Full Training Camp Roster Breakdown for Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions enter 2013 in seemingly equal parts transition and stability.
There are some players that are relative constants, like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Chris Houston, Ndamukong Suh, and Stephen Tulloch. It's true that their individual stats may fluctuate at times, but generally they've proven to be consistent, dependable players. Nobody is looking to unseat any of them at their respective positions.
But a good percentage of the team is either in transition right now, or could be soon. There are plenty of talented new faces, and some of the old ones are running out of time to prove they deserve to stay.
But who are those faces? There are 90 of them for the next month, and only 53 of them will survive the preseason. Most of the rest will be forgotten, if they were ever known in the first place.
So when it's the fourth quarter of a preseason game, and somebody you've never heard of makes a tackle or catches a pass, remember this as your all-purpose "who is that guy?" guide.
Matthew Stafford (No. 9)
As the Lions' unquestioned starting quarterback (a rare position in and of itself), Stafford's main job in training camp will be developing chemistry with some of his newer targets, improving his accuracy and decision-making, and establishing himself as a team leader. His physical skills are unquestioned; he just needs to start putting everything together.
Shaun Hill (No. 14)
Very rarely in Lions history have both the starting and backup quarterbacks on the roster been nearly untouchable, but that's the situation in Detroit this year. Hill is quietly one of the most effective backup quarterbacks in the league, and he is in almost no danger of his position changing anytime soon. That said, the Lions will hope—as always—that they don't have to use him.
Kellen Moore (No. 17)
Kellen Moore made the roster in 2012, almost by default, and remained deactivated for most of the season. His only competition was an Arena Football League quarterback that was brought in for a summer tryout. Given his year of experience with the Lions, Moore should have the edge in retaining his spot on the roster, but the whole reason he's on the team in the first place is to develop. If he's not significantly improved over last season, the Lions may find no reason to keep him around.
Thaddeus Lewis (No. 5)
While obviously not overflowing with pure talent, Lewis did finish last season as the Cleveland Browns' starter. More accurately, he started Cleveland's season finale, and nothing else. But starting experience is starting experience, and in that game, he went a respectable 22-for-32 with 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His scouting report is almost identical to that of Moore: good game manager, intelligent, but lacks height, arm strength and deep ball accuracy. With their skill sets being so similar, he'll have to be a better Moore than Moore himself if he wants to earn a roster spot.
Reggie Bush (No. 21)
The Lions' biggest addition at running back, Bush is the man tasked with transforming the Lions' entire offense. A home run threat in either the backfield or the slot, Bush is almost too versatile to call a "running back." With Scott Linehan as offensive coordinator, Bush is expected to fill the "Marshall Faulk" role, where he does an equal amount of damage rushing and receiving. Expect big things, but not too many of those things in the preseason—the Lions will want to be careful about tipping their offensive hand too early.
Mikel Leshoure (No. 25)
Leshoure is a young grinder of a running back who has yet to show off the kind of talent the Lions drafted him for. He was drafted in 2011 as a complement to Jahvid Best, but he missed his first season with an Achilles injury and spent his second without a speed back to complement him. Now that Bush is in town, we should start to see Leshoure in the role he was intended for.
Joique Bell (No. 35)
One of the Lions' most unheralded heroes from 2012, Bell is primed for a big role with the Lions this season—it's just hard to predict what that role will be just yet. He could return kicks, he could simply be a reserve to spell Leshoure, he could split carries with Leshoure or he could fill a Danny Woodhead-style role as a short-yardage receiving back. Most likely, he'll do some combination of all of those. He was too good last season for the Lions to ignore him.
Theo Riddick (No. 41)
A 2013 sixth-round pick for the Lions, Riddick will have to show some flashes if he wants to earn a roster spot. His pass-catching ability and quickness seem to make him a serviceable insurance policy for Reggie Bush (think Aaron Brown and Jahvid Best from a few years back). Being a rookie, though, he will need to show that he is at least serviceable in his skill set, and he could perhaps contribute on special teams as well. It is not unlikely that he begins his NFL career on the practice squad.
