The Lions must trim their roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m., which means several players will soon receive the unfortunate news they’ve been cut.
In tonight’s exhibition finale in Buffalo, players at the back of the roster will have a final chance to prove themselves to the front office and coaching staff. The starters won’t play more than a couple series, so players fighting for a spot will have plenty of opportunities.
A couple plays, good or bad, could make all the difference as the Lions try to determine winners of several competitions that have been going on since training camp began in July.
Coach Jim Caldwell has said multiple times his goal is to win now, but general manager Martin Mayhew and others will put a high value on upside when deciding the final few spots.
Entering tonight’s game, the competitions are tightest at wide receiver and safety, but one player performing well could have a significant impact on the entire makeup of the roster.
Plus, as the Lions sift through the cuts around the league, they could find someone they like better than some of the players they have currently and make a move before the season begins.
Here is the Lions’ projected 53-man roster:
Quarterbacks (3): Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky, Kellen Moore.
Note: The Lions could keep just two quarterbacks, but Moore has looked like one of the 53 best players on the roster.
Running backs (5): Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Jed Collins, Mikel Leshoure.
Cuts: Montell Owens, George Winn, Emil Igwenagu.
Note: Considering the No. 4 halfback won’t be active, Leshoure makes the most sense as a backup power back behind Bell, and Winn’s two fumbles in the exhibitions hurt him. Owens might make it because of his special teams prowess, but the Lions have other players who can fill his role on that unit.
Wide receivers (6): Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree, Corey Fuller.
Cuts: Kris Durham, Patrick Edwards, Andrew Peacock.
Note: Though the coaches like Durham, his best skill is his size, and the Lions have plenty of that with Johnson and the tight ends. Broyles has looked great in games, Fuller has upside as a deep threat and Ogletree is a versatile weapon.
Tight ends (3): Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria.
Cuts: Michael Egnew, Jordan Thompson.
Note: No surprise here. Pettigrew is the blocker, Ebron and Fauria are the receiving threats, and it’s tough to keep more than three tight ends.
Offensive line (9): Dominic Raiola, Larry Warford, Rob Sims, Riley Reiff, LaAdrian Waddle, Corey Hilliard, Travis Swanson, Cornelius Lucas, Rodney Austin.
Cuts: Michael Williams, Darren Keyton, Garrett Reynolds.
Note: Williams made a late charge, but the Lions will hope to keep him on the practice squad. Keyton also played well enough for the Lions to consider him over Austin, but Austin gets the edge.
Defensive line (10): Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Devin Taylor, George Johnson, Darryl Tapp, Larry Webster.
Cuts: Andre Fluellen, Xavier Proctor, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen.
Note: Johnson played his way onto the roster after being a camp body this offseason. Tapp hasn’t been productive in games, but his ability to play linebacker and special teams helps his case.
Linebackers (5): Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Kyle Van Noy, Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead.
Cuts: Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Brandon Hepburn, Shamari Benton.
Note: If Van Noy’s abdominal injury is serious, the Lions could put him on an injured list and keep Lewis, whose special teams contributions will help.
Defensive backs (9): Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Nevin Lawson, Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jerome Couplin.
Cuts: Don Carey, Chris Greenwood, Mohammed Seisay, Nate Ness.
Note: Abdul-Quddus and Couplin took advantage of their opportunities. Carey’s versatility could help him stick, but his hamstring injury last week didn’t help — unless it’s bad enough to put him on an injury list. Greenwood allowed an ugly touchdown last week and hasn’t been consistent.
Specialists (3): Nate Freese, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach.
Note: The release of Giorgio Tavecchio this week ended the drama here.
Injured reserve: S DeJon Gomes
Physically unable to perform: WR TJ Jones