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TWENTYMAN: Breaking down the initial 53-man roster

Today is the day every general manager and head coach around the NFL hates. It's roster cut-down day in the NFL, and Detroit has pared their roster down to an initial 53.

It's important to note this is an initial 53-man roster because more moves could be on the horizon throughout the week as players become available around the league.

"There are going to be some guys that are going to be on our team that aren't even in the building yet," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Monday. "That's probably going to happen. There's a good chance that can happen.

"Look, (GM) Brad (Holmes) and his crew, man, they're scouring the transactions and looking for everything that could or couldn't be and any way that we can upgrade our roster that we think is going to help us, now and long-term, we're looking for it. So, this thing is in flux. Just because some of these are compared to what's on our roster, I would say compared to the other 31 teams and what's out there, that's how we're looking at it."

Detroit can begin building their 16-man practice squad starting Wednesday.

Here is the breakdown of the initial 53:


On the roster: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough

Missing cut: None

Twentyman: It's not all that surprising the Lions have opted to keep three quarterbacks on the initial 53. Boyle was signed in the offseason to be the backup behind Goff, but credit Blough for making it a tough competition throughout training camp and the preseason. Blough earned a spot on the roster. Unfortunately, Boyle suffered a broken thumb in the preseason finale and will miss some time. How much time will depend on if he heads to IR or not. Expect Blough to be the backup Week 1 vs. San Francisco.


On the roster: D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike, Jason Cabinda (FB)

Missing cut: Craig Reynolds, Dedrick Mills

Twentyman: It was a close competition throughout camp for the third running back spot behind Swift and Williams, but Jefferson seems to have won the job with a really steady camp and a good last preseason game. He showed some versatility too, with an ability to make plays in the passing game, which might have separated him from the pack a little bit. Igwebuike made the switch from safety to running back and really worked at it, earning himself a roster spot with his tough running style and ability to play special teams. Reynolds and Mills could be practice squad candidates.


On the roster: Tyrell Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, Trinity Benson (trade w/ Denver), Tom Kennedy

Missing cut: Breshad Perriman, Victor Bolden, Damion Ratley, Javon McKinley, Geronimo Allison, Sage Surratt

Twentyman: Perriman had guaranteed money built into his contract after signing as a free agent, but credit Holmes for not making that a factor in releasing Perriman, who didn't do much playmaking at all during training camp or the preseason. He was clearly outplayed by others like Cephus and Kennedy. The team ended up making a trade for Benson, who was graded one of Pro Football Focus' top 10 receivers in the preseason this year.


On the roster: T.J. Hockenson, Darren Fells

Reserve/Non-Football Injury: Hunter Bryant and Charlie Taumoepeau

Missing cut: Alize Mack and Brock Wright

Twentyman: The Lions head to the season with just two tight ends on the initial 53-man roster. It will be interesting to see if they decide to add to the position via the waiver wire in the next few days. If not, Hockenson and Fells were the clear top two in the room.


On the roster: Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jonah Jackson, Penei Sewell, Logan Stenberg, Matt Nelson, Evan Brown

Missing cut: Tyrell Crosby (waived injured), Dan Skipper (waived injured), Tommy Kraemer, Darrin Paulo

Twentyman: Crosby's waived injured designation was a bit of a surprise. He's played in 38 games with 18 starts over the last three seasons in Detroit. Campbell said it was as simple as Crosby not being one of their better players at the position. They thought Nelson beat him out. Don't be surprised if the Lions look to the waiver wire after league-wide cuts to find some more depth upfront.

Stenberg, Nelson and Brown are developmental players the team deemed worthy of inclusion on the initial roster to work with and develop.


On the roster: Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike, Da'Shawn Hand, Nick Williams, John Penisini, Kevin Strong

Reserve/Injured: Joel Heath

Reserve/Suspended: Jashon Cornell

Missing cut: Bruce Hector, Miles Brown

Twentyman: This is the position group with the most depth on the roster and a couple of these cuts had to be pretty hard to make, especially Hector, who had a good camp and preseason. He's a practice squad candidate. There's a nice mix of veteran and young talent upfront for Aaron Glenn's defense that should be able to provide some pass-rushing prowess too.

View photos of the Detroit Lions' initial 53-man roster heading into the 2021 season.


On the roster: Romeo Okwara, Trey Flowers, Julian Okwara, Charles Harris, Austin Bryant, Jamie Collins Sr., Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Anthony Pittman

Reserve/Injured: Shaun Dion Hamilton

Missing cut: Jahlani Tavai, Tavante Beckett, Rashod Berry

Twentyman: The Tavai cut wasn't really surprising given he wasn't a scheme fit at inside linebacker. The Lions are trying to get faster there. Credit Pittman for having a better training camp and showing some promise, especially in the passing game. The Lions know what they're getting in Romeo Okwara and Flowers – consistent production. One name to watch early on is Julian Okwara, the former third-round pick entering his second season. Okwara had a solid camp and really showed his potential Week 1 of the preseason, when he had eight pressures in that contest. Can he work himself into a solid rotation at outside linebacker and give the Lions some juice coming off the edge?


On the roster: Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Ifeatu Melifonwu, AJ Parker, Bobby Price, Jerry Jacobs, Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Dean Marlowe, C.J. Moore

Missing cut: Mike Ford, Corn Elder, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Alijah Holder, Jalen Elliott

Twentyman: Ford's release was a slight surprise, just because of his value on special teams as a gunner. But it's clear the Lions like Price's upside after he made the move from safety to cornerback. Price is also a good special teamer as a gunner. Jacobs had a good camp. Parker is a great story too. The undrafted rookie was consistent in camp from start to finish. He could be the starting nickel cornerback Week 1 vs. San Francisco, especially with Elder and Robey-Coleman not making the cut. That's four undrafted free agents now in Detroit's secondary with Moore, Parker, Price and Jacobs.


On the roster: Jack Fox, Scott Daly

Missing cut: Randy Bullock, Zane Gonzalez

Twentyman: The Lions will turn to the waiver wire to find their kicker for the 2021 season as the team released both Bullock and Gonzalez. The team cut long snapper Don Muhlbach earlier in camp as it was time to find a long-term replacement, and the Lions hope Daly is the answer.

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