Six sleepers with a chance to make Lions roster

Posted Jul 2, 2013

Tim Twentyman looks at six players who have a good chance of making the final 53-man roster come September

When the Lions finally get their roster down to 53 players the first week of September, it's likely to be the most talented the team has assembled since general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz took over in 2009. It could just be the most talented roster since the 2000 season.

That should make it more difficult for some of the lesser-known players to make the roster, but there are six sleepers who could sneak into the mix:

Patrick Edwards, WR, 5-9, 175

The second-year receiver out of Houston spent time on the Lions' practice squad last year before a hamstring injury ultimately put him on injured reserve.

It was bad timing, too, because Edwards would have had a shot to join the roster late last season after Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles went down with injuries.

Edwards looks stronger and faster this year and even took some reps with the first-team this spring. The Lions are looking for an outside receiver to compliment Calvin Johnson and Edwards continues to do nothing but impress with his sure hands and burst.

He's even gotten the vote of confidence from Burleson, who said Edwards will be a "big-time player" this year and could catch 35 to 40 passes.

Rodney Austin, G, 6-4, 311

When the general manager makes it a point to mention your name at the winter meetings, things are certainly looking up for you.

Like Edwards, Austin spent time on the Lions' practice squad last year and impressed coaches and Mayhew.

Austin's an athletic guard-center combo, which is important when it comes to making the roster. The Lions typically only keep seven linemen active on game day and one has to be a guard-center combo.

That certainly increases the chance of Austin making the roster if he can impress at both spots come August.

Steven Miller, RB/KR, 5-7, 172

Steven MillerRB Steven Miller

Miller's chance to make the roster might be tied to how well the undrafted rookie free agent running back out of Appalachian State performs returning kickoffs and punts in training camp and the preseason.

Miller's speed stood out this spring, but he'll have to prove he can field the ball cleanly and be reliable in that aspect when the pressure is on and the rush is bearing down on him.

His 43-inch vertical shows that he has some explosion to his game. He reminds me of Darren Sproles a little bit. Can he show that explosion when it counts come training camp?

If he proves to be a reliable returner and speed rusher, the Lions could find a spot for him as another speed running back-returner.

Carmen Messina, LB, 6-2, 236

Typically seven linebackers make the 53-man roster. Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis and Tahir Whitehead are in. Corey Greenwood has a good shot because of what he brings to the special teams and the Brandon Hepburn was a seventh-round draft pick.

Messina, who spent last season on the practice squad, will be in the mix for one of those final spots, too. He knows the system, which is one of the advantages he has going for him.

Joseph Fauria, TE, 6-7, 255

Fauria is a big-body tight end with good hands. He doesn't get a whole lot of separation when running routes and is a below-average blocker, but he can make plays across the middle of the field because of his size and soft hands.

A number of times this spring he made difficult catches with defenders draped all over him.

It seems unlikely the Lions will keep four tight ends on the active roster, so Fauria's best chance is to beat out Tony Scheffler or Michael Williams for a spot. That will be a tough task, but not out of the realm of possibility with a strong preseason.

Thaddeus Lewis, QB, 6-2, 200

Lewis, claimed by the Lions off waivers in May, enters training camp as the No. 4 quarterback behind Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill and Kellen Moore.

Lewis has starting experience (Week 17 last year for the Browns when he completed 22 of 32 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception) in the NFL and does possess a stronger arm than Moore.

Moore, on the other hand, is probably more accurate of a quarterback and has the benefit of having been in the system for a year.

The edge certainly goes to Moore when it comes to the competition for the third quarterback spot, but Lewis has a chance to push him and make things interesting with a strong camp.