Montell Owens (No. 34)
In 2012, the Lions signed wide receiver Kassim Osgood but never intended to use him as a wide receiver. Why? Osgood was a star special teams coverage man, and the Lions' special teams unit needed a boost. This season, Osgood is a San Francisco 49er, so Owens will join the Lions' squad in ultimately the same capacity. Unlike Osgood, though, Owens has the capability to contribute on offense as well. He likely won't push anybody for playing time, but he'll be good to have in case of injury. Owens isn't a lock to make the roster; he's more of a zip-tie—a little easier to cut, but still pretty secure.
Steven Miller (No. 40)
The rookie Miller was a star running back at Appalachian State, posting over 1,300 yards rushing in 2012. Now, he's in Lions training camp, and his 5'7" frame is reminiscent of Stefan Logan. It is unlikely that the Lions consider Miller very strongly as an option at running back—unless he explodes in the fourth quarter of some preseason games or something—and his best shot at making the roster is to polish his return game.
Calvin Johnson (No. 81)
The (nearly) undisputed top receiver in football, all "Megatron" needs to do is get through training camp healthy and be ready for the start of the regular season. He has absolutely nothing to prove in the preseason.
Nate Burleson (No. 13)
Burleson surprised everyone when he made it back from his broken leg in time not only for training camp, but also for team OTAs back in May. He's months ahead of his recovery timetable and is back to being the same locker room leader he always was. He should start the 2013 season as the Lions' second option at wide receiver, but he probably won't remain there for the whole season.
Ryan Broyles (No. 84)
Broyles, like Burleson, surprised everyone with his early return from an ACL injury that he suffered last December. Unlike Burleson, though, Broyles should increase his production between now and the end of the season. In fact, the Lions might be looking to him to become the second-most potent option in the passing game—the "Welker" to Johnson's "Moss," if you will. But Broyles is still just a second-year player who was unable to complete his rookie season. Before he starts blowing doors off, he has to stay healthy and get himself fully acclimated to the Lions' offense.
Kris Durham (No. 18)
Durham is an interesting case. He played reasonably well for the Lions last season, given that he only joined the team for the final month of the season and had no idea what he was doing in the offense. Durham was a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2011, one which the 'Hawks opted to give up on after only one year. In other words, there's plenty of room for Durham to be hiding upside, but he'll have to show major improvement in his first offseason with the Lions if he wants to stick around long enough to realize it.
Patrick Edwards (No. 83)
Seemingly one of the Lions' better undrafted player pickups in recent years, Edwards was impressive in last year's training camp and seems to have picked up where he left off. The key for him will be continuing to develop and staying healthy. If he can manage those things, his biggest hurdle will be forcing his way onto a roster that is suddenly thick with slot receivers. It might be a good idea for him to brush up again on his return skills.
Mike Thomas (No. 19)
Thomas tends to be easily forgotten on the Lions' roster, partially because he stayed healthy last season and was still a non-factor in the passing game. Despite playing in nine games for the Lions after being traded from Jacksonville, he caught only five passes for 28 yards. He was expected to be a combination slot receiver and punt returner, and neither has materialized thus far. Consider Thomas as another player who needs to take a huge step forward in order to justify a roster spot this season.
Michael Spurlock (No. 15)
Like many others in camp, Spurlock's usefulness to the team will likely be limited to special teams. In other words, if he doesn't become the Lions' primary return man, he's probably off the team. Nothing new for him—the Lions are his fourth team in the last three years, and his seventh since he entered the league in 2006, including two separate stints with the San Diego Chargers.
Devin Thomas (No. 11)
This is the epitome of "tire-kicking." Thomas, while only 26 years old, opted to retire last season rather than go through training camp with the Chicago Bears. While Thomas is listed as a wide receiver, he's not expected to make much of an impact as one. In 55 games since he joined the NFL in 2008, he has caught only 43 passes for 484 yards—and 40 of those receptions came in 2008 and 2009. At this point, he—like so many other receivers in the Lions' camp—should be relegated to competing for a special teams role.
Corey Fuller (No. 10)
Fuller may well become a valuable part of the Lions' offense, but it's unlikely to happen this season. He has speed and talent, but he needs a lot of work on his technique and route-running. Furthermore, there is a veritable logjam of players ahead of him. Fuller certainly has a shot at making the 53-man roster if he grows up really quickly, but the smart money is on him sticking around on the practice squad.
