Lions' 53-man roster highlighted by multiple surprises
Allen Park -- The Detroit Lions trimmed the roster to 53 players Saturday and, as usual, there were a handful of surprises. Here's our position-by-position breakdown from the cuts.
In: Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky
Out: Jake Rudock
Analysis: Despite a strong preseason marked by steady improvement, the Lions opted to roll the dice and expose the sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan to waivers. Much like fans did with Kellen Moore in recent years, there were calls for Rudock to jump Orlovsky on the depth chart, but there was never a realistic chance that was happening. The hope is the rookie clears waivers and can develop on the practice squad this season, instead of taking up a valuable roster spot.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: Riley Reiff, Laken Tomlinson, Travis Swanson, Larry Warford, Taylor Decker, Joe Dahl, Graham Glasgow, Corey Robinson, Cornelius Lucas
Out: Michael Ola, Gabe Ikard, Luke Marquardt, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Brandon Thomas
Analysis: If he could have stayed healthy, Ola was on track to be the team's third tackle. Durability didn't stop general manager Bob Quinn from keeping around Corey Robinson, who offers great size and flashed some real potential when he was on the field this offseason. Thomas, who the Lions acquired in a trade last week, seems like a possibility for the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
In: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Michael Burton, Dwayne Washington
Out: George Winn
Analysis: Winn is a tough cut, but not a surprising one. The back's best contributions were on special teams and the team clearly feels Zenner is capable of handling those roles, both as a blocker on returns and a cover guy with the kicking groups. Washington's big-play potential made him an easy keeper and it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets right out the gate.
WIDE RECEIVERS (4)
In: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, Andre Roberts, Corey Fuller (PUP)
Out: TJ Jones, Quinshad Davis, Jay Lee, Jace Billingsley
Analysis: The Lions went thin at wide receiver and the most likely scenario is they add one back to the roster after placing linebacker Jon Bostic on injured reserve. TJ Jones is the most likely to get claimed on waivers, but if he doesn't, he's the safest bet to rejoin the main roster. But don't rule out Jace Billingsley, who offers a unique skill set as a traditional slot receiver and a potentially elusive return man.
Any of the four let go on Saturday would also be excellent fits for the practice squad. It's certainly possible Detroit keeps two from this group for that 10-man unit.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
In: Eric Ebron, Cole Wick, Orson Charles, Brandon Pettigrew (PUP), Andrew Quarless (SUSP)
Out: Adam Fuehne
Analysis: Charles will get an extended look while Quarless serves his two-game suspension, stemming from a weapons charge in 2015. Wick might not have much longer to prove his value, with Pettigrew likely to rejoin the team before midseason.
DEFENSIVE LINE (11)
In: Ezekiel Ansah, Devin Taylor, Wallace Gilberry, Brandon Copeland, Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, A’Shawn Robinson, Khyri Thornton, Stefan Charles, Anthony Zettel, Kerry Hyder
Out: Gabe Wright, Caraun Reid
Analysis: The Lions rewarded the strong play of their deep defensive line by keeping 11 guys up front, including six defensive ends. If it stays this way, one, maybe two guys are going to be inactive on game days. The surprise cut was Reid, who had come on strong at the end of the preseason, after shaking off the rust accumulated from offseason ankle surgery. Hyder is the feel-good story, earning a job after his dominant showing in the preseason finale, which included three sacks and plenty more pass-rush pressure. His hustle is endearing.
In: DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Bynes, Antwione Williams, Jon Bostic
Out: Zaviar Gooden, Khaseem Greene, Jayson DiManche
Analysis: The Lions clearly like Bostic, proving it by keeping him around despite a training camp foot injury that has sidelined him since early August. Depending on the recovery timetable, he could be placed on IR to free up a roster spot at a thin position, such as wide receiver. The rest of the group looks as expected. DiManche, claimed off waivers last week, could be a good fit for the practice squad.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)
In: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Quandre Diggs, Johnson Bademosi, Adairius Barnes Glover Quin, Rafael Bush, Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew, Don Carey
Out: Darrin Walls, Alex Carter, Isaiah Johnson, Charles Washington
Analysis: There were a couple surprises here, but none bigger than Adairius Barnes, who was under the radar most of camp, but had three pass breakups against the Bills. The undrafted rookie earned a job over veteran Darrin Walls, thought to be a lock as the first corner off the bench, and Alex Carter, a third-round draft pick just last year.
The decision to keep Don Carey shows the Lions are putting a premium on special teams.
In: Sam Martin, Matt Prater, Don Muhlbach
Analysis: There's not much to say here. Once rookie Jimmy Landes went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, this group was set.