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Taking a Look at the Post-Cut Down Lions

The Lions, along with the rest of the league, trimmed their roster to 53 yesterday after an abbreviated offseason evaluation period.  The bottom of the roster is constantly churning and the Lions have already made some moves since the final cuts.  Here’s a position by position look at the Lions’ post-cut down roster.


Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton

No surprises here, the Lions kept the same three quarterbacks as last year despite some speculation that Zac Robinson could unseat Stanton.  Stanton had a great preseason and removed Robinson from contention early in camp.  The quarterback pecking order is well established and the Lions have one of the best quarterback situations in the league.

Running Back

Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure (IR), Jerome Harrison, Keiland Williams and Maurice Morris

The Lions initially kept Aaron Brown, but cut him to claim Williams.  The Lions will go with four halfbacks and use Will Heller at fullback when the need arises.  Best will be there starter and Harrison, despite being similar in size, will spell Best and serve as the change of pace back until Williams catches up.  Maurice Morris will get carries as well, and should serveas the short yardage back until Williams picks up the offense.  There are no big surprises here, but now that the Lions don’t have a fullback look for Ndamukong Suh to come in on the goal line.


Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Maurice Stovall, Rashied Davis and Stefan Logan

The Lions decided that they didn’t want to choose between Stovall and Davis, so they kept both.  Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson will be the starters, with Young eventually taking over the third receiver role.  Stovall gives the Lions a legitimate backup to Calvin Johnson size-wise and could prove to be a huge help in the red zone.  Burleson will kick inside to the slot on third downs where his run after the catch skills will be better utilized.  Rashied Davis will backup Burleson in the slot and play special teams.  Logan will continue to be a return ace and jack of all trades.

Tight Ends

Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller

Again, no surprises here with all three tight ends from last year returning.  The only real change is Will Heller will now add fullback duties to his role at tight end.  The Lions had most productive tight end group in the league last season and they should remain at least as potent as last season.  Pettigrew will start, but Scheffler will play a lot as the Lions will use a lot of two tight end sets.  Heller is a great blocker who comes in on running and short yardage downs, and he is a deceptively good receiver.  This group will be expected to take advantage of all the attention opposing defenses will have to give the  receiving corps.


Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard

Backus and Cherilus will start, just like last year, with Hilliard and Fox backing up both tackle positions.  Backus is widely criticized amongst Lions fans, but has performed much better after a few down years in Mike Martz’s tackle killing offense.  Cherilus stepped it up big time last year, he just needs to show he’s fully recovered from knee surgery.  Hilliard is an experienced back up, while Fox has a lot of learning to do before he can fully utilize his potential.  The tackle group is the strength of the offensive line.


Rob Sims, Stephen Peterman and Jacque McClendon

McClendon was signed today after the Lions originally only kept two guards.  Sims came over from the Seahawks last season and solved the Lions left guard woes.  Peterman has flashed great potential but has had trouble staying healthy and has been inconsistent in the preseason.  McClendon is a powerful run blocker that struggles in pass protection, so he will most likely back Peterman up and potentially push him for playing time.  This group has a lot to prove now that they are healthy.


Dominic Raiola and Dylan Gandy

Raiola returns to his starting position with Gandy as the backup again.  Gandy will also back up Sims at left guard and Peterman at right guard until McClendon gets up to speed.  Raiola’s game has limitations but he’s been better than most realize, although he took a step back last season.  Both centers struggle at the point of attack against big defensive tackles, but both players are smart and aggressive.

Defensive End

Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young

The Lions lost Turk McBride to the Saints, but the remaining four defensive ends are back this season.  KVB and Avril will start with plenty of snaps available for Young and Jackson due to the constant rotation the Lions use.  KVB has been the emotional leader of the defense and recorded seven sacks last season before under going neck surgery.  Avril is on the verge of having a breakout year and also has a contract extension on the horizon.  Jackson revitalized his career with a change of scenery and flashed the potential that got him drafted in the first round.  Young has progressed so much in one season that the Lions felt comfortable avoiding a bidding war for McBride and handing the reigns to the 2010 7th rounder.  This group has very high expectations this season and they need to take advantage of the devastation the tackles create in the middle.

