Try as I might, I’m having a problem trimming that 54th player from the Detroit Lions roster and getting the practice squad down to eight players. This is a good problem to have, isn’t it?
I have an idea who I would cut, I think. I really want to know what you think.
We all knew where the Lions had to improve in a big way in 2011. Linebacker, especially the OLB positions, cornerback and the offensive line.
There were some depth concerns at MLB, CB, OLB, OC, OT and OG. The Lions are addressing these needs in an aggressive yet measured approach through free agency (including UDFAs).
Here’s my 54 player roster and practice squad. Who do you keep, and who do you cut?
QB (3): Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton
No surprises here. Zac Robinson looks good in camp but has little expectation of passing the more experienced Stanton on the depth chart.
RB (3): Jahvid Best, Mikel LeShoure and Aaron Brown
Maurice Morris had a nice run in Detroit but the younger, more versatile Brown knows the offense and can more readily fill the roles designed for Best and LeShoure.
UDFA Ian Johnson (Boise St.) has sparkled at times in camp but will have an uphill battle in making the team.
FB (1): Jerome Felton
I almost went out on a limb here. Matt Clapp, the UDFA who failed his Lions physical last year was invited to camp and has looked very good so far.
He’s a modest underdog to Felton that might make the practice squad.
OT (4): Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus, Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard
Experience with O-line mates in the Lions man-power blocking scheme is of critical importance. Fifth-year player Hilliard gets the nod over rookie Johnny Culbreath.
Fox, who looks almost ready to move into Backus’ LT role needs another year of seasoning but will see an increase in snaps in 2011.
The recently acquired Isaac Sowells (off waivers from Cincinnati) is on the outside looking in. He’s only 6’3”.
OG (3): Rob Sims, Stephen Peterman, Tony Ugoh
Ugoh was moved to OG by the Colts in the hope that he could make the cut. The Lions should do the same. Hilliard has shown the ability to move inside, but there still seems to be a bit of a depth problem here.
OC (3): Dominic Raiola, Dylan Gandy and Dan Gerberry
Gerberry has value as the backup long snapper. Gandy, a six-year Pro is not the answer but can play some guard.
Raiola is coming off back to back poor years. The center position looks to be the weakest position on the team.
TE (3): Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller
Heller’s roster spot could be in jeopardy. Joe Don Finley has looked very good in camp. Richard Dickson being dinged up (knee) hasn’t helped his chances.
WR (6): Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Stefan Logan, Demario Ballard and Rashied Davis
This is one of the most intriguing positions to handicap. Can UDFA Ballard make the squad? He will likely be a goner if he’s assigned to the practice squad.
Rookie Titus Young suffered a hamstring injury on day one. The Lions could save a roster spot for him by putting him on the IR, but Young will first be given every chance to fail.
Derrick Williams, the heretofore unproductive third year player, has played very well in camp. We have seen him perform well in camp before only to see him disappear during the regular season. Will the Lions cut Williams?
We need to keep a watchful eye on free agents Rashied Davis and Maurice Stovall. Both are veteran survivors who provide much needed depth.
Nate Hughes was signed off waivers (Jacksonville). His odds look even longer in Detroit.
I think that the Tim Toone experience will end soon.
DE (4): Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young
The loss of Turk McBride in free agency has left a small vacuum at depth for this position. Willie Young will get competition from Greg Banks (Michigan), Daunte Akra (Wayne St.) and William Narada (Fort Valley St.).
Banks or Narada might find a spot on the practice squad. Akra is a long shot.
DT (5): Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Corey Williams, Sammie Lee Hill and Andre Fluellen
Fluellen has value as a depth player who can play DE and DT.
Robert Calloway and Quinn Pitcock will fight it out for a practice squad spot.
MLB (2): Stephen Tulloch and Ashlee Palmer
Dejuan Fulghum is establishing himself as a keeper with great instincts, but he is a depth LB at best since DeAndre Levy will move inside if Tulloch goes down. Fulghum could find a home on the practice squad.
SOLB (2): DeAndre Levy and Bobby Carpenter
UDFA Cobrani Mixon (Kent St.) has looked solid in drills but will have trouble cracking this roster.
WOLB (3): Justin Durant, Isaiah Ekejiuba, and Caleb Campbell
The WILL position looks a bit thin. Doug Hogue is coming along so slowly that he isn’t a threat to Campbell—yet.
Ekejiuba gets a spot here but will only play WILL in an emergency. His value remains as a special teams ace.
UDFA Quinton Davie hasn’t stood out in my view.
LCB (2): Chris Houston and Aaron Berry
Berry has earned a spot here based on his strong play in camp.
Paul Pratt and Prince Miller have little chance of taking a roster spot.
RCB (3): Eric Wright, Nathan Vasher and Alphonso Smith
Smith and Vasher will get snaps in the Nickel. Vasher is slightly ahead of Smith because Smith has yet to practice. Now, Vasher is banged up.
Jamal Robinson (Houston) has played well but has virtually no chance. Practice squad spots will be allocated to either Pratt or Miller.
FS (2) - Louis Delmas and John Wendling
UDFA Ricardo Silva (Hampton) has been a pleasant surprise, but Wendling is another special team's ace. Silva could crack the practice squad.
SS (2); Amari Spievey and Erik Coleman
Randy Phillips could win Coleman’s job with a strong camp. He’s only had one practice. Coleman has failed to impress me in camp.
PK (1): Jason Hanson
Hanson has proven in camp that he has the strength and accuracy to continue his epic career.
Dave Rayner will have no trouble catching a gig with another team.
P (1): Nick Harris
Ryan Donahue had a chance to push Harris and failed.
LS (1): Don Muhlbach
No player comes close to Muhlbach’s incredible consistency. Dan Gerberry backs him up.
Practice Squad (8)
FB Matt Clapp
OT Johnny Culbreath
TE Joe Don Finley
RB Ian Johnson
DT Robert Calloway
OLB Doug Hogue
CB Paul Pratt
S Ricardo Silva
So, Lions fans, what’s your take? Which of my 54 pet cats moves to the practice squad and who moves on?
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.