Cody Wilson (No. 1)
Wilson, the son of the Lions' team chaplain, is a reliable possession receiver who—stop me if you've heard this before—can also contribute on special teams. He has good hands, but he faces an uphill battle to get recognized, as his lack of notable measurables or downfield ability has him stuck competing directly with the bulk of the Lions' receiving corps.
Terrence Austin (No. 16)
Lions fans ought to thank Terrence Austin simply for taking the No. 16 jersey. Whether he makes the roster or not (probably not), at least it helps the Lions start to associate the jersey with someone other than Titus Young. Austin spent a pair of lackluster seasons with the Washington Redskins, then spent the entirety of 2012 as a free agent. Because he already has two years of NFL experience, he is ineligible for the practice squad. In other words, he's a long shot to make it out of camp.
Matt Willis (No. 12)
Another long shot for the roster, Willis may as well not even take any reps at wide receiver. He had 28 receptions for the Denver Broncos in 2011 and 2012 combined, and he stuck around mostly with special teams play. That will be what he has to do this year as well.
Brandon Pettigrew (No. 87)
Easily the best all-around tight end on the roster, Pettigrew has a lot of work to do in order to recover from a nightmarish 2012 season. His catches were down, his drops were up and his blocking wasn't notable enough to justify the dip in his production. Neither his roster spot nor his starting role are in any real danger, but his leverage in contract negotiations in 2014 might be if he doesn't get things figured out.
Tony Scheffler (No. 85)
Scheffler got a chance to be a major receiving target late last season when the Lions found themselves without Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, or Titus Young available to play. In response, he disappeared. On the season, he averaged less than three receptions and 35 receiving yards per game. Even worse, he failed to realize his potential as a red zone target, catching only one touchdown despite playing against defenses that double-teamed Calvin Johnson on the goal line. Like Pettigrew, Scheffler needs to improve his game considerably if he wants free agency to be a fun time for him.
Michael Williams (No. 89)
It's fitting that the man most likely to fill Will Heller's old role would also take his old number. Williams was a seventh-round pick for the Lions in 2013, and he is one of the better blockers in the entire class at the tight end position. He has a good shot of making the roster because his skill set it similar to Heller, who occupied the "Blocking/H-back" tight end position last year.
Joseph Fauria (No. 47)
If Williams is a replacement for Heller, than Fauria is potentially a replacement for Scheffler—not immediately, of course. To think that a UDFA would unseat an established starter in his first year is absurd. But there's no denying that Fauria has talent and that his skills compare very closely to Scheffler's (good downfield receiving ability, little to no interest in blocking). He may not make the roster this season simply because the Lions don't need Fauria while they have Scheffler, but the team should try to keep him around in case the 2014 Lions need the next version of Scheffler.
Shaun Chapas (No. 45)
Chapas is another H-back type who really probably belongs more in the "fullback" category. But since the Lions' fullbacks effectively are tight ends, he goes here. Chances are, the best shot Chapas has at making the roster is if he somehow outperforms Williams in the blocking category, but don't count on it.
Matt Veldman (Number not yet assigned)
Veldman, at 6' 7", is one of the tallest pass-catchers on the entire team. That alone will make him an interesting prospect, if only as a red zone target. Still, with the talent in front of him, the former Jaguars practice squad member is unlikely to make much noise. If he does especially well in camp, he is eligible for the practice squad, but even that might be a stretch.
Note: Due to the high quantity of guard/tackle hybrid players on the team, such players will be split based on where they appear most likely to play.
Riley Reiff (No. 71)
Reiff was taken with the Lions' first pick in the 2012 NFL draft, with the intent that he would become the team's starting left tackle. After a brief moment around this year's draft where it looked like the Lions might draft a different tackle to take over on the blind side, Reiff is actually moving to left tackle instead, as expected. He already has a start at left tackle, incidentally the only game in Jeff Backus'—the team's former left tackle—career that he didn't start. In that game, Reiff looked like a rookie, but not a bad one.
Jason Fox (No. 70)
A fourth-round pick in 2010, Fox has been a victim of early career injuries, and more recently, high density at the tackle positions. The departure of Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus means that Fox is finally getting his shot after three years on the bench, and the Lions must see something in him because they've kept him around for quite a while despite a major lack of playing time.
