The five most important battles to determine the Lions 53 man roster

Detroit Lions, Ameer Abdullah (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions, Ameer Abdullah (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions final preseason game catches a lot of flack for not really mattering. It is true that the starters are not going to play much of at all, but that doesn’t make the game worthless.

There are some very important battles raging tonight at Ford Field. Will a player be a useful backup or will the Lions try to get a seventh-round pick for him? Will they be able to stash a youngster on the practice squad or will he ball out enough to get an offer for a spot on another team’s 53 man roster?

There are a number of roster spots that are undecided going into the game. Here are the five most important battles you’ll see tonight against the Browns.

Abdullah vs. Powell

The Lions have given Ameer Abdullah the opportunity to grab a role on the team as an all-purpose reserve running back and kick returner. He has been good, but not great in the role.

Many Lions fans have pointed to his performance as some kind of increase, but he actually had a higher YPC in the 2017 preseason than in 2018. He has always looked great when it didn’t matter. This is nothing new.

Abdullah’s downside has reared it’s ugly head as much as his tantalizing upside. He has fumbled once and also muffed a punt. Ball security is an issue that could very well cost Abdullah his job.

Abdullah’s competition for the kick returner role is a list that has only one name. Brandon Powell has been the most electric player on the Lions roster in the 2018 preseason. Powell has been the Lions leading receiver, as the outlet for Jake Rudock‘s infinite number of check downs.

They do not play the same offensive position, but if Brandon Powell is going to be the Lions return man, that leaves Abdullah as the team’s number four running back. The fourth running back needs to play a special teams role. Abdullah does not do that outside of his returning responsibilities.

Marquez vs. Milligan

Bradley Marquez has been the Lions best special teamer at the wide receiver position, and he has been running with the second team during practice. The Lions fifth and sixth wide receiver spots will have very little to do with an offensive role, however.

Rolan Milligan has been on the third team at safety but has worked on kick coverage and return teams. He is playing the same roles as Marquez for the often forgotten aspect of the game that actually matters for the last 15 players on the 53 man roster.

Cassel vs.Rudock

I am of the opinion that this one has all but been decided in Matt Cassel‘s favor. The more we see of Jake Rudock, the more likely it is that I am correct.

Cassel has looked like an over the hill veteran on his last legs in the league. Rudock has looked like a player that simply lacks the physical or mental tools to play in the NFL.

Neither of these players is a great option, but Cassel offers significantly more to Matthew Stafford as a weekly sounding board and tape watching companion.

Koloamatangi vs. Johnson

There is one spot on the roster for these two men. Wesley Johnson has starting experience, but Leo Koloamatangi has looked as good or better. Both have played later in games, neither should see the field during the season.

When the Lions offense is on the field, this is very likely the most compelling battle to watch. Neither of these men is likely to get a lot of interest in the avalanche of players that are going to be cut in the next two days. If it is even, Johnson likely wins because Koloamatangi is more likely to land on the practice squad.

Harold vs. Barrett

Eli Harold is very likely to make the team, but Alex Barrett has been seeing a lot of work backing up Devon Kennard. The conditional pick that the Lions would have to pay to keep Harold does factor in if he plays very poorly.

Each player brings a different alternate position to the table, so it may be that the Lions find a place for both on the roster. Harold has experience as an off the ball strong side linebacker, and Barrett has lined up as a hand in the dirt defensive end. More likely though, it is an either Harold or Barrett scenario for one of the final spots on the Lions roster.

Next. Liosn roster bubble, last 5 in, last 5 out. dark

The score has never meant less than it does tonight. The majority of the players are going to be looking for work within the next 48 hours. These are the battles that will actually affect the Lions 2018 season.