A Look At The Detroit Lions 53-Man Roster Decisions

Aug 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky (8) throws during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky (8) throws during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions released their initial 53-man roster for the 2016 season on Saturday after making their final 21 roster moves.

The preseason is over and the Detroit Lions have their first 53-man roster of the 2016 season set. With so many teams making sweeping changes to their roster this weekend, it would not be surprising if the Lions still weren’t done adding and waiving players, but the initial 53-man roster is out, so it is time to see who the Lions decided to keep on the roster heading into the new season.

Quarterback: (Dan Orlovsky, Matthew Stafford)

The Lions decided to keep only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, cutting sixth-round rookie Jake Rudock, although he will probably be brought back on the practice squad assuming he clears waivers. Dan Orlovsky took all of the second-team reps in the preseason and was pretty much a lock from the get-go, despite his struggles in the exhibition games.

Running Back: (Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner)

No real surprises here, as the only runner the Lions let go was George Winn, who had clearly fallen behind both seventh-round rookie Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner. Washington showed his skills on offense and in all facets of special teams throughout the preseason and Zenner is the closest thing the Lions have to a power back.

Fullback: (Michael Burton)

Was always a lock. Only fullback on the roster and has played exceptionally well.

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Wide Receiver: (Anquan Boldin, Marvin Jones, Andre Roberts, Golden Tate)

After general manager Bob Quinn had suggested that the Lions would keep five or six receivers earlier this offseason, the Lions opted to keep only four, letting go of all three of their UDFA rookie receivers, Jace Billingsley, Jay Lee and Quinshad Davis as well surprisingly cutting bait on third-year player T.J. Jones, although any of them returning on the practice squad would not be a surprise.

The Lions return only one receiver from last season (Golden Tate) after signing Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts this offseason, all of whom made several plays during preseason games. Corey Fuller is still with the team as well, currently on the PUP list.

Tight End: (Olson Charles, Eric Ebron, Cole Wick)

Part of the reason that the Lions might have been willing to part with so many receivers is the fact that Eric Ebron, who missed the preseason with an ankle injury suffered during the Lions’ mock game, is healthy and will play a large role in the passing game. This position has been one of the most fluid throughout the offseason, as injuries to Brandon Pettigrew and Tim Wright, the latter of whom was placed on injured reserve, left the Lions thin.

They brought in UDFAs Adam Feuhne, Ben McCord and Cole Wick as well as journeyman veterans Orson Charles, Matthew Mulligan and Andrew Quarless to try to bolster the depth chart during the preseason and chose to keep Wick and Charles to back up Ebron until Pettigrew, currently on the PUP list, returns later this season. Quarless remains with the team, but must sit out the first two weeks due to a suspension.

Offensive Line: (Joe Dahl, Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Cornelius Lucas, Riley Reiff, Corey Robinson, Travis Swanson, Laken Tomlinson, Larry Warford)

The Lions opted to keep nine offensive linemen, including the three rookies they drafted in April: Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl. Tackle Michael Ola was a bit of a surprise cut, especially since the Lions opted to keep both Cornelius Lucas and Corey Robinson instead, despite the fact that Ola out-performed Lucas in the 2015 season. The fact that the Lions cut Gabe Ikard indicates that they have confidence in the health and competence of Glasgow and Travis Swanson at center.

Defensive End: (Ezekiel Ansah, Brandon Copeland, Wallace Gilberry, Devin Taylor)

Nothing surprising here. The Lions simply did not have the depth to make cuts at defensive end. The Lions certainly could try to add someone before the opener simply to provide some depth in the reserves.

Defensive Tackle: (Stefan CharlesKerry Hyder, Haloti Ngata, A’Shawn Robinson, Khyri Thornton, Tyrunn Walker, Anthony Zettel)

Someone good was going to be cut from this group, and Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright are on the outside looking in after cuts. The Lions showed their depth at tackle throughout the preseason, especially in the last preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, when it seemed all of the tackles were getting into the backfield.

Hyder’s three-sack performance in that game might have been enough to tip the battle in his favor for the last spot on the depth chart. The Lions kept both of their drafted rookies, A’Shawn Robinson and Anthony Zettel, as well as Khyri Thornton, who had a solid preseason, and veteran Stefan Charles.

Related Story: Lions Preseason Week Four Game Ball: Kerry Hyder

Linebacker: (Jon Bostic, Josh Bynes, DeAndre Levy, Kyle Van Noy, Tahir Whitehead, Antwione Williams)

None of the cuts were very surprising, as the Lions let go of Jayson DiManche, whom they had claimed on waivers earlier this week, Zaviar Gooden and Khaseem Greene. Rookie Antwione Williams made the final cut and often-maligned former second-round pick Kyle Van Noy looked improved during the preseason.

Jon Bostic had foot surgery in August and will likely miss the next couple of months, so the Lions might place him on IR on Sunday, which would make him eligible to potentially return mid-season and would also free up a spot on the 53-man roster for a waiver claim.

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Cornerback: (Johnson Bademosi, Adairius Barnes, Quandre Diggs, Nevin Lawson, Darius Slay)

The Lions decided to cut Alex Carter on Saturday, which means that only three of last year’s cornerbacks return in 2016. The depth chart is very thin behind Darius Slay, so it would not be surprising if the Lions tried to add another corner via waiver claim or trade before the weekend is over.

The Lions keeping Adairius Barnes, signed as a UDFA with a $3,000 guaranteed salary, over guys like Carter and Darrin Walls is a bit of a surprise.

Safety: (Rafael Bush, Don Carey, Miles Killebrew, Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson)

Isaiah Johnson is the only safety whom the Lions cut on Saturday, which doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Tavon Wilson got some time with the first-team defense in the preseason and Don Carey likely made the cut because of his ability to play corner and his contributions on special teams.

Third-round rookie Miles Killebrew is the wild card in this group. He plays upfield more than a traditional safety, so it will be interesting to see how the Lions use him. However, the fact that he is not a traditional safety might have necessitated the Lions keeping a fifth safety on the roster.

Specialists: (Sam Martin, Don Muhlbach, Matt Prater)

Sam Martin and Matt Prater are both excellent specialists whose inclusion on the roster was always expected. Don Muhlbach has survived the Jimmy Landes experiment, at least for this season, as fifth-round rookie longs snapper was placed on injured reserve last week.

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The Lions open their season on Sunday, September 11 against the Indianapolis Colts at 1:00 on FOX.