seventh-round pick who converted from tight end to tackle this offseason. I think Lucas has his behemoth size to thank for this.

4 Interior linemen: Dominic Raiola, Rob Sims, Larry Warford, Travis Swanson

Detroit heads into the season with no true backup guards, showing they have faith in third-round pick Swanson to fill in if necessary.

5 Defensive ends: Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones, George Johnson, Devin Taylor, Larry Webster

A tip of the cap to Johnson, who came out of nowhere this offseason to beat out veteran Darryl Tapp for a place on the roster. After he was signed in April, Johnson worked his way onto the team, and most likely into the rotation, with a good camp and strong play in the preseason, where he recorded two-and-a-half sacks and a forced fumble.

4 Defensive tackles: Ndamukong Suh, C.J. Mosley, Nick Fairley, Caraun Reid

Detroit Lions

Ndamukong Suh

All eyes will be on Suh and Fairley this season, as both become free agents at its end. Fairley has been disappointing thus far, but it looks like he’ll start week one according to the team’s unofficial depth chart. The prospect of re-signing Suh will be at the center of discussion all season long.

6 Linebackers: Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, Kyle Van Noy, Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis

Van Noy’s preseason was cut short by an abdominal injury that required surgery, which was completed just before Detroit’s fourth preseason contest. In the meantime, Whitehead, who finished the preseason with a team-high 21 tackles and three sacks, appears to have earned the starting spot at strong-side linebacker for week one.

5 Cornerbacks: Rashean Mathis, Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson, Cassius Vaughn

Detroit Lions

Darius Slay

This is unquestionably Detroit’s weakest positional group. The team still opted to enter the season with little depth, as hopefuls Jonte Green, Aaron Hester, Chris Greenwood and Mohammed Seisay didn’t show enough to make the cut.

5 Safeties: Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jerome Couplin, Don Carey

A preseason injury to DeJon Gomes, who was initially put on injured reserve then later waived, paved the way for Couplin, Carey and Abdul-Quddus to make the cut.

3 Special teams players: Nate Freese, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach

Muhlbach retains his duties as the team’s long snapper after signing a one-year deal in February. He’s one of the best at what he does. Martin looks to continue where he left off after a strong rookie season, while seventh-round pick Freese edged out Giorgio Tavecchio in the preseason to earn the kicking duties.

We get a look at these 53 when Detroit opens the season in one week from today in a Monday night showdown with the New York Giants.

  • buddynoel

    At least someone was sober enough to not want to see Kellen Moore as a starter for their NFC opponents. Just win baby. Just win.