The Detroit Lions established the team’s 53-man roster on Saturday. Here’s how things shook out heading into the regular season, with analysis by Justin Rogers of The Detroit News.
► In: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel
► Out: David Blough
► Analysis: It’s at least a little surprising the Lions are willing to risk losing Blough on waivers. The second-year quarterback had shown significant improvement in his first full camp with the franchise and has the makings of a reliable, long-term backup in this league.
Sure, he could clear waivers and land back in Detroit on the practice squad, but an early opponent looking for some extra intel on Detroit’s offense could always throw in a waiver claim.
DETROIT LIONS ROSTER CUTS TRACKER
RUNNING BACK (5)
► In: Kerryon Johnson, D’Andre Swift, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Jason Cabinda
► Out: Jonathan Williams, Wes Hills, Jason Huntley
► Injured reserve: Nick Bawden
► Analysis: Huntley was a fifth-round selection in the most recent draft and the highest not to make the team’s initial roster. Yes, he’s a better pass-catcher than a ball carrier, which is a redundant asset when you have Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift at the top of the depth chart, but Huntley really looked like he had some real playmaking ability with the ball in his hands during camp practices.
There’s reason to believe Huntley was an insurance policy for the return game had Jamal Agnew’s transition to receiver gone poorly. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, while Huntley actually had some ball security issues handling punts and kicks. That easily could have been a factor in the decision to put him on waivers.
Before Saturday, it felt like Scarbrough was on the bubble, based solely on how much practice time he had missed. Last year’s performance must have left a lasting impression.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
► In: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Marvin Hall, Quintez Cephus, Jamal Agnew
► Out: Chris Lacy, Tom Kennedy, Victor Bolden
► Analysis: This position group played out as expected, as all six receivers who made the roster proved they deserved their spots. It will be interesting to see how the rotation develops. Given Agnew’s contributions on special teams and Hall’s budding inside/outside skill set, we might see Cephus as a game-day inactive early in the season.
TIGHT END (3)
► In: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant
► Out: Isaac Nauta, Matt Sokol
► Analysis: Bryant over Nauta was something of a surprise given the fact the undrafted rookie has been sidelined the past two weeks. But before he suffered a hamstring injury, Bryant’s ability to make plays in the passing game was standing out during the early camp practices.
It’s certainly possible the Lions use the new short-term injured reserve for Bryant, which would keep him sidelined an additional three weeks.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
► In: Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Joe Dahl, Jonah Jackson, Tyrell Crosby, Logan Stenberg, Matt Nelson
► Out: Oday Aboushi, Kenny Wiggins, Beau Benzschawel, Dan Skipper (waived injured)
► Analysis: It’s not surprising the Lions went light on lineman, but the club is going especially thin on interior options by waiving Aboushi, Wiggins and Benzschawel.
The practice squad allows teams to keep veterans this year, so if he doesn’t field another offer, Wiggins makes all kinds of sense due to his versatility. It’s also easy imagining Benzschawel getting a spot, particularly with his ability to play center.
What’s most surprising about the setup is how comfortable the team seemingly is with Stenberg, a fourth-round pick out of Kentucky. He struggled throughout camp, which isn’t all that surprising given how little time rookies had to get acclimated this year. But it’s an entirely different thing to count on him being ready to contribute if there’s an early-season, in-game injury.
The Lions did work Crosby at guard a bit more this camp, so they might view him as the top backup at four spots, with Jackson as the emergency center if Ragnow were to suffer an injury.
DEFENSIVE LINE (7)
► In: Trey Flowers, Danny Shelton, Nick Williams, Julian Okwara, Da’Shawn Hand, Romeo Okwara, John Penisini
► Out: Kevin Strong, Frank Herron, Will Clarke, Olive Sagapolu, Albert Huggins, Kevin Wilkins
► Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform: Austin Bryant
► Injured reserve: Jashon Cornell
► Analysis: With Hand seemingly always dinged up, there was some thought the Lions might keep an extra interior lineman on board as insurance. But if the team could easily put Strong or Herron on the practice squad and get that same benefit.
As for Bryant, he’s out for at least the first six weeks of the season with the PUP designation.
► In: Jamie Collins Sr., Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Jahlani Tavai, Reggie Ragland, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Elijah Lee
► Out: Anthony Pittman
► Analysis: Detroit went heavy on linebackers and should benefit on special teams by keeping Lee and Reeves-Maybin instead of deciding between the two. Ragland, who has won championships at every level, will bring an element of leadership to the room.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (12)
► In: Desmond Trufant, Jeff Okudah, Justin Coleman, Amani Oruwariye, Tracy Walker, Duron Harmon, Will Harris, Darryl Roberts, Tony McRae, Miles Killebrew, C.J. Moore, Mike Ford
► Out: Dee Virgin, Jalen Elliott, Bobby Price
► Suspended: Jayron Kearse
► Analysis: Kearse’s three-game suspension bought the team some additional time to sort out its depth in the back end of the defense. Given how much Moore continues to impress the coaching staff, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kearse take a spot from one of the seven cornerbacks Detroit’s currently rostering.
Roberts, Ford and McRae all ended camp a little banged up, which might explain why the Lions are keeping seven corners. It’s a position that always seems to demand some extra depth through the course of the year, but it’s also likely the group that will be asked to sacrifice first if the Lions need help elsewhere.
► In: Matt Prater, Jack Fox, Don Muhlbach
► Out: Arryn Siposs, Steven Wirtel
► Analysis: Wirtel gave Muhlbach a run for his money, but there’s a reason the veteran has stuck in this league for nearly two decades. As for the punter battle, the decision played out as expected. It was close, but Fox was clearly better from both leg strength and consistency standpoints.