Overhauled Roster Means No Positions Are Set
Now that OTA's are underway and Training Camp is right around the corner the Lions roster is still ever changing, but for the most part we already know the players that will be vying for a starting spot. Tom Lewand has said multiple times this offseason that they will not feel comfortable about the roster until the middle of training camp, but that never stops me from looking at the possible depth chart.
Here is a position by position breakdown of the players at those positions along with which positions will have heated battles during training camp, and which ones should be easily decided.
Quarterback Projected Depth: Daunte Culpepper, Matthew Stafford, Drew Stanton
People like Peyton Manning have voiced their opinion that Stafford should start right away, but this wont happen. Tom Lewand all along has said he doesn't want to play Stafford too early, which means he will have to sit behind the vet and learn the ropes. The last thing the Lions need is JH 2.0. Lewand has also stated wanting to bring in another veteran quarterback, but with John Beck not on the market anymore there is not much to choose from. I think come opening day Stanton will be the number three guy.
Running Back Projected Depth: Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown, Antone Smith
This I thought at draft time was a no brainer and that Kevin Smith would be the starter this season after being one of the only brightspots on an 0-16 team. Although rumors have flown that Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan was wanting to take Chris Wells with the 20th pick because he wanted a bigger back and did not believe Smith could run his system. Well obviously that did not happen but Im sure that will just light Kevin up even more. Smith projected a playoff run this year, so if he has a down year Linehan probably wont hesitate to look somewhere else. Morris will be a great veteran to back up Smith and will be another good receiving option out of the backfield. Brown was the fifth round pick in this years draft so I see him making it on, and Antone Smith supposedly was very good at the rookie OTA's, I see him as a young Avieon Cason which makes Cason expendable.
Fullback Projected Depth: Terrell Smith or Jerome Felton
This is the first battle I will go over. Felton was drafted by the last regime which could make him a forgotten man, because the new staff came right in and signed Smith in free agency. A person cannot judge a fullback until the pads are on but in my eyes Felton missed blocks and time injured last year, I think the coaching staff will ultimately go with their man. Jon Bradley the converted DT will be the odd man out, probably the first cut from the fullbacks.
Wide Receiver Projected Depth: Calvin Johnson & Bryant Johnson
Slot: Derrick Williams & Ronald Curry, Wild Card
Calvin Johnson...... No brainer he will be the best in the league with a consistent quarterback. Bryant Johnson is the only real viable option for the number two spot. I made slot another position because nowadays it really is. For example if you put Wes Welker out as a flanker he wont be nearly as productive as inside. In this years draft I think they got a perfect slot type guy. Derrick Williams went to Penn State to play quarterback but then ended up playing everywhere. That is what makes him the perfect slot receiver, he has the hands to be a receiver, the running ability of a running back, and the knowledge of zones like a quarterback. Ronald Curry would then play the other side giving Culpepper a bigger target in the slot. The fifth receiver in my mind is a wild card. I really dont know who is deserving, but with Shaun Jefferson coming back as receivers coach I would think Jon Standeford would be the front runner.
Offensive Tackle Projected Depth Chart: LT Jeff Backus, RT Gosder Cherilus, Jon Jansen, Ephraim Salaam, George Foster
There should not be much of a battle here. Backus has held down the Left Side since he was drafted in 2001, even though he had struggled last year right now there is no better option. Cherilus again will be on the right side and should be a lot stronger in Linehan's power run offense. With the new signing of Jon Jansen it could throw a wrench into the lineup, but his better years are behind him. The Lions went from having a mediocre at best line, with no depth to a mediocre line with strong depth. I'm sure that us fans will see many different combinations throughout the line.
Offensive Guard Projected Depth Chart: LG Daniel Loper, RG Stephen Peterman, Damien Cook, Lyndon Murtha
Coach Schwartz has stated that Loper will be playing guard which is the biggest need on the line. One of the Tackles could get pushed inside, but I don't see that happening. Loper is good enough to start in this league, but was the sixth man behind five great lineman in Tennessee. Peterman again will have to hold down the right side, I see this position becoming a revolving door of players throughout the year. Damien Cook will be a solid backup after getting some starts last year, and I see Murtha getting pushed inside because he is a raw physical prospect and the Lions have enough veteran tackles.