Corey Hilliard (No. 78)
A career reserve player, Hilliard will battle Fox for the starting right tackle position in camp, marking the first time that Hilliard has gotten serious consideration as a full-time starter. He has arguably been the Lions' sixth-best lineman for years (expect in 2012, when it was Reiff), so it makes sense that he's finally getting his shot. This is a tough battle to call, given how little we've seen of either player, and that's exactly what makes the players' camp performances so important.
LaAdrian Waddle (No. 66)
Admittedly, the last name "Waddle" is a bit dubious for an offensive lineman, and LaAdrian has 321 pounds to back it up. Fortunately for him, he also has length, athleticism and durability. An undrafted lineman with his size would normally be asked to kick inside to guard, but Waddle—contrary to his name—displays decent enough footwork to keep himself on the edge at the NFL level (albeit most likely on the right side). Waddle needs to refine his technique and doesn't stand out in any one area, but he has NFL-caliber measurables and finished his career at Texas Tech starting 38-straight games at left tackle, making the All Big-12 team in the process. With the Lions' lack of depth at tackle, Waddle has a very good shot at making the 53-man roster if he plays well in camp.
Austin Holtz (No. 72)
Theoretically, Holtz has as good a chance at making the roster as Waddle. Realistically, Holtz is far less impressive physically, which puts him at a disadvantage from the start. He will need to outplay Waddle soundly to earn the Lions' final reserve tackle spot. Of course, should the Lions go out and get a veteran tackle, both players are in trouble.
Note: If I boiled the roster down to pure guards and pure centers, Dominic Raiola would be the only pure center. Since most of the Lions' interior linemen are expected to have multi-position versatility, they're all landing here.
Dominic Raiola (No. 51)
Raiola is a fixture at center, and this season should be no different. The only questions for him are whether he can finish another season without regressing to uselessness and whether this is his Swan song season. He's already playing at the veteran minimum, and he isn't under contract for next season. At this time next year, he'll be 35 years old—the same age as longtime linemate Jeff Backus was when he retired.
Rob Sims (No. 67)
The Lions' quietest and least-discussed offensive lineman is also their most consistent. Sims has done nothing but stay healthy and perform his job effectively since the day he got to Detroit. He's no Pro Bowler, but the Lions (and any team) would be very happy to start five offensive linemen at his relative skill level. He has nothing to prove in training camp.
Larry Warford (No. 75)
A big-bodied mauler out of Kentucky, Warford made it to Detroit as their third-round selection this year, and he provides exactly what the Lions' offense needs: a tank of a man who can move people off the line. He's not a lock to start at right guard this season, but he certainly is the favorite. His training camp goal will be to earn that job.
Dylan Gandy (No. 65)
Gandy has been hanging out on the Lions' roster for a long while, acting as the Lions' primary backup at both guard and center. His job has been easy, since the Lions' offensive line has generally been free of injury throughout the last five years. Gandy is a decent player, but at age 31, there is no more reason to keep him for "upside." If one of the younger players (i.e. one of the players below) outperforms him, it could finally be time for the Lions to part ways with him.
Bill Nagy (No. 61)
A former starter at guard with the Dallas Cowboys, Nagy's career has been derailed by frequent injuries. At one point, it seemed like a starting job was Nagy's to lose once he returned to health. The problem is, he still isn't fully healthy, and the Lions have added a handful of new guards to compete with him. If Nagy can't recover enough to actually compete in camp, he won't be around long enough to see if he could start or not.
Rodney Austin (No. 74)
Austin is pretty much the reason teams have a practice squad. After going undrafted in 2012 and spending the season on the Lions' practice squad, Austin has arrived as a second-year player who is looking greatly improved over last year. And while it's probably too much to slot him into a starting role, it's not crazy to think he could make the 53-man roster.
Jake Scott (No. 60)
Scott is a 10-year veteran of the NFL, making him the second-most experienced player on the Lions' offensive line (after Raiola). After starting 16 games for seven consecutive years from 2005-2011 (with Indianapolis and Tennessee), he spent most of 2012 as a reserve for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he did start the final seven games of the season in place of the injured Danny Watkins. Scott is more of an insurance policy in case the young players aren't ready, but his experience is a strong selling point.
Leroy Harris (No. 64)
Another veteran guard/tackle combo player, Harris might be more threatening to Gandy's spot on the team than anyone else's. Signed in early June, Harris is another veteran player who, like Scott, should only make the final roster if the Lions determine they don't have enough talent in their younger players.
