Stay here for all your updates as the Lions get down to their 53-man roster limit by 4 p.m. Saturday:
4:31 p.m. – The Lions have not made their 53-man roster official yet, but Jack Fox has won the punting job.
Fox and Arryn Siposs were in a neck-and-neck battle to replace Sam Martin, with the players splitting reps through most of training camp. Neither has any previous NFL experience, though Fox did spend a few weeks on the Lions’ practice squad last year.
Siposs, who played Australian Rules Football before going to college at Auburn, flashed a strong leg and is a worthy candidate for the practice squad, but Fox seemed like the better fit because of his ability to kick off.
If the Lions do keep two specialists on practice squad (Siposs and long snapper Steven Wirtel),they will essentially be on extended tryouts. That’s probably the right move, given everything going on with COVID-19 and how close the battles were, but I also wonder if that will have Fox looking over his shoulder the first time he hits a less-than-perfect punt in a game.
3:12 p.m. — In the biggest news of the day, the Lions are keeping longtime long snapper Don Muhlbach around for a 17th season.
[ Lions waive David Blough, going with 2 QBs on 53-man roster ]
Muhlbach survived what was probably the biggest training camp challenge of his career, edging out undrafted rookie Steven Wirtel for the job.
I mentioned a couple times in my training camp observations that Wirtel was outperforming Muhlbach, but it’s never easy for a team to move on from a trusted veteran — especially without having the benefit of preseason games to evaluate the challenger.
Muhlbach has done this at a high level for a long time, and I don’t think he’ll have a big drop off this year. If you read my observations, you know that I simply found Wirtel to be a little more consistent with the placement of his snaps.
I put Wirtel on my practice squad in my initial 53-man roster prediction, and as unusual as that seems, it makes sense for the Lions to try and bring him back if he clears waivers. Wirtel was probably college football’s best long snapper last season, and at 39 years old Muhlbach may finally be at the end of his career.
With about 45 minutes left until transactions must be submitted to the NFL, the only position battle left to solve is punter, where Jack Fox and Arryn Siposs are battling for the job.
2:36 p.m. — Here’s the first surprise of the day: The Lions are cutting rookie running back Jason Huntley, according to ESPN.
A fifth-round pick out of New Mexico State, Huntley flashed at times during training camp, especially in receiving drills. He was contending for the No. 3 running back job, and the fact that he won’t make the team could be good news for both Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson.
Johnson, in particular, has a similar skill set to Huntley, who also was vying for time as a return man.
Huntley did muff two punts in practice last month, while incumbent return man Jamal Agnew had a strong training camp and is in position to make the team as a receiver.
There are so many capable and role-specific running backs available, and Huntley was a such a sleeper prospect in the draft, that it’s hard for me to see any team claiming him on waivers.
Assuming he makes it through, he’s a natural candidate to return to the practice squad when the Lions set that 16-player roster on Sunday.
2:30 p.m. — Rookie seventh-round pick John Penisini is inching closer to making the team as the Lions continue to make cuts at the defensive line spot.
Along with Kevin Strong, the Lions have informed Frank Herron he will be waived at 4 p.m. today.
Herron played in three games late last season after the Lions claimed him off waivers from the Miami Dolphins.
The Lions have a five-man nucleus on their defensive line, with Trey Flowers, Danny Shelton and Nick Williams the starters, and Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara the top backups. Penisini projects as a backup nose tackle who should eventually help the Lions’ run defense.
1:03 p.m. – NFL Network is reporting that that the Lions are releasing running back Jonathan Williams.
Williams signed late in the summer and played well early in camp, when the Lions were ravaged with injuries in their backfield. But he fumbled in the team’s controlled scrimmage last week and seemed to be lost in the backfield shuffle once D’Andre Swift and Bo Scarbrough returned.
Swift and Kerryon Johnson are roster locks and Jason Huntley had a strong camp, while Scarbrough, Ty Johnson and converted linebacker Jason Cabinda are vying for backup jobs.
Swift saw his workload increase last week and should be able to contribute in some capacity when the Lions open the season Sept. 13 against the Chicago Bears.
12:43 p.m. — Kevin Strong made the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie last season, but the Lions will be placing him on waivers at 4 p.m. today.
Strong appeared in eight games and made five tackles last season and was in a pretty heated battle for a backup job this summer.
The Lions’ top five defensive linemen appear set, with Frank Herron, who they claimed off waivers after Strong got hurt last year, and seventh-round pick John Penisini among others competing for a backup job.
I put Strong on my 53-man roster prediction based off play last season, thinking the Lions might have an easier time getting someone like Penisini through to the practice squad. Obviously, the Lions don’t foresee that being an issue, as they’ve told Strong they’d like to bring him back on PS if he clears waivers.
12:30 p.m. — Former Michigan State tight end Matt Sokol will be among the Lions’ waiver cuts today.
Sokol got an extended look during training camp because of injuries to Isaac Nauta and Hunter Bryant, and I thought he played well when he was on the field.
Bryant, as mentioned earlier, is dealing with a hamstring injury, so that means Nauta could be in as the third tight end if the Lions keep three at that position (behind T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James).
The Lions are expected to bring Sokol back on practice squad.
The Lions also informed cornerback Dee Virgin and wide receiver Victor Bolden they will be part of today’s cuts.
Virgin was a special teams staple for the Lions last season and was taking first-team reps at gunner in practice as recently as Tuesday. The Lions do have a number of potential gunners on their roster, though, including first-round pick Jeff Okudah.
11:41 a.m. – The Lions have informed undrafted rookie safety Bobby Price that he’ll be placed on waivers later today. Price was a three-year starter at Norfolk State who was originally a Clemson commit back in high school.
Watching Price on the field this summer, he’s very raw, but at 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds – and taking into account he had no formal offseason program or even a college all-star game to play in – there are not many safeties like him.
I expect the Lions will bring him back on their 16-player practice squad Sunday.
10:58 a.m. — Just thinking out loud here: The Lions have a decision to make on tight end Hunter Bryant. An undrafted rookie out of Washington who showed good receiving skills at the start of camp, Bryant has missed about two weeks with a hamstring injury.
He seems like a candidate for injured reserve — the Lions are making plans to place someone on IR later today — but if the Lions hope to bring him back later in the season they’ll need to carry him on their 53-man roster through today’s cuts.
With that in mind, keep your eyes on the Lions’ cut list sometime after 4 p.m. today. for a veteran who won’t be in high demand but could re-sign Sunday night and play a backup role this fall.
On the cuts front, the Lions informed wide receiver Tom Kennedy he’d be released this morning. Kennedy was a long shot to make the roster, given the depth the Lions have at the receiver position.
7:26 a.m. — Good morning everyone, we’ll keep track of all the Detroit Lions’ roster moves today as they get down to the 53-man limit by 4 p.m.
Already this week, the Lions have let go of a couple wide receivers, Geremy Davis on Tuesday and Chris Lacy on Friday.
Neither move was a surprise as the Lions are fairly deep at the receiver position, with Quintez Cephus, Jamal Agnew and Marvin Hall legitimate contenders for backup roles behind starters Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola.
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Cephus, Agnew and Hall bring something different to table, with Cephus’ size and route-running prowess, Agnew’s return ability and Hall’s blazing speed making it possible the Lions keep all three on their roster.
We’ll find out in a few hours if that’s the case. For now, 25 more moves to go.
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