August 30, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Mikel Leshoure, Kris Durham among Lions cuts

Mikel Leshoure was active just three games last season. (Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images)

The Lions waived running back Mikel Leshoure on Saturday as part of the cuts to trim the roster to 53 players, the most notable of their 22 cuts.

Defensive end Darryl Tapp, wide receiver Kris Durham, cornerback Chris Greenwood, offensive tackle Michael Williams and offensive lineman Rodney Austin were among the other players who fell just short of making the team.

The initial 53-man roster is set, but there will likely be some changes before the regular season begins next week. With just five cornerbacks on the roster, the Lions will look around the league to see if they can find anyone worth signing or claiming off the waiver wire.

The Lions also had to keep a spot for second-round pick Kyle Van Noy, who underwent core muscle surgery Thursday. The outside linebacker is a good candidate for the Lions’ short-term injured reserve slot, a move that can’t be made until Tuesday but would open another roster spot.

With Leshoure gone, the Lions now have just one player remaining from their 2011 draft class, first-round defensive tackle Nick Fairley who was demoted to a backup role this summer.

A second-round pick, Leshoure missed his rookie season after rupturing his Achilles tendon. He led the Lions with 215 carries for 798 yards and nine rushing touchdowns in 2012, but with the signing of Reggie Bush in 2013 and the emergence of Joique Bell, Leshoure was active just three games and had only two carries last year.

Leshoure entered training camp this summer as the No. 4 back behind Bush, Bell and Theo Riddick, who established himself on special teams in 2013 and looked versatile in the offseason program. In the four exhibition games this year, Leshoure had 31 carries for 116 yards, and the Lions gave the final running back spot to Montell Owens, one of their top special teams players.

Durham, a teammate of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford at Georgia, was the Lions’ No. 2 receiver last season, but produced minimally with 38 catches for 490 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions signed Golden Tate this offseason hoping to find more production opposite Calvin Johnson.

Receivers Ryan Broyles and Corey Fuller made the team after their strong performances in the exhibition season, and Kevin Ogletree and return man Jeremy Ross are in the group of six receivers, too.

Tapp joined the Lions during free agency this year, and the Lions liked his versatility as a defensive end with experience as a linebacker as well as his value on special teams. However, George Johnson performed better in training camp and the exhibition games, and the Lions opted not to keep 10 defensive linemen.

The Lions also kept just eight offensive linemen on their initial roster, and third-round pick Travis Swanson is the only reserve interior linemen, meaning the teams trusts him to play guard or center. At tackle, undrafted rookie Cornelius Lucas beat Williams for the final backup spot. Williams made an impressive transition to tackle after the Lions drafted him as a tight end in the seventh round in 2013.

In addition to the six cuts above, here are the other 16 players the Lions released or waived: Linebacker Brandon Hepburn, cornerback Mohammed Seisay, safety Nate Ness, linebacker Shamari Benton, linebacker Julian Stanford, offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds, running back George Winn, offensive lineman Darren Keyton, tight end Michael Egnew, tight end Jordan Thompson, wide receiver Patrick Edwards, wide receiver Andrew Peacock, defensive end Andre Fluellen, defensive tackle Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, defensive tackle Xavier Proctor, fullback Emil Igwenagu.

Ness, who had two interceptions in the exhibition games, said the Lions told him they’d try to bring him back to Detroit, and he is eligible for the practice squad under the new rules implemented this year.

Many of the cuts are eligible for the practice squad, including Winn, Austin, Hepburn, Egnew and Peacock. The Lions will also look at the other cuts around the NFL before filling the 10 spots on the practice squad.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com
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