Predicting Lions depth, fall roster: defense

May, 16, 2014
May 16
12:00
PM ET
The true workout portion of the Detroit Lions' offseason activities begins Friday with the start of rookie minicamp, followed by OTAs and then the mandatory minicamp in June.

Before that officially begins, here's a look at the Lions' depth chart -- along with a first shot at what the 53-man roster could look like come fall. And please remember, a lot can change between now and then.

DEFENSIVE END

Starters: Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones

Backups (in projected order of depth for now): Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp, Kourtnei Brown, George Johnson, Larry Webster.

[+] EnlargeDarius Slay
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiCornerback will be a position to watch in the upcoming year, including keeping tabs on Lions' second-year player Darius Slay.
Thoughts: Ansah is a lock and has the potential to break out in his second season after a good rookie year. After that, the position is unsettled. Jones is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Taylor played well in spurts last season, but not consistently. Webster is raw. Tapp and Brown are likely competing for the fourth spot.

Roster locks: Ansah, Jones, Taylor.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ansah, Jones, Taylor, Tapp, Webster (practice squad).

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Starters: Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley

Backups (in projected order of depth for now): C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Andre Fluellen, Corvey Irvin, Vaughn Martin, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Xavier Proctor.

Thoughts: Suh and Fairley are entering the final year of their contracts, but are one of the more dominant duos in the league when Fairley decides to play well. Reid could be the steal of the draft for the Lions, and Mosley provides good depth and leadership. Everyone else is likely fighting for a roster spot at best.

Roster locks: Suh, Fairley, Mosley.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Suh, Fairley, Mosley, Reid.

LINEBACKER

Starters: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Kyle Van Noy.

Backups (in projected order of depth): Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Brandon Hepburn, Justin Jackson.

Thoughts: The starters are locks at this point. Levy, if he takes another step, could turn into a dominant linebacker. Tulloch is one of the defensive leaders, and Martin Mayhew already said Van Noy could end up starting right away. The depth is still questionable, but Whitehead is a good player who at least can be strong on special teams.

Roster locks: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy, Whitehead, Stanford, Hepburn (practice squad), Jackson (practice squad).

CORNERBACK

Starters: Chris Houston, Darius Slay.

Backups (in projected order of depth): Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood, Aaron Hester, Nevin Lawson, Mohammed Seisay, Gabe Lynn.

Thoughts: This was one of the positions that appeared to be in need of help in the draft and the Lions didn't really address it. This is a massive year for Bentley, Green and Greenwood, as well as an important development year for Slay. Other than Matthew Stafford, the level of success Detroit has this season might depend on how these players end up improving or not. It could end up being the most competitive battle in camp. The toughest decision I had on this roster was between Bentley and Greenwood, but went with Bentley. Cornerback is going to be a position to watch over the next four months.

Roster locks: Houston, Slay, Lawson.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Houston, Slay, Mathis, Vaughn, Green, Bentley, Lawson.

SAFETY

Starters: Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo

Backups (in projected order of depth): Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin.

Thoughts: Quin and Ihedigbo are set, and Carey can be a serviceable backup at safety and also play down at nickel. Abdul-Quddus is a special teams player the Lions targeted early. Watch for Couplin. He may be more intriguing than some of Detroit's draft picks.

Roster locks: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey, Abdul-Quddus, Couplin (practice squad).

KICKER

Starter: Nate Freese

Backups (in projected order of depth): Giorgio Tavecchio

Thoughts: This is Freese's job to lose as the team used a draft pick -- albeit a seventh-rounder -- on him. If Tavecchio outkicks him, he could steal the job.

Roster locks: None

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Freese

PUNTER

Starter: Sam Martin

Backups: None.

Thoughts: Martin's the guy.

Roster locks: Martin

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Martin.

LONG SNAPPER

Starter: Don Muhlbach

Backups (in projected order of depth): Jordan Thompson

Thoughts: Muhlbach is one of the best in the league here. With a rookie kicker, he's not going anywhere. What could be intriguing is if the team keeps Thompson on the practice squad as the snapper of the future.

Roster locks: Muhlbach.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Muhlbach.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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