The Lions lost to the Bills in a game that mattered only to the guys battling for jobs. Justin Rogers of The Detroit News provides some analysis. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Orchard Park, N.Y. – With the preseason wrapped up, the Lions have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to get the roster down to 53 players. Here’s our third and final prediction for how things will shake out.
■ In: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock
■ Out: Brad Kaaya
■ Thoughts: This has been a no-brainer for quite some time. Keeping a third quarterback on the roster is a waste, especially after Rudock has proven to be a capable backup.
There’s a big drop-off from Rudock to Kaaya. Heck, there’s a big drop-off from Rudock as a rookie last year to where Kaaya is after his first preseason. If the Lions still think he’s worth continued development, they can do that on the practice squad. No one is likely to claim the former Miami standout on waivers.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
■ In: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington
■ Out: Matt Asiata, Tion Green
■ Thoughts: Against the Bills Thursday night, the Lions rested their top four on the depth chart, including Washington, showing the job security the second-year back had coming into this one. If there had been a job opening, Green made a strong case with his effort throughout the preseason, including an exclamation point in Buffalo. But it’s tough to see how he squeezes on to the roster. With his special teams prowess, he’s a perfect practice squad candidate, who be counted on if injury strikes.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
■ In: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley
■ Out: Jared Abbrederis, Michael Rector, Dontez Ford, Dez Stewart, Noel Thomas
■ Thoughts: I’d love to tell you Billingsley salted away a job with a strong performance in Buffalo, but he laid an egg in the contest, catching two passes for two yards and showing some shaky ball security as a return man. He had some similar struggles in that department early in camp.
But it’s an entirely different thing to turn the ball over in your final audition and that’s exactly what Abbrederis did with a fumble in the preseason finale. Considering the full body of work this offseason, Billingsley gets the nod.
TIGHT END (3)
■ In: Eric Ebron, Darren Fells, Michael Roberts
■ Out: Robert Tonyan, Khari Lee, Tim Wright, Scott Orndoff, Cole Wick
■ Thoughts: One of the bigger mysteries coming out of Buffalo was whether Wick’s absence from the lineup was because he’s safe or still dealing with the chest injury he suffered against New England.
We’re going to lean on the latter and make Wick one of our final players on the outside looking in.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
■ In: Greg Robinson, Graham Glasgow, Travis Swanson, T.J. Lang, Rick Wagner, Joe Dahl, Corey Robinson, Cornelius Lucas, Brandon Thomas
■ Out: Leo Koloamatangi, Nick Becton, Connor Bozick, Storm Norton
■ Injured: Taylor Decker
■ Thoughts: The Lions issued some interesting news Friday, announcing Corey Robinson is off the PUP list. In the portions of practice open to the media, he hasn’t done anything physical, but even if he has to be inactive for a couple weeks as he works he way back into playing shape, it’s a boost to the team’s depth to get the experienced, young veteran back in the fold.
The team also traded Laken Tomlinson this week, opening the door for Thomas, a 2016 trade addition, to sneak on to the roster. Could Koloamatangi get the spot over Thomas? Sure. But there was almost no interest in him coming out of college and the Lions hid him pretty well during the preseason. Attempting to sneak him on to the practice squad isn’t a significant risk.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
■ In: Ziggy Ansah, Cornelius Washington, Anthony Zettel, Haloti Ngata, A’Shawn Robinson, Akeem Spence, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Pat O’Connor, Alex Barrett
■ Out: Ego Ferguson, Caushaud Lyons, Giorgio Newberry, Jeremiah Valoaga, Derrick Lott
■ Suspended: Armonty Bryant, Khyri Thornton
■ Injured: Kerry Hyder, Jordan Hill
■ Thoughts: How this group looks after Saturday compared to its makeup next week could be significantly different. It would be eyebrow-raising if the team attempted to go into the regular season relying on this much unproven depth. There almost has to be a move at defensive end, and potentially tackle as well.
For the projection, we put O’Connor on the roster for the first time in three tries, nudging ahead of Valoaga. But the competition between the three rookies, including Barrett, was incredibly tight all offseason. No combination of the three would surprise us.
■ In: Jarrad Davis, Tahir Whitehead, Antwione Williams, Paul Worrilow, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Steve Longa
■ Out: Thurston Armbrister, Nick Bellore
■ Injured: Brandon Copeland
■ Thoughts: If Bellore wasn’t nicked up throughout training camp, the veteran with local ties could have made a stronger case. He looked good on both defense and special teams, but we’re still given the nod to Longa, who has youth and a year of experience in the system on his side. He was a special teams demon during the preseason and earned the job.
■ In: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Quandre Diggs, D.J. Hayden, Teez Tabor, Johnson Bademosi, Jamal Agnew
■ Out: Adairius Barnes, Tramain Jacobs, Josh Thornton
■ Thoughts: Bademosi might be more on the bubble than anyone thought, especially after having such a terrific training camp. But veteran guys don’t typically play that deep into the fourth preseason game without good reason.
It’s tough to imagine them parting ways with such a high-end special teams performer. But if the Lions pull the trigger on a roster move we’re not ready to predict, we can’t say they didn’t tip us off Thursday night.
■ In: Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew, Don Carey, Charles Washington
■ Out: Rolan Milligan, Alex Carter
■ Thoughts: The Lions gave Washington the longest of looks during the preseason, and he delivered in a big way against the Bills, recording 10 stops, including three on special teams. That’s a good way to work your way onto a roster.
■ In: Matt Prater, Kasey Redfern, Don Muhlbach
■ Injured: Sam Martin
■ Thoughts: It appears Martin’s ankle won’t be ready to go for the regular season. That means Kasey Redfern will be rewarded for holding down the fort in his stead with a strong preseason.
Redfern averaged better than 45 yards per boot during the preseason, and also kicked the ball off well. The biggest concern will be the young specialist’s ability to stay cool if he has to hold for a long, game-winning field-goal attempt by Prater.