Center Projected Depth Chart: Dominic Raiola, Dylan Gandy
This is a no brainer. I truly believe that Raiola is one of the best centers in the game (I know I'll take heat for that statement). He is a smaller lineman, but the thing he does best is pull. A few years ago for Mike Martz he would always spring the running back a few more yards with his pulling on a quick swing pass. He is also very good when it comes to screens, but the size hurts him in the run game.
Defensive Tackle Projected Depth Chart: Grady Jackson, Andre Fluellen, Chuck Darby, Sammie Lee Hill
This is by far the weakest position on the team. I dont think Schwartz will keep as many DT's on the roster like Marinelli did. This being said I think a guy like Landen Cohen is the odd man out. Grady Jackson will plug the A-gap with his size but thats about all he can do. I think Fluellen will beat out Darby because he is younger, and last season showed he can be a good compliment to a big guy like Grady Jackson. Sammie Lee Hill will be on the roster as a project player, very raw skills.
Defensive End Projected Depth Chart: RE Cliff Avril, LE Dwayne White, Jared Devries, Eric Hicks, Ikaika Alma-Francis
The reason I think the staff wont keep as many DT's as they did last year is because a couple of these DE's are big enough to kick inside. Avril I see taking that coveted right end spot, he is much faster than White and if he gets better in the run game he could be a force. White is a pretty solid player.... when he is healthy. A pretty good pass rusher and a pretty good run stopper, so I just see him as solid. Devries has been great in his backup role and should continue to do so, hopefully he will finish his career with the team he was drafted by. Hicks I see moving in front of IAF because he is Cunningham's guy.
Middle Linebacker Projected Depth Chart: Larry Foote, Deandre Levy
The hometown kid should no doubt be getting the start. Foote is, like I said about Dewayne White, a solid player. He is very consistent and being on two Superbowl winning Steelers team he should be a great leader for this defense. Levy one of the third round picks will be a solid backup who will learn from some of the best linebackers in the game.
Outside Linebacker Projected Depth Chart: LOLB Julian Peterson, ROLB Ernie Sims, Jordon Dizon, Zack Follett, Cody Spencer
Another position that wont have any battling except for maybe the backup spots. Peterson and Sims should be solid together now that Sims is done learning from a guy that confuses even himself (Joe Barry). Dizon I thought last year could be a pretty good player because he is a head hunter and bulls through the line with that low center of gravity, but he did not get enough playing time. Follett and Spencer should be good special team additions.
Cornerback Projected Depth Chart: Anthony Henry, Phillip Buchanon, Keith Smith
Nickel & Dime Cornerback: Eric King, Ramzee Robinson
Henry has slowed up over the years but is still very smart and should be a good leader for a young backfield. Buchanon has been an underachiever throughout his career but still has raw speed that can make up for his mistakes. Keith Smith is probably their best man to man cover guy and will be fighting hard for a starting outside spot. On the inside Eric King should hold down the Nickel spot as he did in Tennessee. Robinson again will add depth.
Safety Projected Depth Chart: FS Gerald Alexander, SS Louis Delmas, Daniel Bullocks, Kelvin Pearson
Alexander will hopefully stay healthy this year and continue to improve from two years ago. Delmas has been one of the most impressive players this offseason and should easily battle and beat out Bullocks for the other safety spot. Pearson was very impressive last year and will find a spot on this roster because of how hard he plays. He can also play some Nickel or Dime back.
Special Teams Projected Depth Chart: K Jason Hanson, P Nick Harris, KR Derrick Williams, LS Don Muhlbach
Only new addition here is maybe the Lions can finally have a returner that isn't asked to just make fair catches, Williams can make things happen with deceptive speed.
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