2018 Detroit Lions starters, 53-man roster, schedule prediction

New addition LeGarrette Blount fronts a crowded backfield for the Lions going into the season. Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions cut their roster to 53 on Saturday. Here’s the initial 53-man roster following cuts with projected starters in bold:

QUARTERBACK (2): Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel

The race to be Stafford’s backup seemed to go to the final game and the Lions went with the veteran who has familiarity with Matt Patricia -- Cassel -- over Jake Rudock, a member of Bob Quinn’s first draft class in 2016. Neither quarterback played particularly well in the preseason and if Stafford were to be injured, the Lions would be in trouble.

RUNNING BACK (4): LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah

Zach Zenner’s back injury might have sealed this group, especially since Detroit didn’t seem to find a trade partner for Ameer Abdullah. Blount, Johnson and Riddick should all have game-day roles and it’s possible Abdullah will as well if the Lions decide to make him their kick returner. If that happens, it will be interesting to see the 46-man roster construction each week.

FULLBACK (1): Nick Bellore

When seventh-round pick Nick Bawden tore his ACL this spring, that made Bellore close to a lock for the roster as long as the Lions still wanted a fullback. They did, so Bellore stays. He also is a core special teams player and can play linebacker in a pinch -- that was his full-time position until this season.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones, Brandon Powell; Bradley Marquez

This is the biggest overall surprise roster spot due to the number of receivers kept. It often seemed like an either/or proposition for Powell and Marquez, but the Lions chose to stick with both of them. Marquez offers more on special teams. Powell could be a potential Golden Tate replacement in 2019 and has value as a returner if necessary. This could be a trade situation, too, as the Lions have four proven receivers as well if a team came calling.

TIGHT END (4): Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo, Michael Roberts, Hakeem Valles

Valles was one of the feel-good stories of training camp. He spent most of last season on Detroit’s practice squad and outplayed every other tight end on the roster to put himself on the roster bubble. The Lions kept Roberts, a fourth-round pick last year, despite a sub-par camp.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, Rick Wagner, Tyrell Crosby, Joe Dahl, Kenny Wiggins; Andrew Donnal

Trading the oft-injured Corey Robinson changed the dynamic of this group a little bit, but rookie Tyrell Crosby had already passed him to be the No. 3 tackle on the depth chart. The questions about the line remain, particularly beyond the starters. Wiggins showed versatility at tackle, which helps.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7): Ezekiel Ansah, Kerry Hyder, Anthony Zettel, Da'Shawn Hand, Ricky Jean Francois, Sylvester Williams, A'Shawn Robinson

Detroit went light here, and it could be a sign of potential waiver claims to come. The Lions had some issues up front throughout the preseason, but none of these moves come as a surprise. Jeremiah Ledbetter, a 2017 draft pick, was the mild surprise, but if the Lions were to run more multiple sets, there was not a definitive fit. It doesn’t feel like Detroit is done here.

LINEBACKER (7): Eli Harold, Marquis Flowers, Jarrad Davis, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Christian Jones, Devon Kennard, Miles Killebrew.

Harold showed enough in the preseason finale to warrant keeping him, and it was clear from the start with the trade Detroit had a planned role for the former Niners linebacker. Otherwise, this was a pretty concrete group.

SECONDARY (10): Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Charles Washington, Dee Virgin.

This provided the biggest surprise of the Lions cuts, as DeShawn Shead was released after signing with the Lions in March and starting camp working with the first team opposite Darius Slay. This likely means Teez Tabor, last year’s second-round pick who GM Bob Quinn said he did more work on than any other player that year, is the No. 3 outside cornerback.

SPECIALISTS (3): Matt Prater, Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach

This is the unit.