August 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Chris McCosky

One man's opinion on who stays, who goes as Lions prepare for final cuts

Linebacker Travis Lewis' youth could help him earn a spot on the Lions' 53-man roster, which will be finalized Saturday. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Allen Park — Cutdown day is stressful enough for players without some beat writer, some old dude who’s never played a down of football, has never put his hand in the dirt, trying to predict their immediate future.

I mean, what do I know, right? I am not in the meetings. I am not in on the coaches’ internal debates. Heck, they won’t even clue us in on injury information until Wednesday.

All I can venture is a somewhat educated guess based on all the practices I’ve watched since OTAs through training camp, all the interviews I’ve done with coaches, scouts and players and what I’ve observed in the four exhibitions.

Hey, as my old coach and mentor Doug Collins used to say, it’s a suffering business. The public wants to know who’s going to make this squad and they don’t want to wait until 6 p.m. Saturday when teams have to submit their final 53-man rosters to the league.

So I am going to have a go at this. Understand that I do so with great admiration for the talent of all of these players, their work ethic and their incredible willingness to put their bodies through all sorts of abuse to win a job. To those who I am about to cut —I hope I am wrong.

Quarterbacks (3)

Projected starter: Matthew Stafford

Projected backups: Shaun Hill, Kellen Moore

Projected cuts: None.

Comment: Had Moore struggled this preseason, I would have made a case for the Lions not keeping three quarterbacks. But he played amazingly well, especially the last two weeks. He earned his spot.

Running backs (5)

Projected starter: Reggie Bush

Projected backups: Joique Bell, Mikel Leshoure, Theo Riddick, Montell Owens

Projected cuts: Steven Miller, Shaun Chapas

Comment: Miller and Chapas could get a reprieve. Owens has a knee injury and could start the season on reserve-PUP. Also, tight end and H-back Michael Williams has a broken hand. If those players can’t be ready for the start of the season, Miller and Chapas could stay. If not, Miller would be a candidate for the practice squad.

Wide receivers (4)

Projected starters: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson

Projected backups: Ryan Broyles, Patrick Edwards

Projected cuts: Kris Durham, Corey Fuller, Micheal Spurlock, Matt Willis

Comment: If the Lions keep a fifth receiver, it will probably be Spurlock because of his ability to return kicks and punts. Most likely, the fifth receiver, if there ever is one, will come off the waiver wire Sunday. Fuller, a rookie sixth-round pick, is a practice-squad candidate.

Tight ends (4)

Projected starters: Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler

Projected backups: Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams

Projected cuts: None

Comment: Fauria has played his way onto this roster. At 6-7 he’s a nightmare to cover and his blocking, still shaky, has steadily improved. I still wouldn’t completely rule out Scheffler being either traded or released.

Offensive line (9)

Projected starters: LT Riley Reiff, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Larry Warford, RT Jason Fox

Projected reserves: T LaAdrian Waddle, T Corey Hilliard, G-C Dylan Gandy, G Leroy Harris

Projected cuts: T Kevin Haslam, G Jake Scott, G Rodney Austin, C Darren Keyton

Comment: Interesting that Warford and Waddle, two rookies, played most of the second half together Thursday. That is your right side of the near future. If Fox struggles out of the gate, Waddle could be starting soon. He’s been that impressive. Keyton and Austin may end up on the practice squad.

Defensive line (9)

Projected starters: DE Jason Jones, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Nick Fairley, DE Ziggy Ansah

Projected backups: DE Israel Idonije, DT C.J. Mosley, DT Justin Bannan, DE Willie Young, DE Devin Taylor

Projected cuts: DT Andre Fluellen, DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo, DT Xavier Proctor, DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen

Comment: The biggest worry is Ansah, who presumably was concussed during practice last Saturday and hasn’t practiced all week. Young could end up starting in his place. Of the cuts, only Proctor is eligible for practice squad.

Linebackers (6)

Projected starters: Ashlee Palmer, Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy

Projected backups: Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis, Chris White

Projected cuts: Rocky McIntosh, Brandon Hepburn, Jon Morgan

Comment: Hepburn (seventh round) and Morgan (undrafted) may end up on the practice squad. Morgan, who has a shoulder injury, could be waived-injured. But I am flipping a coin between McIntosh and either Lewis or Whitehead. I am guessing the youth of Whitehead and Lewis will be the tie-breaker over McIntosh’s experience.

Defensive backs (10)

Projected starters: LCB Chris Houston, RCB Darius Slay, S Louis Delmas, S Glover Quin, Nickel Bill Bentley

Projected backups: CB-Nickel Rashean Mathis, CB Jonte Green, CB Ron Bartell, S Don Carey, S Tyrell Johnson

Projected cuts: CB Chris Greenwood, S Amari Spievey, S John Wendling, S Martavius Neloms

Comment: Going way out on a limb here. Wendling has been nursing a leg injury the past couple of weeks. He’s been a valuable special teams player, but I am guessing the Lions think Johnson can fill that role plus help more at safety. Greenwood is a candidate for the practice squad and Neloms could be waived-injured.

Specialists (3)

Projected starters: PK David Akers, P Sam Martin, LS Don Muhlbach

Projected cut: P Blake Clingan

Comment: There is some concern over Martin’s health. He’s nursed back soreness the past two weeks, but he’s insisted that he will be fine.

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