The Detroit Lions are spread out across the country – and depending on the timing over the next few weeks, the world – getting one last break before training camp starts the last weekend of July. With that in mind, here’s a quick look at how the 53-man roster could shake out over Labor Day weekend.
A reminder: This is very, very early, and a combination of injuries and performance in training camp and the preseason could shake up a number of these positions.
Out: Jake Rudock
Why: Cassel vs. Rudock will be a matchup throughout camp. It’s possible Detroit keeps three quarterbacks, but with a new defense needing multiplicity, every roster spot is critical. Patricia has spoken very highly of Cassel and in his first year, if Stafford were injured at any point, he’d likely feel more comfortable with an experienced vet. There’s also the potential Detroit can deal Rudock for a draft pick, especially if he has another good preseason.
RUNNING BACK (5)
Why: This is one of the tougher battles of training camp and the Zenner/Abdullah/Washington battle probably will come down to preseason numbers. Abdullah has a wider range of talent, and his ability as a kick returner to back up Riddick ends up giving him the slightest edge over Zenner, who is a better pass protector. If the Lions are able to move Abdullah then Zenner has a good shot of making the roster.
WIDE RECEIVER (5)
Why: The top three are set and as long as TJ Jones is healthy in camp, he’s in good shape, too. The No. 5 receiver spot is a toss-up where almost any of the other receivers on the roster can win the spot. Redding and Billingsley were the most impressive in the spring. Redding’s size/flexibility gives him the edge over Billingsley, who is primarily a slot receiver. A good camp could push Lacy or Powell past a bunch of contenders.
TIGHT END (3)
Why: Willson and Roberts seem locked in. While Valles has a shot at a roster spot, Toilolo has the edge as the better blocker.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Why: Most of these players are locked in. Decker, Wagner, Lang and Glasgow are veteran starters. Ragnow and Crosby are rookie picks with potential; Ragnow is likely to start. Dahl has flexibility at all five spots and Mihalik is more reliable than Robinson, health-wise, as a No. 3 tackle.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Why: The Lions are going to be multiple up front and most of these players can either play on the interior or outside on the line or as an end/standup linebacker. This is a pretty difficult spot to predict for now, because there are no pads on players until training camp. This is also a group that could be altered by a training camp signing.
Why: Kennard and Davis are locked-in starters, and Jones is an intriguing third linebacker. Meredith’s size – 6-foot-4, 255 pounds – makes him an enticing option as a sixth linebacker who could play multiple spots. Longa makes it based on special teams ability.
Why: This group – unless the Lions move Quandre Diggs back to corner – feels pretty close to locked in. Considering the injury rate cornerbacks take in the league, all five corners figure to see playing time at some point. If there’s one who could get pushed out, it’s potentially Shead.
Why: Like corner, much of this group feels like it’s a known quantity – even if the starting spot between Diggs and Wilson is up in the air. Washington and Milligan could push for spots – Washington made the roster last year – but Killebrew’s talent gives him the edge. But he’s a player who has to have a good camp. The last two defensive back/linebacker/defensive line slots are really anyone’s guess based on how coach Matt Patricia and his staff want to break things up.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Out: Ryan Santoso
Why: Barring injury, this is how it will shake out.