Catching up on today’s cuts
With about 90 minutes left until all NFL teams have to set their 53-man rosters, here is what we know about the Lions’ moves so far: 72
Players expected to be waived: LB Jahlani Tavai, LB Tavante Beckett, OT Darrin Paulo, RB Craig Reynolds, WR Geronimo Allison, DT Bruce Hector.
Bubble players expected to make the initial 53-man roster: CB Bobby Price, LB Anthony Pittman.
Players acquired via trade: WR Trinity Benson
Prominent position battles left to decide: Kicker, between Randy Bullock and Zane Gonzalez.
The Lions had 72 players on their roster after trading for Benson. Accounting for the six players who have been notified of their release, and a seventh – defensive tackle Jashon Cornell – who will serve a three-game suspension to start the season, the Lions have 12 roster moves still to make.
Clarity at inside linebacker
The Detroit Lions waived undrafted rookie Tavante Beckett on Tuesday, to go along with Jahlani Tavai, but plan to keep Wayne State product Anthony Pittman (I say planned because nothing is certain until 4 p.m.).
Pittman had a solid training camp and is a story in perseverance. He spent the last two years on the Lions practice squad and believed enough in himself to re-sign with the team when he had an opportunity to go elsewhere after last season.
Asked early this month why he chose to stay in Detroit, he told me being from the area played a big part in his decision.
“I love the city, I love playing for my hometown team, I love being in this building and I feel like I want to be a part of the resurgence of the Detroit Lions,” he said. “It’s my hometown team, so it’s like, all right, let’s do it.”
As with everyone at the back of the roster, Pittman’s spot is only as permanent as he makes it. He outplayed Tavai in spot duty with the second-team defense this summer and projects as a special teams player this fall (with Alex Anzalone and Jamie Collins as starters and Derrick Barnes pushing for early playing time as a backup), but the Lions will monitor the waiver wire for upgrades at the linebacker position.
Still, for a local product, there’s a dream-come-true element to making the team.
Did Lions miss on Mac Jones?
The biggest news from a busy roster cut day comes from New England, where the Patriots are reportedly releasing Cam Newton and turning the franchise over to rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
Jones had an impressive preseason by all accounts, completing 69% of his passes without an interception in three games. Going back to the draft, he was a player many pegged for New England — if he fell that far — as not just a fit but the type of steward Patriots coach Bill Belichick could rely on to return his team to playoffs.
Well, Jones will get that chance this fall, sooner than many expected, and all of Michigan will be watching.
The Lions, of course, despite an obvious need at the quarterback position, passed on Jones and Justin Fields to take offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the No. 7 pick of the draft.
Sewell has struggled this preseason, while Jones and Fields, who remains temporarily behind Andy Dalton on the Chicago Bears depth chart, have shined. And while we won’t know for years if the Lions made the right choice, we will have plenty of data to discuss in the months ahead.
Maybe that’s not fair to Sewell or Lions general manager Brad Holmes, but that’s life in the NFL.
This league is so quarterback-dependent that every team without one has to be kicking itself when a good one slips through its hands.
For the record, I thought the Lions were right to take Sewell over Jones, who is not quite mobile enough for head coach Dan Campbell’s tastes. And I’m not at all worried about Sewell’s struggles. He switched positions after taking a year off. He was never going to walk in and be Anthony Munoz from the jump.
Still, a year after they passed on Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa only to watch Herbert become a star, the Lions could be haunted by two more high-first-round quarterbacks who they decided weren’t right for their rebuild.
No more ‘Netflix’
Craig Reynolds was a great preseason story. He signed as a street free agent midway through training camp, ran for a 24-yard touchdown a day later after introducing himself to teammates in the huddle, then shined again the next week.
In the end, though, Reynolds’ tale wasn’t enough to earn a spot on the Lions’ initial 53-man roster.
The Lions waived Reynolds, whose coach nicknamed him Netflix, early Tuesday morning as part of their first wave of cuts on roster trim down day.
Reynolds had a strong preseason, especially considering the circumstances. He ran for a team-high 87 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns. The Lions, though, have solid depth atop their running back room with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams essentially co-starters and they weren’t about to give up on seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson after his solid preseason.
Jason Cabinda is in as a fullback, and the question now is whether Godwin Igwebuike did enough to make the roster at running back after switching from safety before training camp.
Tavai was, at best, the Lions’ fifth inside linebacker and appeared to play himself out of the mix for a roster spot in recent weeks.
He struggled in pass coverage this preseason and occasionally misdiagnosed plays, and those errors overshadowed the good work he put in this offseason transforming his body to try and better fit the Lions’ image for a linebacker.
Tavai, who was considered a scheme-specific linebacker coming out of Hawaii, played at nearly 270 pounds last season and was down in the 240s in camp.
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Linebackers coach Mark DeLeone offered some prime coach-speak earlier this month when he said Tavai was in “really good position” to make the 53-man roster after Shaun Dion Hamilton suffered a season-ending injury.
Now it appears as if Anthony Pittman has the inside track on the fifth linebacker spot — if the Lions stay in-house for that job. Pittman had not been told whether he made the team as of mid-morning.
As for Tavai, he finishes his Lions career with 16 starts and 116 tackles in two seasons. Perhaps he finds a home with a New England Patriots-style defense going forward.
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