Derek Hardman (No. 73)
Despite a nearly ideal name for an offensive lineman, Hardman probably won't be heard from after training camp. He played in 15 games (starting in four) in three years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is an advantage in that it gives him experience, but a disadvantage in that he is ineligible for the practice squad.
Darren Keyton (No. 62)
A former Central Michigan player, Keyton was a regular starter at right guard for the Chippewas but also spent time at center. His versatility is nice and all, but ultimately, his uphill battle to make the roster is steeper than most others, given that he lacks both experience and outstanding skill.
Ndamukong Suh (No. 90)
Don't look now, but the kid once considered to be the dirtiest player in the NFL has slowly started to rehab his image. A solid, largely penalty-free season in 2012 doesn't have Suh back in the ranks of the elite, or out of the doghouse completely, but it was a step in the right direction. Now, he has to figure out how to mix up his move set and stop getting pinned by wham blocks.
Nick Fairley (No. 98)
After being arrested twice during the 2012 offseason, Fairley has been one of the nicer stories for the Lions this year. Not only has he kept himself out of trouble, but he's becoming a vocal leader for his teammates, both on and off the practice field. The work ethic issues that showed up on his scouting report during the 2011 draft will be a distant memory if he keeps up like this.
C. J. Mosley (No. 96)
The man best known for dislocating Matthew Stafford's shoulder and indirectly causing the most epic comeback in recent Lions history is now a Lion himself. Mosely isn't nearly as physically imposing as Suh or Fairley, but he is perfect in the role he's slated for: rotating in to take advantage of matchups while the other guys are getting double-teamed. Due to a somewhat surprising lack of depth for the Lions at tackle, Mosley is in absolutely no danger of losing his roster spot, but it remains to be seen how effective he'll be in the rotation.
Ogemdi Nwagbuo (No. 95)
Nwagbuo might be the most experienced Lion you've never heard of. He's not a 10-year veteran or anything, but he has appeared in 36 NFL games over four seasons, including one last season with the Lions. Considering the total lack of a quality fourth defensive tackle (something the Lions have tried to keep on hand under Jim Schwartz's tenure), Nwagbuo might actually have an outside chance to make the roster.
Jimmy Saddler-McQueen (No. 63)
Despite having one of the coolest names on the team, Saddler-McQueen also has one of the least impressive resumes. In two years of NFL experience (2010 and 2012), Saddler-McQueen has no stats in two games played—not a sack, not a tackle, not even a pass deflection. Maybe he's great in practices, but to this point, he looks unlikely to break onto the roster in any capacity, despite precious little competition at defensive tackle.
Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah (No. 94)
Ansah is going to have one of the more important training camps of anyone on the Lions roster. As a first-round pick with incredible physical gifts but a lack of experience, Ansah needs to put as much work in as he possibly can to get himself up to speed with the NFL game. As the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft, he will be expected to produce big things, and quickly, but he has a lot to learn before he gets there. The more work he puts in during training camp, the better he'll be when the expectations pile on.
Jason Jones (No. 91)
Jones will come in and take over for Cliff Avril at left defensive end, which is interesting considering how different both players they are from each other. Avril is a pure speed rusher, while Jones is a converted defensive tackle. It remains to be seen how that changes the dynamic on the line, but the Lions coaches believe that Jones is a better fit who will bring allow more opportunities across the defensive line, as reported by Tim Twentyman of the team's official website.
Israel Idonije (Number Not Yet Assigned)
With the signing of Idonije, the Lions are sending a clear message about their personnel philosophy. They want to get bigger, stronger and with bigger wingspans on the line. Idonije, like Jones, is a defensive end/tackle hybrid player who weighs in at over 270 pounds and shows the propensity to get after the quarterback from either position. Idonije provides depth at both defensive tackle and defensive end, and the Lions needed both. That said, Idonije has missed all of the Lions' offseason activities to this point because of his late signing, so he'll need to spend most of training camp getting up to speed.
Ronnell Lewis (No. 97)
A converted linebacker whose main value is on special teams, Lewis won't be able to lean on his fourth-round draft status to keep him around anymore. The Lions have flooded the defensive end position with new talent, so Lewis is going to need to show huge bounds forward in some area if he wants to stick around this season.
