TWENTYMAN: Why the final week of the preseason is important

The Detroit Lions, along with 31 other clubs around the NFL, are required to trim their roster from 90 players to an initial 53 by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

But first, Detroit will take part in a few more practices in Allen Park this week and then travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns in the fourth and final preseason contest Thursday night. Most of Detroit’s starters are expected to be spectators for that game, but this week is critical for a few of the final roster spots yet to be decided.

“It’s critical,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Saturday of the last week of the preseason. “I think there are a lot of examples through the years of guys that have come out and really have played outstanding in preseason game number four and practiced really hard in preseason week number four and have earned themselves an opportunity on the team.”

We’ve seen plenty of those performances in Detroit over the years -- The best example probably being running back Tion Green against Buffalo in 2017. He rushed for 63 yards on just eight carries and had a 74-yard touchdown reception, earning himself a spot on the roster that year.

“It’s still competition,” Patricia said. “It’s still competition all the way across the board through the course of the week of practice. We’re still trying to figure out players, we’re still trying to figure out positions, we’re still in a competitive mode, and that’s what’s important for us.

“We’ll handle the game and the main thing for us right now is to get off to a good start this week with practice.”

There are still some decisions to be made when it comes to the initial 53-man roster, and this is a big week for players fighting to become the depth of the 2019 Detroit Lions.

No one has really separated themselves at wide receiver since Jermaine Kearse went down with a leg injury. The Lions know who their top three receivers will be – Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola – but the No. 4 and potentially No. 5 spots seem to be wide open at this point. Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham, Andy Jones, Brandon Powell and others are all competing for the job. This week of practice and Thursday night's preseason finale will go a long way in determining who wins the job.

How the hierarchy at cornerback falls in place after Darius Slay, Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin can probably still be swayed. Who are the key reserves at cornerback? Who fills roles on special teams? Amani Oruwariye, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, Mike Ford and a host of others have one last week to make a good impression.

View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills Preseason Week 3 game at Ford Field on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019 in Detroit.

Tom Savage, Josh Johnson and David Fales are all trying to win Detroit’s backup quarterback job behind Matthew Stafford. Savage has been dealing with a concussion the last two weeks. Can he return this week? If not, did he do enough in the spring and early in training camp to win the job, or do Johnson and Fales have another week to earn the trust of the front office and coaches and win the job?

Let’s also not forget that this is an initial 53-man roster because all 32 teams have to trim 37 players from their roster Saturday. That means more than 1,000 players will be available to sign as free agents, so even the players that make the initial roster can't get too comfortable.

While fans are gearing up for the start of the regular season in less than two weeks, there’s still plenty of business to take care of in Allen Park this week and in Cleveland Thursday night. It’s important work when it comes to building the depth of this team, which will inevitably be called upon to play a role at some point this season.

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