The Detroit Lions open training camp on July 30 at the team's practice facility in Allen Park, Michigan. Here's a 53-man roster projection:
Stafford's a lock, but the competition between Rudock and this year's sixth-round pick, Brad Kaaya, will last throughout the preseason. Both could end up making the roster, but don't be surprised if the Lions try to sneak the loser of the backup battle through waivers and put him on the practice squad -- just like the team did with Rudock last year.
Abdullah and Riddick are set. Zenner showed during the second half of last season that he can be a good fill-in with the potential for more. The real question is Washington and whether his vision improves and if he wins a job as a return man. If neither one of those things happens, the Lions will have to weigh his physical talents with the proven play of Matt Asiata or the potential of Mike James or Tion Green.
FULLBACK (0): The Lions cut Michael Burton this offseason. There are no fullbacks on the roster, and one doesn't fit into this offense.
The competition for the last one or two roster spots will be determined by a combination of receiving ability and special-teams work. Abbrederis had a strong spring, and if he stays healthy, he could win a job. Jones has experience and has flashed in limited reps throughout his career -- as has Ryan Spadola. Jace Billingsley is intriguing, but he's likely only a slot receiver. Keshawn Martin, if he can win the returner job, would lock up a spot. Of the undrafted rookies, Dontez Ford has the most potential, and if he can have a standout preseason, he could push his way into the conversation, much like Billingsley did last year before landing on the practice squad.
This feels set. The only question is if the Lions use more two-tight-end sets and keep a fourth tight end over a fifth receiver (or more depth elsewhere). The suspension of Khyri Thornton -- a defensive tackle –- opened up a roster spot. For now, that goes to Wick.
This is a questionable group. Decker likely will start the season on the physically unable to perform list or injured reserve after shoulder surgery, but he needs to be accounted for in any real roster projection. So the number is really nine. Wagner and Robinson feel locked in at tackle, and the starters are close to set on the interior with Lang, Swanson and Glasgow. The Dahl/Tomlinson competition could end up being for a roster spot if the Lions need depth in other areas, but for now, both make the team.
Thornton would be on this roster as of now -- except he's suspended for six games and that means he's no lock for much of anything at this point. The Lions look at the defensive line almost like hockey lines, so depth is key. Hyder, Bryant, Washington and Zettel can all play inside if necessary. Copeland has linebacker flexibility. The last tackle spot between Ferguson, Ledbetter, Bruce Gaston and Jordan Hill will be one to watch -- and it's possible two of them make it and the Lions go 11 deep on the defensive line. The suspensions of Armonty Bryant and Thornton complicate things within the roster -- both Bryant and Thornton were likely 53-man candidates -- so Ledbetter makes the team for now. But those suspensions could change things throughout the bottom third of the team.
Unless there are injuries, there likely isn't much flexibility here. Steve Longa is an intriguing player who could secure a roster spot -- I considered him for that Wick spot -- but the Lions don't have the investment in him that they have in any of the linebackers listed above, and if there's a tie, it'll potentially go to the guy making more money. But Longa is going to be a player to watch through camp, especially since the Lions always have one or two players per year who are surprise roster inclusions.
No true surprises here, although a lot could shake out differently during camp -- particularly in the slot between Diggs, Hayden and Agnew. If Agnew wins the job, Diggs or Hayden is unlikely to make the roster. The wild cards are if Tabor somehow wins an outside corner job, potentially pushing Lawson into the slot. If that happens, Diggs or Hayden could be in trouble. Similarly, Adairius Barnes, who isn't listed on the roster as of now, was one of my last cuts and could push his way into a spot. Bademosi is likely safe because of his elite special-teams capabilities.
This is pretty set, although if Carter shows vast improvement during training camp, there's a chance he sticks -- likely in favor of another position elsewhere. Quin and Wilson are the starters. Killebrew is the future. Carey is a special-teams leader and one of the true leaders on the roster. If he's healthy (he was out during the spring), he's likely on the roster.
One of the best special-teams operations in the league remains intact for another season.