First off, I wouldn't want to be a coach in Detroit today or tomorrow. Why you ask? Because they get the honor of deciding which talented players to cut, and which to keep.
So many of their guys on the bubble have shown so much, that even those who are practice squad eligible will be hard to get through waivers (read: near impossible) and those not eligible will likely be snatched up by other teams.
We've looked a lot at guys on the bubble, and guys who are locks to make the team. I know just as much as you, and in fact, the Lions coaches do about who they are gong to cut. I can bet you when they woke up this morning, at least a half dozen or more of those 22 cuts they need to make were "undecided".
This is, for Lions fans, a frustrating and new experience. I know that in years past I would see cut-down day coming, and there were no real surprises among who made it -- and who didn't. There was so little talent throughout the bottom 2/3 of the roster that they were literally interchangeable with guys off the street. (Yes, I know 2/3 of 53 is 35 and would include at least 4 starters. Maybe 2/3 was generous.)
Now, I find things different. In Marinelli's first two years the roster holes were bigger than the Potholes in Lansing's fine streets. In year one, it was competition to start at quite a few positions, although many were taken unchallenged. Then last year, it was a fight for starters, and some backups started to battle. This ifseason, however, the Lions leaped to the point they had established starters at over half of the roster, and guys fighting tooth and nail in battles not only within position groups, but between position groups as players tried to make their case that they should keep extra guys at one group due to talent, over another.
Best examples: Dline and WR
While the RB's outside of Smith were really doing their best to see who could screw themselves out of a roster spot first Middleton, Ellis and Standeford were busy trying to convince the coaches with their play that the Lions needed to keep a 5th wideout, and hey, why not 6? Personally, I wish they could keep Middleton and Standeford, but as it stands right now I'd go for Middleton. When finally given a strong opportunity, he looked pretty good returning kicks in the 4th game. It was frustrating to see the Bills keep kicking out of bounds. Give the returners a chance to fight for a spot! I like Standeford as a WR -- and I think he could play at least as well as McDonald. But he doesn't bring it on ST like a 3rd/4th wideout needs to, so may end up cut. (Although his best bet at sticking on a roster may be to stay in shape, hope a Lions WR gets injured, and try to get them to forget about ponying up for Roy and McD. It will be one, the other, or neither. I don't see both staying. After Martz screws over Nolan in SanFran he'll be spending big for McD.) Moore is going to the practice squad.
On the Dline, who hasn't made a case to be kept? At DT Darby, Fluellen, Redding, Moore, Cohen, and Cody all look able to contribute as starters or in rotation (I included Cody in that group -- he looked OK, but not great - I thought him an Cohen looked about the same, and Cohen has more upside.) Cohen likely won't clear Waivers -- a lot of teams are thin at DT right now, and at least one would be willing to sign him to the active roster on potential shown in the preseason. Moore would also be snatched up by a team looking for some depth at DT.
At DE, C. Smith, White, IAF, Avril, and DeVries are all looking solid -- and with IAF starting to show up as a beast when they replace him with Avril on passing downs and he slides inside to replace Darby....muddies the waters even more.
With how important the Dline is, and the number of run teams, how about 11 Dlinemen? (also suggested by Dave Birkett)Darby is getting up there, and if Cohen continues to progress, there is no need to pay Cody to stick around next ifseason. So they keep 11, and only go with 6 LB and 8 DB's. Robinson will stick on the practice squad another year -- Kelly is aging, and he knows they will likely keep 5 CB's next season when the Dline gets slimmed a bit. With how they rotate, I'm just fine with having 10 guys and 8 rotating each game day on the Dline. Robinson knows Det is his best option to start at some point, ala Kieth Smith. Gut says Robinson to practice squad, and bides his time. Not bad for a Mr. Irrelevant at this juncture.
BTW - I wouldn't be surprised if they stuck Blue on IR with his hamstring injury, and cut injury settlement ties with Calhoun. Getting dinged up again has pretty much ended his stint with the Lions. Unfortunate as he had some great potential, but that is why it is the dreaded word. Blue will be able to come back next year, with smith a year older and compete once again. A hamstring injury can take a long time to get over, and is not at all good when goal-line D and hitting on ST are your specialty. With Bullocks looking as healthy as ever, Blue is in line to be cut anyway.
At LB, I disagree with Killer. He has more insider info than I do, but cutting Davis due to not having a "backup SLB" is silly -- Lenon is the backup SLB to Lewis in reality. Dizon would move to starter, and Davis would back him up should Lewis get injured. Cannon, Gardner and Joe were primarily fighting to be Sims' backup as I noticed they were all given chances at WLB to earn the backup job. Sure, you technically have 3 MLB - BUT - one of them is the backup SLB. As a bonus, when Dizon takes over starting it the middle, you still have Davis and Lenon to back up what is one of the most important positions on the defense.
So while it is sad that the Lions will have to bid Adieu to so much great talent, and great fan favorites, it is a happy kind of sad. Because the Lions finally are building a team based on a sound solid foundation. A core of players that will be there for years to come.
More on the cuts tomorrow, including how we did on our "Marinelli's Men" guesses, as well as our "30 Lock" - 30 players guaranteed to make the roster barring injury that we did some months back after the draft, and completed before camp. Will there be any surprises??
Guess we'll know tomorrow. Until 4pm (since the Lions always announce at the last minute) what are your thoughts??
People you want to see stay/go and how/why?