Willie Young (No. 79)
Is he a dynamic speed rush specialist, or is he a one-trick pony, easy to shut down once you know his trick? This is a crucial year for Young, who has shown flashes of talent but no consistency. Relative to everyone except Jones and Idonije, Young is something of a veteran now, so if he starts getting outperformed by guys younger than him, it could be the end of his time in Detroit.
Devin Taylor (No. 92)
Ansah is highly athletic, long-armed and raw. By comparison, Taylor is less athletic, also long-armed and less raw. Taylor looks like a solid fourth-round pick, but he and Ansah both have a lot to learn before they're consistent contributors. Still, Taylor is too talented (and the Lions are too thin at DE) for him to not make the roster. He might want to brush up on his special teams coverage, though.
Braylon Boughton (No. 68)
A large-bodied second-year player out of TCU, Boughton may be talented, but he is unfortunately coming into a situation where the Lions are going to be highly motivated to give reps to anyone else. Boughton is a young player the Lions have almost nothing invested in. They don't have a lot of roster spots, and they'll use the ones they have on the young players that they've invested draft picks into and want to develop—a harsh NFL reality, that.
Spencer Nealy (No. 64)
Nealy won't make the roster for the same reasons I listed under Boughton, but this is probably a good time to reinforce what I pointed out about the Lions' new personnel philosophy. Between free agents, draft picks and undrafted players, the Lions have brought six new defensive ends into the fold for training camp. Not a single one of them has been less than 6'5" and 270 pounds, and that's what we call a pattern.
Stephen Tulloch (No. 55)
Tulloch has already established himself as the quarterback of the Lions' defense. Now he might just want to do a little work on his tackling technique. He missed a few more clear tackles last year than the Lions should be comfortable with.
DeAndre Levy (No. 54)
Though his skill level varies depending on who you ask, Levy is one of the few players virtually guaranteed to start when the season opens. The Lions gave him a three-year deal to stick around, so clearly they have a high value placed on the young linebacker. There is still plenty of room for him to improve though, and just because he's safe this year doesn't mean he will continue to be if he stagnates.
Tahir Whitehead (No. 59)
By draft status, Whitehead should be the favorite to win the other outside linebacker job. Of course, draft status won't mean anything in a head-to-head-to-head matchup. The outcome of that roster battle will primarily be based on what happens in the battle. The interesting thing is that all three starter candidates bring something different to the mix. Whitehead has good athleticism, but needs to translate it to the field.
Travis Lewis (No. 50)
What Lewis lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in intelligence and instincts. He knows how to be in the right place at the right time, which makes him appear faster than he actually is. It's tough to call, but Lewis might be a favorite to win the starting job.
Ashlee Palmer (No. 58)
The third and (most likely) final candidate to start at the vacant outside linebacker position, Palmer benefits from more experience than either Whitehead or Lewis, which would make the transition of sliding him into the role much smoother. Palmer is also a top-notch special teamer. Regardless of who ends up starting for the Lions, there is no question that Whitehead, Lewis and Palmer will all make the roster.
Carmen Messina (No. 47)
Like Patrick Edwards, Messina was a player who impressed in early 2012, but missed out on the final roster by a hair's breadth. If he progresses even an average amount over last season, it should be nigh impossible for the Lions to overlook him a second time.
Brandon Hepburn (No. 57)
The Lions' final pick of the 2013 draft, Hepburn is an extremely smart kid out of Florida A&M. Whether or not he's decent at football is up for debate. Because the Lions sunk a draft pick into him (albeit a very late one), he's a good candidate for the practice squad. He's not likely to make the roster unless he has ace potential on special teams.
Alex Elkins (No. 53)
Elkins is an obvious longshot to make the roster, and yet it would be foolish to count him out just yet. This is a guy who played well enough in the Lions' rookie minicamp to earn an invitation to training camp, and he has apparently been defying long odds his whole life (h/t Chris McCosky, The Detroit News). It might be worth keeping an eye on the young man, just in case.