Defensive Tackle

Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Nick Fairley, Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen

This group is the cream of the NFL crop, and that’s not even factoring in Fairley who hasn’t played a down.  Suh had a rookie year for the ages and will be counted on heavily this year to continue to be a dynamic presence in the middle.  Williams, who is largely responsible for the year Suh had, will start next to Suh and continue to draw double teams away from him.  Last year Williams was so disruptive that teams double teamed him and took their chances with the rookie.  Suh took advantage of those chances and by the end of the season offenses had to pick their poison doubling one and getting beaten by the other.  Hill is one of the top reserve tackles in the league and truth be told, could start for many teams.  He is a force against the run and has been developing as a pass rusher.  Fairley is an unknown at this point, but he has the talent to wreak havoc as a sub.  Fluellen will back up at tackle and end and continue to assist on special teams as well.


DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant, Bobby Carpenter, Ashlee Palmer, Doug Hogue and Isaiah Ekejiuba

The Lions’ biggest weakness last year has been converted to a position of strength.  The Lions have three front line starters in Tulloch, Levy and Durant as well as solid depth and special teams contributors behind them.  Tulloch will man the middle and he is a tackling machine coming off a career year.  Levy moves to the outside after spending all of last year in the middle.  Levy’s playmaking abilities will keep him on the field in passing situations with Tulloch.  Durant is a beast against the run, but isn’t as strong in coverage.  He’s not a liability, but he won’t be on the field much for third downs.  Carpenter and Palmer will be the primary backups across all three positions with Levy kicking inside if Tulloch misses time.  Hogue and Ekejiuba are special teamers only with Hogue most likely being inactive on most Sundays.  This is as strong a group as the Lions have had since the days of Spielman and Swilling.


Chris Houston, Eric Wright, Alphonso Smith, Aaron Berry and Brandon McDonald

This group is already assumed to be the weakness of the defense since it is composed almost entirely of cast offs.  Houston was traded to Detroit by Atlanta, Wright was a free agent that chose the Lions over Cleveland, Smith came over in a trade and McDonald was cut by Cleveland.  Even Aaron Berry was a cast off as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010.  Wright and Houston give the Lions a pair of athletic young starters that can support the run.  Smith is the ballhawk of the group and he’ll see time in the nickel package.  McDonald and Berry will battle for playing time in the dime package as well as periodic substitutions.  All five players are young and talented and have the potential to form a solid group, however they all have some areas of their game that didn’t develop as quickly as expected.


Louis Delmas, Amari Speivey, Erik Coleman and John Wendling

The safety position looks much better after the preseason than it did before, largely because of Amari Spievey.  Spievey was playing like a man possessed after a long offseason spent getting in shape and watching film.  Delmas is finally healthy and will join Spievey as the starting safeties.  Coleman was signed to start next to Delmas but couldn’t unseat the second year player, so he’ll back up and play special teams.  Wendling is on the roster for his special teams play, but played really well in spurts when needed on defense in 2010.


Jason Hanson, Don Mulbach and Ryan Donahue

Probably the biggest surprise of cut day came with Donahue making the team over Nick Harris.  Hanson was a lock as long as he was healthy and Mulbach was never in jeopardy of missing the cut.  The Lions have one of the better special teams units in the league and they obviously feel that Donahue is an improvement over Nick Harris.


There weren’t many surprises or shocks in the wake of the roster trimming.  The Lions knew they had most of the team in place after the 2010 season and aggressively targeted the missing pieces in the offseason.  The training camp competitions were decided pretty early on and the Lions felt comfortable enough that they haven’t gone out and made any other acquisitions since camp opened.  The Lions have a well rounded roster on paper, with far fewer limitations and weaknesses than we’ve seen in a decade.  The Lions, on paper, appear to have the talent to make a run at .500 and potentially crash the playoff party.

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