Lions’ Dan Campbell says up to 10 roster spots still undecided as final cuts loom

Detroit News

Allen Park — Asked why he’s more confident about his team compared to a year ago, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell points to a number of factors.

The young roster he and general manager Brad Holmes assembled last offseason is a year older, and, more importantly, more experienced. And the expectations, schematically and culturally, are better understood by the returning players, making it easier to proliferate that information to the newcomers.

But the first thing Campbell notes about his raised expectations is the improved talent.

“I think it just goes to show what Brad’s done,” Campbell said. “That’s a credit to him, the talent that he’s brought in. And we’re a lot further ahead than we were last year, and I bring this up — yeah, it’s one thing to bring in, to have more talent, but that talent makes the talent around it better.

“That’s the other thing, you kind of get an uptick there, because they’re going at each other on a daily basis,” Campbell said. “And so, when you have better talent, it makes the other talent better, and then it’s just as highly competitive, and you make bigger strides.”

But with better talent also comes more difficult decisions. The Lions roster, which sits at 85 on Monday, will need to be reduced to 80 by 4 p.m. Tuesday. Then, a week later, the team has to get down to its 53-man regular season tally.

“It’s going to be tough,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be very difficult.”

Campbell was asked how many of those 53 roster spots remain in flux. He paused reflectively for several seconds before answering.

“Oh, man, that’s a tough one,” he said. “I don’t know if I gave you an answer if I would be correct. I mean, eight to 10, somewhere in there probably.

“It’s going to be a tough deal this year.”

That potentially includes the backup quarterback job, which Campbell described as neck-and-neck between contenders David Blough and Tim Boyle. But there’s also decisions to be made at running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, secondary and kicker.

Basically, every position group.

About the only hint Campbell gave into the team’s thought process was the often-understated emphasis on special teams.

“You’ve got have some guys that that’s kind of what they do,” Campbell said. “You can’t just have a bunch of backups who they may be the next guy in on offense or defense, but they can’t play special teams because you won’t ever be good in special teams. So we look at that, too.”

Among the team’s most frequently used special teamers last year, the top seven played fewer than 250 snaps on offense and defense. And six of those seven — safety C.J. Moore, linebackers Anthony Pittman and Josh Woods, cornerback Bobby Price, running back Godwin Igwebuike and fullback Jason Cabinda are still with the team, although Cabinda is on the physically unable to perform list with an ankle injury.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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