Lions’ Campbell: We’ll probably need to cut players we depended on last season

Detroit News

Allen Park — Last year, Dan Campbell’s first as the coach of the Detroit Lions, he stepped to the podium the day before the team’s final roster cuts were due and announced an initial batch of releases. That group even included a couple of surprises in cornerback Mike Ford and offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby.

This year, Campbell had no such details to provide the day before rosters had to be finalized, an unofficial confirmation this batch of decisions has been more difficult, after the team bolstered the quality of its depth across the board.

“I mean, it’s a lot more difficult than even last year,” Campbell said. “It was tough last year, but this year, we are so much farther along. And it’s a credit to (general manager) Brad (Holmes), because our talent level is better, and the competition is better, and I’ll just say it again, the better the competition, the better the players rise to that occasion.”

With that improved talent, and elevated expectations, Campbell noted that the team is likely going to have to let go of some players who played meaningful roles a year ago.

“We’re going to probably have to let go of some players that were here all last year that we depended on, did everything we asked them to do and produced for us last year,” he said. “But that’s the sign of progress too.”

Among the players perceived to be on the roster bubble who fit that description are running back Godwin Igwebuike, wide receiver Tom Kennedy and safety C.J. Moore.

Moore, a key special-teams contributor who has recently been sidelined by injury, adds a layer to the roster decisions. If the Lions wanted to put him on injured reserve, they’d have to keep him as part of the initial 53-man roster and waive someone else. The hypothetical goal in that scenario would be to bring that cut player back, but that’s no guarantee, as the league’s other 31 teams would have a chance to claim him off waivers.

“There are a number of these guys that we’re going to have to move on from that we would love to have back in this building, that they didn’t quite make the 53, but we’ve had a lot of time invested in them and with them and we know what they’re about and we understand the growth,” Campbell said. ” And there is a comfort level to some of those guys. You bring them back, (and) if something does happen, you feel like they’re plug-and-play.”

The Lions face a similar decision with cornerback Jerry Jacobs, who has been on the physically unable to perform list while working his way back from a torn ACL. Because Jacobs never practiced during training camp, unlike Moore, the team can announce Jacobs will remain on PUP to start the season. That will free up a roster spot ahead of cuts, but also prohibits the second-year corner from practicing the first four weeks of the regular season, even if he’s ready sooner.

Of course, the Lions aren’t only interested in who they’re keeping and who they’re letting go. They’ll also be scouring waivers for potential upgrades to the roster. Based on the team’s 3-13-1 record from a year ago, they hold the No. 2 spot in the claim order, with only the Jacksonville Jaguars having higher priority.

The team seemingly has obvious areas meriting continued attention, including backup quarterback, but Campbell said the team needs to be open to addressing any spot on the roster.

“I would say everything is available,” Campbell said. “We’re looking. Anywhere we feel like we can upgrade since we’re (No. 2) on the claim list, we’re looking. …Shoot we’re looking at halfback, we’re looking at tight end, we’re looking at O-line, we’re looking at D-line. Anything is available, and if we feel like it truly will upgrade us, and it’s somebody we feel like would fit our culture and what we’re about, then we’re open to anything.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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