Cory Greenwood (No. 53)
That's right, at press time, DetroitLions.com has Elkins and Greenwood listed with the same number. When they get that sorted out, it will be changed here. Greenwood has spent three full years on special teams with the Kansas City Chiefs, which is experience that will serve him well for the position he'll be gunning for in Detroit. He hasn't missed a game in his career, so while there isn't anything to get especially excited about with Greenwood, he could be a valuable addition to the team. It really depends on how many players the Lions want to keep in the fold as developmental projects, and how good of special teamers they are.
Jon Morgan (No. 49)
An undrafted free agent out of Albany College, Morgan will need to blow the doors off in training camp to even be considered for a practice squad spot. He has Greenwood, Elkins, Messina and Hepburn to fight through for one roster spot, and likely only one or two more will make the practice squad. Those aren't great odds.
Chris Houston (No. 23)
The only sure thing at cornerback on the Lions' roster, Houston's new five-year deal ensures that the Lions will have him through the peak of his career. His presence will help the wealth of young talent on the roster to grow into bigger roles when they're ready for them, rather than be tried by fire.
Bill Bentley (No. 28)
On a team notorious for its fear of starting rookie cornerbacks, Bentley was a rookie starter in 2012—he was that good. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending injury in the midst of his fourth professional game. Now that he's back, there are questions. Will he reprise his role as starting right cornerback? Will he move to the slot? Either way, expect him to be a key part of the defense.
Jonte Green (No. 36)
Though it's true that Green didn't play consistently great football when forced into duty last year, it's also true that he showed marked improvement toward the end of the season. While there are plenty of higher-drafted prospects available to the Lions this year, none of them boast the game experience Green has, and that could parlay into a major role for him if he grows from it.
Darius Slay (No. 30)
Slay is a prospect with ideal height/weight/speed measurements who took on elite-level competition in the SEC. Being a rookie, he is the youngest of the Lions' cornerback prospects, but he is also perhaps the most physically talented. Whether he starts this year will depend on how fast he can pick up the NFL game. The learning curve is notoriously steep at cornerback, which makes experience one of the most important commodities. Raw talent or not, Slay will need to learn quickly if he wants to start early on.
Chris Greenwood (No. 33)
Like Slay, Greenwood has all the measurables, but not the experience to put it in action. He does have a year's worth of classroom experience that he gained while recovering from injury last season, but he was coming from Albion College, not Mississippi State. Both Greenwood and Slay have the potential to become shutdown cornerbacks, the question pertains to whether or not they'll realize that potential, and how fast.
Ron Bartell (No. 31)
What is alarming about Bartell is that he wasn't good enough to stick with the awful Oakland Raiders last year. Still, he's a veteran who played decent football for the Lions in limited time last season. Ultimately, the Lions will probably hope to stick with the younger guys, but Bartell could make it on the roster as a veteran insurance policy.
DeQuan Menzie (No. 38)
A second-year player out of Alabama, Menzie is most likely just a camp body, especially with all the youth already on the roster at cornerback. Still, he's eligible for the practice squad if he impresses.
Ross Weaver (No. 34)
Weaver, a former Michigan State Spartan, spent his entire first season on the Lions' practice squad, which would theoretically prepare him to compete for a roster spot. Unfortunately for him, he plays on a team that has spent four draft picks and a $25 million free-agent contract, respectively, on players at his position in the last two years, so roster spots should be at a premium.
Domonique "D.J." Johnson (No. 46)
Johnson is not as young or talented as the Lions' collection of cornerback draft picks, and he isn't as experienced as Bartell. The fifth-year veteran's only chance at being a Lion by the end of September is if he sends his special teams game through the roof, John Wendling-style.
Louis Delmas (No. 26)
The question with Delmas is the same as it's always been: can he get—and stay—healthy? His training camp isn't about improving his skills; it's about getting him back on the football field so that he can use them.
Glover Quin (No. 27)
The quieter of the Lions' two major free agent signings, Quin was actually a more expensive signing than Reggie Bush. That has a lot to do with the devaluation of running backs, but more to do with the fact that Quin is expected to change the face of the defense by bringing the kind of consistency to the safety position that the Lions have lacked for years.
Don Carey (No. 32)
Carey has to count as a pleasant surprise for the Lions. After converting to safety last season to avoid a crowded depth chart, Carey made his name as a quality special teams guy. And after a rash of injuries stripped the Lions down to the bottom tier of safeties, Carey's play was understated but solid. He is being given first-team reps while Delmas recovers from injury, and he doesn't appear to be as huge of a dropoff in talent as first thought.
