The Detroit Lions’ preseason is over, and with the final 53-man roster due by Tuesday, August 30 at 4 p.m. ET, it’s time to make our final forecasts for the 53-man squad.
This off-season, Jeremy Reisman and I have joined forces for these projections, but for this latest episode, we’ve switched back to individual projections to give fans a little more perspective on what each of us is thinking.
Note: If you want to see any of their past 53 man predictions, you can find them here: 1.0, post-OTA/mini-camp, 2.0, game after the preseason 1, and 3.0, game after the preseason 2. And here’s Jeremy’s latest selection of 53 man roster.
Let’s look at my 53 man projection.
Appetizer: Jared Goff
Reserves: David Blow
Out: Tim Boyle
Going into the preseason finale, it looked like Boyle was at the wheel for the QB2 role as he was announced as the starter and the plan was to get him half the job with the starting strike. In my preview article on the battle on the roster, I assumed Boyle was in a good spot, but if he didn’t have success with the top unit, then it would be a big red flag.
After dropping the ball in an incredible manner, Boyle was pulled and replaced by Blow. After the game, Coach Dan Campbell addressed the media, speaking of the backup quarterback league:
“I think it has become very clear. I think we got an answer, and I’ll leave it at that.”
That screams bad news for Boyle to me.
Walk back (4)
Appetizer: D’Andre Swift
Reserves: Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Godwin Igwebuike (KR)
PUP: Jason Cabinda (Superback)
Out: Jermar Jefferson, Justin Jackson
The Lions really tried to give Jefferson the best possible chance, but other than the game where he followed Penei Sewell 15 yards downfield, he’s struggled to find the magic I saw in him last year.
Jackson looked better every week but I don’t see him before Reynolds and Campbell told us last week the kick return job was for Igwebbuike to lose – and I didn’t see anything happen that would knock him off that spot.
Wide receiver (6)
Appetizers: Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds
Reserves: Kalif Raymond (PR), Quintez Cephus, Trinity Benson
PUP: Jameson Williams
Out: Tom Kennedy, Maurice Alexander, Kalil Pimpleton
Change: Benson IN, Kennedy OUT
The above original six is the same group we had in our 53-man joint projections every week, except for the last episode, when we promoted Kennedy over Benson. Now, a week later, I went to this last game and still wanted more of Kennedy on special teams or to show that he can be recovered on offense. Three catches for 15 yards and little to no impact on special teams left a sour taste in my mouth.
At the end of the day, as Campbell said Friday, when it comes to tight roster fights, “the tiebreaker will be special teams”. Welcome back, Trinity Benson.
Tight end (4)
Appetizers: TJ Hockenson
Reserves: Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra, James Mitchell
Out: Devin Funchess, Derek Deese Jr.
For me the top three is cemented and with Jason Cabinda in reserve/PUP the Lions have at least a month to see where Mitchell is in development. Yes, Mitchell hasn’t shown much this preseason, but the Lions certainly anticipated this when they drew him, knowing his ACL recovery would slow his acclimation process.
Offensive line (8)
Starters: Taylor Decker (LT), Jonah Jackson (LG), Frank Ragnow (C), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (RG), Penei Sewell (RT)
Reserves: Matt Nelson (OT), Evan Brown (C), Tommy Kraemer (IOL)
Out: Logan Stenberg (LG), Dan Skipper (OT), Obinna Eze (OT), Kevin Jarvis (OG), Darrin Paulo (T/G), Kendall Lamm (OT)
This group of eight is the top lineman of Lions and the only question I discussed was: is there room for Stenberg? I suppose it’s possible they could find a way to keep him as ninth lineman, but again, something Campbell said in his post-game presser stuck with me and influenced my decision:
“There are very few occasions when we hire someone and they don’t play at all. You may have an eighth lineman, but that’s a bonus to bring him anyway. But as far as everyone else, we’re going to use them.”
If they add Stenberg, he will likely take the place of a player who would otherwise have a contributing role, and that doesn’t seem to align with Campbell’s vision.
Domestic Defense Line (5)
Appetizers: Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill
Reserves: Levi Onwuzurike, Isaiah Buggs, Demetrius Taylor
Out: Jason Cornell, Bruce Hector
Change: Taylor IN, Cornell OUT
What happened to Cornell? He had 27 snaps in Game 1, another 23 in Game 2, then just seven in Game 3. Fewer snap counts in the preseason finale is usually a good sign that a player is in a safe place, but Cornell has the Haven’t played well lately – in games or training – and I see the drop in snaps more as an indictment than a sign that he’s safe.
Meanwhile, Taylor has been busting offensive lineman for the past two weeks and is a natural player to fill in for Onwuzurike as he recovers from his latest injury.
Edge rusher (5)
Appetizers: Aidan Hutchinson, Charles Harris
Reserves: Julian Okwara (LB), Austin Bryant, John Cominsky
PUP: Romeo Okwara, Josh Paschal
Out: James Houston (LB), Eric Banks
Nothing will change here, as Banks was injured and Houston is still developing. It’s also worth noting that the Hutchinson, Harris, Bryant, and Cominsky together made up the Lions NASCAR pack, the formation they used on the Hutchinson/Harris bag.
Starters: Alex Anzalone (MIKE), Malcolm Rodriguez (WILL)
Reserves: Derrick Barnes, Chris Board, Anthony Pittman
Out: Jarrad Davis, Josh Woods
I think this group will keep moving as they go into the regular season. Barnes has really stepped up lately and even got the start against the Steelers, but I still think that role is the best fit for Rodriguez.
The fifth linebacker remains Pittman for me because of his positional versatility and special team contributions. He can operate as a stack-linebacker and edge rusher in subpacks, a coverman in subpacks and sits on any special team unit.
Appetizers: Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, AJ Parker (NB)
Reserves: Will Harris, Mike Hughes (NB), Bobby Price
PUP: Jerry Jacobs
Out: Chase Lucas (NB), Mark Gilbert, Saivion Smith, Cedric Boswell
Change: Hughes IN, Lucas OUT
Okay, this one hurts. I’ve actually been singing Lucas’s praises from the moment he was called up, and while I still believe he’s got starters on his head, he’s just not there yet. Again, here’s a Campbell quote that seems to apply to Lucas:
“There’s some of those guys in the backend, I can think of two in the back of my mind right now that I’m like, ‘Man, in a year I could see something really special, but right now it’s not there.’ And they’re hard, they’re hard.”
Meanwhile, Hughes pressured Parker for a starting role and was half of the Lions’ first-team shooting pair. Price represents the other half of the shooter duo and has several other special team roles.
Appetizers: Tracy Walker, DeShon Elliott
Reserves: Ifetu Melifonwu, Kerby Joseph, JuJu Hughes
Out: CJ Moore
Change: Hughes IN, Moore OUT
Moore’s aggravation of his injury, combined with consistent play from JuJu Hughes, made this decision easier to make. I still think it’s a possibility that they keep Moore initially, move him to the injured reserve after cuts and then bring Hughes back. But I could also see that they weren’t getting cute and risking Hughes for waivers.
Special teams (3)
Starters: Jack Fox (P), Scott Daly (LS), Austin Seibert (K)
Out: Riley Patterson (K)
No changes here. The lack of offense spoiled Patterson’s chance to make a splash in the preseason finale, but he’s been behind Seibert for several weeks now. The bigger leg certainly helps, but Seibert was also the more accurate kicker in the camp. It also helps that he’s a regular kick-off, which doesn’t force Jack Fox into the role.