Lions carry 11 DL, DBs in (very) early 53-man roster projection

With minicamp over and the start of training camp a little more than a month away, it's time to start figuring out what the Detroit Lions' initial 53-man roster might look like.

This is a very basic projection as so much can happen between now and cutdown day over Labor Day weekend. But this is based on what I have observed and heard thus far. Remember, this can change -- perhaps quite drastically -- over the next two-plus months.

With that, here's an initial 2017 roster projection.

Quarterback (2)

In: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock

Cut: Brad Kaaya*

Why: This goes back to two quarterbacks versus three argument. Right now, Rudock is far enough ahead to have the No. 2 spot. Kaaya, should he slip through waivers, would be a prime practice-squad candidate.

Running back (4)

In: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington

Cut: Matt Asiata, Mike James, Tion Green*

Why: Asiata will make things interesting, but Washington could end up winning one of the returner roles, which would force him onto the team. Barring injury, the first three backs seem set. A strong camp from Asiata, James or Green could change that.

Wide receiver (5)

In: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones, Jared Abbrederis

Cut: Jace Billingsley*, Dontez Ford, Michael Rector, Noel Thomas, Keshawn Martin, Ryan Spadola

Why: The top three are locked in. The last two are educated guesses. Abbrederis might have had the best spring of the competitors. Went with Jones over Billingsley because of return skills, but preseason will matter here. Any of Jones, Abbrederis, Billingsley, Spadola, Martin and Ford on the roster would not surprise me. Billingsley, if he doesn't make the team, is a pretty obvious practice-squad option.

Tight End (3)

In: Eric Ebron, Darren Fells, Michael Roberts

Cut: Cole Wick*, Robert Tonyan, Brandon Barnes, Khari Lee

Why: This seems pretty locked in, barring injury. Only question is if the Lions choose to carry four tight ends since the team could use more two tight-end sets. That could push Wick or Tonyan onto the roster.

Offensive tackle (4*)

In: Rick Wagner, Greg Robinson, Cornelius Lucas, Cyrus Kouandjio, Taylor Decker (PUP)

Cut: Corey Robinson, Tony Hills, Storm Norton*

Why: Figuring Taylor Decker will start the season on PUP, that gave an extra roster spot. That Greg Robinson can play inside in a pinch makes sense, along with his salary. The only guy that should feel completely comfortable, though, is Wagner. Corey Robinson, for now, ends up cut because his health is in question.

Interior offensive line (5)

In: T.J. Lang, Travis Swanson, Graham Glasgow, Joe Dahl, Laken Tomlinson

Cut: Matt Rotheram, Brandon Thomas, Leo Koloamatangi*

Why: This is pretty simple at this point, although it'll be interesting to see how the Lions handle Tomlinson. His base salary of $1,212,296 is guaranteed for this year, which might be enough to let Detroit give him one more shot. Koloamatangi could be a camp surprise.

Defensive end (6)

In: Ezekiel Ansah, Kerry Hyder, Armonty Bryant, Cornelius Washington, Anthony Zettel, Brandon Copeland

Cut: Alex Barrett, Jeremiah Valoaga, Pat O'Connor*

Why: The Lions go heavy here because of how they rotate and positional flexibility. Copeland is a core special teams player and can play defensive end and linebacker. Zettel can play inside-and-outside, as can Washington, Bryant and Hyder. Watch the back end competition here, though, as a good camp from Barrett, Valoaga or O'Connor could push them onto the roster. This is a spot where roster surprises could happen.

Defensive tackle (5)

In: Haloti Ngata, A'Shawn Robinson, Akeem Spence, Khyri Thornton, Ego Ferguson

Cut: Jeremiah Ledbetter*, Bruce Gaston, Jordan Hill

Why: The front-end guys -- Ngata, Robinson and Spence -- are set. The last one-to-three slots are pretty open. Ledbetter was a draft pick. The Lions are still figuring out what they have in Ferguson and Gaston. This position group had the most volatility in terms of active-versus-inactive during the season, so don't be surprised if there's a lot of movement here in camp. For now I went with Thornton because of experience and Ferguson because of potential. But it could easily change.

Linebacker (5)

In: Jarrad Davis, Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow, Antwione Williams, Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Cut: Steve Longa*, Thurston Armbrister, Nick Bellore

Why: Most of these slots seem pretty set, although keep an eye on Whitehead's knee injury. Longa is the type of player (like Hyder and Taylor Boggs in years before) who could push his way onto the roster with a good camp -- perhaps in favor of an extra cornerback, offensive or defensive lineman.

Cornerback (7)

In: Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, Johnson Bademosi, Quandre Diggs, DJ Hayden

Cut: Adairius Barnes*, Desmond Lawrence, Josh Thornton

Why: Cutting Barnes was one of the tougher moves with defensive tackle and the receiver spots. If Agnew beats out Diggs or Hayden for the No. 2 nickel spot (or wins the job outright), Barnes could end up sliding onto the roster. If Tabor were to beat Lawson for a starting job outside (unlikely), that could leave a lot of residual movement questions since Lawson could play nickel. But working with the premise that the starters are Slay, Lawson and either Diggs or Hayden, this is the group of seven that makes sense. Bademosi sticks because of special teams. If Agnew won the return job, that could shake up other roster positions, too.

Safety (4)

In: Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew, Don Carey

Cut: Alex Carter, Rolan Milligan, Charles Washington

Why: Quin and Wilson are starters. Killebrew is a valuable piece and Carey is one of the best special teams players in the league. Carter is intriguing if he's able to show promise at safety. He could either land on the practice squad or push his way onto the roster in place of one of the nickel cornerbacks because he could play corner in a pinch and special teams.

Specialists (3)

In: Matt Prater, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach

Cut: Kasey Redfern

Why: Jimmy Landes being cut solidified this unit for another year.