Although you wouldn’t know it by the weather, (it was in the mid 90′s again in metro Detroit) football season is in full swing as the Detroit Lions have finalized their roster and are now preparing for a week 1 showdown with the Saint Louis Rams.
There were only a couple players that were cut that could have been considered mild surprises. Corner Alphonso Smith was handed his walking papers in favor of newcomer Kevin Barnes. Also, defensive lineman Everette Brown was let go. Brown played well at times during the pre-season tallying 1.5 sacks, but the depth on the defensive line made it difficult for the Lions to keep Brown. Another lineman that was let go was Andre Fluellen. The Lions elected to keep rookie Ronnel Lewis instead of Brown or Fluellen because of his expected contribution on special teams.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions decided on keeping rookie Kellen Moore as their third string quarterback. Moore looked lost during most of the pre-season, but played better in the Lions fourth game against Buffalo. His play in that fourth game may have solidified his position on the roster. At running back, the Lions kept Keiland Williams and Joique Bell. Although Williams wasn’t a surprise, I didn’t expect Bell to make the roster. The Lions have been unable to find another affordable option at RB via free agency or trade, so Bell will take Mikel Leshoure’s spot on the roster until Leshoure returns from suspension week 3. Expect both Williams and Bell to get some snaps during the first two weeks, as Lions starter Kevin Smith has been dinged up during the pre-season.
Although nothing has been officially announced, it appears that the Lions are ready to put rookie Bill Bentley in the starting lineup week 1 against the Rams. Bentley looks like a risk taker in the secondary, capable of making big play interceptions but also susceptible to giving up the big play. His early season play will be an important factor to watch as the Lions’ secondary looks to improve after a shaky 2011 season.
Other rookies to watch will be offensive lineman Riley Reiff and wide receiver Ryan Broyles. It appears that Reiff will start the season as a back up, but if RT Gosder Cherilus slips Reiff could step into the starting lineup. It’s unclear how many snaps Broyles will see, but with Leshoure out during the first two games, you could see some four wide receiver sets featuring Broyles in the slot next to Calvin Johnson. It will be interesting to see just how offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will utilize Broyles in the offense.
Although the Lions have finished cutting their roster down to 53, it doesn’t mean their roster is 100 percent finalized. With the running back position a weakness and the secondary still having holes, the Lions will be scanning other teams’ cuts and may make a move before next week.
The Lions will kick off the regular season at Ford Field Sunday, September 9 against the Rams.