Ricardo Silva (No. 39)
Silva has been a good player for the Lions to have around. He's a decent enough player to plug in at safety in a pinch, but the really alarming thing is that he doesn't appear to have developed much. He may still make the roster in 2013, but it appears that he may be one of those high-floor/low-ceiling types. If that's the case, he'll only stick around until someone shows more growth (probably sooner than later).
Amari Spievey (No. 42)
Spievey has gone through a lot in his career. He was converted from cornerback to safety before he ever played a snap in the NFL. His teammate in the defensive backfield changed seemingly on a weekly basis. He had to cope with the untimely death of his best friend. Most recently, he missed the majority of what may have been the most important season of his career with a concussion. Now, this is it for Spievey. It has been a difficult road for him, but if he can't put things together this year to at least become a valuable reserve player, it could be his last shot in the NFL.
Chris Hope (Number Not Yet Assigned)
The days of "Chris Hope, the starter" are most likely over. However, Hope brings a treasure trove of experience and more consistency to a unit that needs those things above all else. He seems like a good candidate to play the role Erik Coleman took on last season—an unflashy veteran who can step in if needed.
Tyrell Johnson (No. 24)
Johnson played in four games with the Lions last season, but as with Ron Bartell, it was more out of injury-related desperation than by choice. He has a bit of a leg up with his experience (and four years with the Vikings), but the safety position is suddenly jammed with talent. Johnson will have a difficult time out-performing any of the above players, much less groups of them.
Martavius Neloms (No. 47)
The only undrafted free agent safety the Lions brought to town this year, Neloms is a good kid whose ceiling out of camp is the practice squad. He played at both cornerback and safety at the University of Kentucky, but the Lions seem to like putting those types of players at safety.
John Wendling (No. 29)
Considering the Lions just brought in John Bonamego as their new special teams coach, it might be a good idea to keep Wendling, the team's best special teamer. It stings a little, because Wendling has effectively no ability at the actual safety position. That means the team is probably going to have to cut a talented defensive player to keep Wendling's spot available, but the fact is, he's that good of a special teamer.
Håvard "Kickalicious" Rugland, K (No. 3)
Easily one of the most intriguing storylines on the Lions' roster right now, Rugland is a 28-year-old kicker from Norway who has never played organized football but earned himself a tryout as a result of this YouTube video. It sounds like a gimmick, like the kind of thing Hollywood would make a sports comedy out of (maybe they still will?). But Rugland moved from the ranks of the amusing to "legitimate contender" status in minicamp, when he got to work drilling 50-yard field goals while six-time All-Pro David Akers continued to rehab a groin injury. Rugland is still far from being the favorite to win the starting job, and he needs to show that he can kick in a game situation the same way he can in practice. But if he continues on his current pace, he just might be the Lions' kicker in September.
David Akers, K (No. 2)
The far more reliable, and far more boring, option to Rugland, Akers is just an aging All-Pro kicker coming off a down year. It's almost absurd to suggest that a six-time All-Pro could lose out to a guy who was discovered on the Internet, but that's the situation we're looking at right now. This is Akers' job to lose, but if he plays like he did last year, or doesn't recover enough from his injury, he could lose it.
Sam Martin, P (No. 6)
Unfortunately, the Lions' punter battle isn't really intriguing at all. More than any other position, if a team spends a draft pick on a special teams guy, that guy has probably already won the starting job. This is especially true of drafting a punter in the fifth round, which the Lions did with Martin. Martin shows the ability to flip the field, but it's really the draft status that puts him in the driver's seat. The only thing to watch for in camp is whether he would have won the job anyway.
Blake Clingan, P (No. 8)
The bad news for Clingan is that there's no way he wins a job punting in Detroit. The good news is, for someone who hadn't played football since leaving the University of Central Florida in 2010, he looks pretty solid. The best-case scenario for him is that he plays well enough to land a tryout with another team after the Lions cut him.
Don Muhlbach, LS (No. 48)
The old adage is that nobody knows the long-snapper's name until he makes a mistake. Muhlbach's name is perhaps a bit better known than other long-snappers, but not because of a mistake. His 2012 Pro Bowl invitation is a more likely culprit. Enough said.
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