Training camp is a little more than a month away, and while the Detroit Lions might have some shift in the roster between now and the beginning of August the players there now probably are the ones who will start at camp.
With that in mind, we’re taking another shot at predicting what the roster will look like when the team sets the initial 53-man roster (and 10-person practice squad) in September.
We’ll look at the offense on Monday and then defense/special teams on Tuesday
Starter: Matthew Stafford
Thoughts: This is a pretty stable position, as it has been the past few years. The Lions brought Orlovsky and Moore back to give continuity to the quarterback room, and that’s important for Stafford. Stafford is the unquestioned starter – he will be for a while barring something unforeseen – and Orlovsky and Moore are the backups. The biggest question is if Gilbert can do enough to be on the practice squad.
Roster locks: Stafford, Moore, Orlovsky
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Stafford, Moore, Orlovsky.
Changes from last projection: None.
RUNNING BACKS (5):
Thoughts: Barring injury, the top three running backs and fullback are set. I’ve set the roster with three running backs and a fullback for now, although it is very possible the Lions keep four running backs and a fullback. If that’s the case, Winn is the most likely candidate because of his special teams ability. This is a position where some things could shake out differently once pads come on. Zenner didn’t do a ton to impress me during offseason workouts.
Roster locks: Bell, Abdullah, Riddick, Burton.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Bell, Abdullah, Riddick, Winn, Burton. Practice squad – Zenner.
Changes from last prediction: Zenner off the roster.
WIDE RECEIVER (6):
Thoughts: Meh. Johnson and Tate are elite-level starters. Everything else is pretty flexible. Considering the dearth of outside receivers the Lions have, Fuller is probably on the team as a third receiver. No one else is close to locked up, and this should be one of the toughest position battles in camp. Other than Haggins and maybe Vernon Johnson, any of these guys could make the 53-man roster. If Jones is healthy in camp and continues to improve, he could be the surprise.
Roster locks: Calvin Johnson, Tate.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Calvin Johnson, Tate, Fuller, Ross, Moore, Broyles. Practice squad – Jones, Peacock.
Changes from last projection: Ross, Moore on the roster; Peacock, Jones off it.
TIGHT END (3):
Starter: Eric Ebron
Thoughts: This is not an awe-inspiring group. All of them have some question marks – from Fauria’s health to Ebron’s hands to Pettigrew’s ability as a dual-threat tight end anymore. Ebron and Pettigrew are not going anywhere this season – and possibly next, either. The question could be Fauria. He’s an enticing target because of his size and his ability as a mismatch on a safety or linebacker when healthy. But if he isn’t able to practice at the start of training camp, there could be an opening for snaps and possibly a roster-spot stealer. The guy to watch there would be Ausberry, although it would be a long shot.
Roster locks: Ebron, Pettigrew.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria. Practice squad – Pierce.
Changes to previous projection: None.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):
Thoughts: The top three guys here are pretty set in Reiff, Lucas and Waddle. If/when Waddle is healthy, he’ll take over the starting right tackle spot. The bigger question is if he starts the season on PUP, which could open up a roster spot. The only competition here is for the No. 4 tackle between Williams and Robinson. Considering the No. 4 tackle has started games the past two seasons for Detroit, it will be something to watch during preseason games.
Roster locks: Reiff, Lucas, Waddle.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Reiff, Lucas, Waddle, Williams. Practice squad – Robinson.
Changes to previous projection: Waddle off PUP, Robinson off roster.
INTERIOR LINEMEN (4):
Thoughts: The top four are set. This was a spot I wrestled with giving a fifth one to. In the end, I chose not to, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Lions went this way since offensive line is going to be an area of emphasis this season. The Lions can’t afford to mix and match too much here. The question is if someone does enough to show they warrant a fifth spot.
Roster locks: Tomlinson, Swanson, Warford, Ramirez.
If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Tomlinson, Swanson, Warford, Ramirez.
Changes to previous projection: None.