6 Detroit Lions takes before cuts: Feeling good about WRs, expect fewer waiver claims

Detroit Free Press

Some final thoughts before the Detroit Lions start the process of trimming their roster to 53 players before Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline:

• I know some people were surprised to see me put six receivers on my Lions’ initial 53-man roster prediction, but coaches seem to genuinely like the depth they have at the position, with Jamal Agnew, Marvin Hall and rookie Quintez Cephus all flashing at times playing behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola.

“I think there’s a good nucleus of guys, particularly the guys you mentioned with Marvin Hall, with Agnew, with Vic Bolden,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “Those guys have – with Cephus as well – those guys have really done a nice job. We moved some of them around, we put them in different opportunities, just try to give them some chances to make plays. In different moments guys have showed up, but I think it’s shaking out. I think at the end we’re going to be really comfortable with the guys we end up going with on the roster.”

There won’t be a ton of reps for the backup receivers, but Amendola missed practice this week with an undisclosed injury, and both and Jones are in their 30s so keeping an extra backup who can contribute seems like the right move.

[ Jamal Agnew making plays in practice, showing his move from CB to WR isn’t a gimmick ]

• The Lions are in good shape injury wise entering cut day. Amendola, Julian Okwara (leg) and Hunter Bryant (hamstring) missed time this week, but D’Andre Swift and Bo Scarbrough are on the mend. More importantly, the Lions have not lost any key players to significant preseason injuries, while teams like Chicago Bears (David Montgomery) and Minnesota Vikings (Danielle Hunter) have players who’ve missed extended time and could be in jeopardy of missing the start of the season.

One Lion who seems destined to open the year on the physically unable to perform list is second-year pass rusher Austin Bryant, who has not practiced this summer and missed a chunk of his rookie year.

“We certainly don’t want to put anybody out there that we feel is maybe not quite physically ready to go, from that aspect of it,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “And when he is, he’ll be out there and he’ll be ready to go, I do know that. He’s a great guy who works really hard. He’s super, pays attention to the details, smart and all that, so we’ll be excited when he can get out there.”

Bryant will not count towards the 53-man roster if he opens the season on PUP.

[ Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster: Here’s Dave Birkett’s prediction ]

• C.J. Moore is in good shape to make the roster after early concerns that the Lions’ free-agent defensive back additions – Tony McRae and Jayron Kearse, in particular – might make him expendable.

I asked special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs to name a young guy or two that stood out as having a good grasp of what he’s teaching, and Moore was the name he mentioned.

“When you talk about a guy who just does everything exactly the way we’ve asked, and to be perfectly frank, is a guy probably that I underestimated coming in as a new coach and probably I was just wrong on, just going off of the tape and my perception of him coming in, but has really just kind of took the bull by the horns,” Coombs said. “The guy had multiple tackles as a gunner last year, was a starting gunner and I’m sure you guys have seen, kind of I came in and asked him to move to PP (personal protector on the punt team), and not only the PP, but moved him to be the backup PP and he never complained, never tried to convince me that he was best where he was, just really embraced it, dove in head first, wore me and (Don Muhlbach) out all offseason just learning the protection aspect of playing that position.

“And did a great job, has really earned everything that he’s getting right now in terms of playing time and opportunities. So, that would be a guy that I am very, very excited with, excited for and really proud of, I would say, just the way he handled everything, the way he approaches everything on a daily basis. If we have a team of 53 guys like that, we’ll be in great shape. There’s a lot of other guys I could rattle off, but a guy who’s really stood out in camp as one of our best players would be C.J.”

[ New Lions assistant Brayden Coombs ‘more than ready’ to run special teams ]

• Sticking with special teams, Patricia didn’t provide any real insight when asked Thursday to evaluate the performance of long snappers Don Muhlbach and Steven Wirtel, but acknowledged it can be tough to move on from a reliable, long-tenure player like Muhlbach.

“Certainly, the better competition you have, it’s not easy, but that’s actually a good problem,” he said. “That’s what you want to have. You want to have good competition all the way across the board. So that’s something that we look forward to. I know the players do a great job with it, too. Everybody’s different in those situations, everybody’s experience is different. I’ve certainly been around a lot of great players even towards the end of their careers and how they handled those situations. But in the end, we’ll always do what’s best for the team and try to go forward from there.”

• The biggest undecided on defense seems to be up front, where John Penisini, Kevin Strong and Frank Herron are competing for one or two spots. Penisini is a seventh-round pick, and Strong and Herron played as backups last season.

Asked about Strong and Herron earlier this week, Patricia said both players flashed at times in camp.

“I think they know that the biggest thing for them is just consistency, being able to do that consistently down in and down out, when you’re in those situations or in those roles or forced into more playing time,” he said. “We just have to make sure that we understand what we’re doing and just do it the same every time, otherwise it’s gets a little bit difficult for the rest of the defense. That’ll be the biggest thing is just being consistent.”

• Finally, the Lions have the third spot in the waiver order, which normally would put them in prime position to poach one of the better cuts when the waiver period opens at noon Sunday.

The Lions will do their diligence on the wire, but I think teams will be less active overall this year with no preseason games to evaluate players. Maybe there’s a rookie the Lions missed out on in the draft, or free agency, that they really want to get their hands on. But with no real injury concerns and a good feeling about their roster overall, there’s little that will have changed in their evaluation of anyone who’s cut since that player was last available.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content. 

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