TWENTYMAN: Lions cut their roster to 53

Posted Aug 30, 2014

General manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Caldwell had to make a number of tough decisions when trimming the Lions’ roster to 53.

Final cut day in the NFL is here, which means a lot of dreams come true, but others get dashed.

It’s one of those days coaches and front office personnel don’t necessarily look forward too. Sure, there is the excitement of finalizing a roster and knowing what they’re working with heading into the regular season, but telling some players they are no longer employed isn’t the fun part about this business.

Jim CaldwellHead coach Jim Caldwell (Photo: Detroit Lions)

“In this city, in particular, and around the area people understand and know what it’s like to lose a job,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “But often times I don’t think they put football players in that category. For some reason other people look at that and kind of just dismiss it, ‘Oh yeah he got cut, plain and simple,’ other than their families.

“These are human beings, they’re guys that have dreams and hopes and aspirations. It doesn’t mean the absolute end of the road for them because hopefully what I tell them typically is, ‘Hey, you know what, I hope you get picked up by somebody tomorrow and if not tomorrow then I hope somebody picks you up and puts you on their practice squad.’

“So, we try to encourage them, but we know that it’s a difficult time.”

General manager Martin Mayhew and Caldwell had to make a number of tough decisions in trimming the Lions’ roster to 53.

They decided to keep three quarterbacks, which means Kellen Moore will have a third season in Detroit.

Moore completed 35-of-51 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns in four preseason games with a 108.4 passer rating.

The team parted ways with running back Mikel Leshoure. The former second-round pick got squeezed out of a crowded backfield, as the Lions decided to keep Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Montell Owens and fullback Jed Collins.

The release of Leshoure leaves only Nick Fairley remaining on the roster from the 2011 draft.

A particularly difficult decision was which receivers to keep after Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Jeremy Ross. On that front, the Lions kept three players: Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree and Corey Fuller. The odd man out turned out to be Kris Durham.

The team also parted ways with cornerback Chris Greenwood, which means their initial 53-man roster will have just five cornerbacks.

Here is a full breakdown of the 53-man roster:

NOTE: This is just an initial 53-man roster and could change as players become available from other teams.

Quarterback (3)

Mayhew likes to keep three quarterbacks and it runs true on this final roster. Caldwell feels very comfortable with Dan Orlovsky as Matthew Stafford’s backup and Moore proved he was one of the best 53 players on this team in the preseason.

In: Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky, Kellen Moore.

Out: None.

Running backs (5)

One of the things that probably ended up hurting Mikel Leshoure the most was the fact that he doesn’t play special teams. That fourth running back will have to contribute on special teams if he’s going to be active on game day. It was a tough decision to cut Leshoure because he’s really the only power back the Lions have outside of Bell.

In the end, however, Owens just offered a little more with his versatility, leadership and special teams prowess. George Winn had a good preseason and was in the conversation, but two fumbles didn’t help his cause.

In: Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Montell Owens, Jed Collins

Out: Mikel Leshoure, George Winn, Emil Igwenagu.

Wide receiver (6)

This might have been one of the toughest decisions of the day. There were a lot of deserving candidates, which is a good problem to have. Stafford said a couple weeks ago that this is the best receiver corps he’s had since entering the NFL in 2009. 

Ryan Broyles had the best preseason of all the candidates. The former 2012 second-round pick proved it was too early to give up on him. Kevin Ogletree didn’t do much in the preseason, but offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has said publicly that he likes Ogletree’s skill set in his offense. Ogletree’s inclusion meant the Lions had to make a decision between Kris Durham and Corey Fuller.

Fuller, a sixth-round pick last year, has a terrific preseason (two touchdowns) and proved he could stretch the field with his speed. That’s something the Lions need opposite Calvin Johnson, which is why he earned a roster spot over Durham.

In: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree, Corey Fuller

Out: Kris Durham, Andrew Peacock, Patrick Edwards.

Tight end (3)

There wasn’t much debate here. The Lions have one of the most versatile tight end groups in the NFL and all three players have a very defined role in this offense. Michael Egnew and Jordan Thompson are practice squad candidates.

In: Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria.

Out: Michael Egnew, Jordan Thompson.

Offensive line (8)

The Lions returned all five starters from a terrific offensive line a year ago. They have to decide who starts at right tackle between Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle, but either way they’re in a good spot there. The one surprise cut here is Rodney Austin.

His release leaves the Lions with just Travis Swanson as a backup interior lineman. Cornelius Lucas beat out tight end turned tackle, Michael Williams, for the fourth tackle spot. Williams and Austin are likely practice squad candidates.

In: Riley Reiff, Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola, Larry Warford, Corey Hilliard, LaAdrian Waddle, Travis Swanson, Cornelius Lucas.

Out: Rodney Austin, Garrett Reynolds, Michael Williams, Darren Keyton

Defensive line (9)

The toughest decision here ended up being who to keep between George Johnson and Darryl Tapp. In the end, Johnson outplayed Tapp in practice and the preseason and forced the Lions to keep him. Johnson played so well this spring and summer that we should expect him to be part of the rotation on game day. He’s been that good. Rookies Larry Webster and Caraun Reid rounded out the final spots at defensive end and defensive tackle, respectively.

In: Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, Devin Taylor, George Johnson, Larry Webster, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid.

Out: Darryl Tapp, Andre Fluellen, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Xavier Proctor

Linebacker: (6)

Kyle Van Noy had core muscle surgery on Thursday and he’s going to miss some time. We’ll know exactly how much time on Tuesday if the Lions place him on short-term injured reserve. Tahir Whitehead can play all three spots (SAM, MIKE and WILL) and that helps if Van Noy misses any significant time.

In: Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, Kyle Van Noy, Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis.

Out: Brandon Hepburn, Julian Stanford, Shamari Benton

Cornerback (5)

The top five cornerbacks were set a long time ago. The real decision here was whether to keep a sixth cornerback or not. The Lions like Chris Greenwood’s potential, but at some point that potential has to mature into talent, and the Lions just didn’t see enough from the former fifth-round pick as he was part of the final cuts.

In: Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Nevin Lawson

Out: Mohammed Seisay, Chris Greenwood

Safety (5)

DeJon Gomes’ injury opened a roster spot and both Isa Abdul-Quddus and Jerome Couplin took advantage with very strong preseasons.

In: Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo, Don Carey, Jerome Couplin, Isa Abdul-Quddus

Out: Nate Ness

Specialists (3)

This has been settled for a week and Nate Freese’s 3-for-3 performance kicking field goals in Buffalo helped confirm the Lions made the right decision at kicker. Punter Sam Martin and long snapper Don Muhlbach are two of the best in the business.

In: Sam Martin, Nate Freese, Don Muhlbach.

Out: None.