The Detroit Lions must cut their roster to 75 by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday and to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here's a final 53-man roster projection:
The questions here are if the Lions are going to keep two or three -- and if they keep two, if it is the rookie developmental player in Rudock or the experienced backup in Orlovsky as the backup. The hope for the Lions is if they keep two, they can either get Rudock through waivers to the practice squad or that Orlovsky would be around later on in the year if necessary. That said, Orlovsky's experience and ability to help Stafford prepare during the week is extremely valuable on this roster, so they keep three.
This cleared up once the Lions cut Stevan Ridley last week. Each player has a definitive role: Abdullah as the lead back, Riddick as the pass-catcher, Washington and Zenner as bigger backs with versatility and special-teams value.
FULLBACK (1): Michael Burton
He's the only fullback on the roster and he's good at what he does.
This is a tough position to cut and one that likely isn't settled yet as last season's depth receiver battle went until the final preseason game. If the Lions cut Quinshad Davis and Jay Lee, both could end up on the practice squad. But there's also a path to a roster spot for them as bigger receivers with rare skills. In Davis' case, it's his hands. In Lee's, it's his speed. But Roberts and TJ Jones offer return capabilities and more experience, so they make the roster. Jace Billingsley has moved up throughout camp.
Ebron is the only roster lock and Mulligan might be close to it. If Pettigrew is not placed on PUP, he likely would take Wick's spot. Quarless' suspension gives Detroit a couple of weeks to make a decision on what to do with him. Considering Ebron has been dealing with an ankle injury throughout training camp and Pettigrew's status, this position group is in flux somewhat.
The first seven here are pretty much locked in. The questions come with the final two spots. Ola's injury makes things a little tricky and it could push Lucas onto the roster, possibly in place of Geoff Schwartz. That's what I did here, although if Ola returns this week, that could flip this again. There are a few practice squad candidates here, including rookie Chase Farris.
The ends feel pretty set other than Zettel, who might need a strong fourth preseason game to lock up a roster spot. At tackle, the grouping of Stefan Charles, Reid, Thornton, Gabe Wright and Kerry Hyder continues to be a toss-up. I've had different pairings in each projection. Went with Thornton because of what he did in the third preseason game and what defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said about wanting to see consistency. Thornton has been consistent all camp and appeared to have good chemistry with Ngata. Reid has the last spot for now, but the competition appears close enough that things could flip by Saturday. Hyder seems to be the biggest long shot, but can play inside and outside and received a surprising number of snaps Saturday against Baltimore.
Barring an injury or a trade, this group appears to be pretty set. The question is Jon Bostic, who had foot surgery. The Lions should eventually put him on injured reserve, but with the new IR rules, they could bring him back if he ends up getting healthy eventually.
There's a lot going on here. Carey is on the roster bubble, but has immense special-teams value and that gets him on the roster -- in part because Isaiah Johnson has been battling an injury. If the Lions choose to keep Bostic (see linebackers above) on the roster or don't place him on injured reserve until after the cutdown, the Lions could cut Carey as well. As far as Alex Carter, Detroit likely will hope Carter passes through waivers and ends up on the practice squad to develop. It's possible the Lions could keep Carter over someone else as well, with the understanding that only 46 guys dress on game day anyway so they can work with him as he continues to get used to the NFL.
Prater and Martin are set. The Lions gave rookie Jimmy Landes a full game to prove himself Saturday and he had two poor snaps. That might be the difference in the competition, but it'll be interesting to see how Bob Quinn handles a draft pick versus a veteran.