Detroit Lions: Michael Spurlock

ESPN colleague Mike Sando's annual age analysis of NFL rosters found that the Detroit Lions have the oldest roster in the league.

That designation might seem odd when you consider the relative youth of the Lions' primary players. You also might not be interested in a ranking where the full range of age differences is only a few years. In sifting through the Lions' roster, however, the culprit -- if you consider an "old" roster a bad thing -- is a big group of veteran backups.

By my count, the Lions have nine projected reserve players whose ages range between 30 and 33 years old. Six are newcomers to the roster and three -- defensive tackle Justin Bannan, linebacker Rocky McIntosh and defensive back Rashean Mathis -- were signed two weeks ago.

On the one hand, it makes sense to have veteran backups when you have some young starters. If right guard Larry Warford struggles, the Lions could replace him with Dylan Gandy (31) or even Leroy Harris (29). If Darius Slay needs more seasoning, the Lions could replace him with Mathis (33).

McIntosh (30) is available to spell any of the Lions' three starting linebackers. Israel Idonije (33) will back up rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah, while Bannan (34) and C.J. Mosley (30) will provide depth for Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

On the other hand, we discussed earlier the Lions' draft issues in the past five years. One of the reasons they needed veteran depth is the inability to develop it on their own. Signing veteran backups also makes it difficult to plan long-term and orderly transitions at certain positions.

Regardless, the team the Lions have on the field at any given point will be a nice blend of young and middle-aged players. If you look at their starters on offense, defense and special teams, you really only see five who are 30 and older. Three of those are on special teams -- place-kicker David Akers (38), long-snapper Don Muhlbach (32) and returner Micheal Spurlock (30).

So I'm not sure there is reason to panic here. But if nothing else, now you know why the Lions rank atop Sando's age rankings.

*Update: The Lions released McIntosh, slightly lowering their composite team age, to make room for safety DeJon Gomes, who was claimed on waivers from the Washington Redskins.

Detroit Lions cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
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Most significant move: There were no surprises for the Detroit Lions and, really, there were few big decisions. We noted earlier that the team decided to preserve a roster spot for No. 3 quarterback Kellen Moore, so the most significant move they did make was placing rookie tight end Michael Williams on injured reserve. The Lions had substantial plans for Williams this season as the third tight end in the jumbo package that lineman Riley Reiff filled last season. They also hoped to develop his receiving skills as veterans Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler enter contract years. Williams had surgery last week to repair a hand injury, and though coach Jim Schwartz said the team had no long-term injuries, Williams is in fact lost for the season. (NFL teams can't start placing players on short-term injured reserve until next week.) As a result, rookie Joseph Fauria -- a much better receiver but less of a blocker than Williams -- is on the 53-man roster with Pettigrew and Scheffler.

The dominoes: The Lions apparently chose veteran Michael Spurlock as their kick returner, necessitating the release of rookie Steven Miller, who could return on the practice squad. Spurlock is also a receiver, and for the now he is one of six on the roster, presumably because of Ryan Broyles' sore knees. The release of veteran Matt Willis means Kris Durham is the sixth receiver. You wonder if the Lions would change directions soon in that regard. The Lions sifted through their big group of veteran defensive backups by tapping Rashean Mathis as a swing cornerback/safety and Rocky McIntosh as a backup linebacker while releasing the rest. John Wendling and Don Carey are the backup safeties for now.

What's next: According to multiple reports, the Lions will place running back Montell Owens on short-term injured reserve. That can't happen until next week, so for now he is part of the 53-man roster. He must miss at least six weeks of the regular season. You would think the Lions will bring back a number of the players they cut Saturday for their practice squad, and it's worth remembering that they are No. 5 in priority for NFL waiver claims. Sunday could be a busy day.

List of players cut: WR: Corey Fuller, Matt Willis. RB: Steven Miller, Shaun Chapas. OL: Rodney Austin, Kevin Haslam, Darren Keyton, Jake Scott. DL: Andre Fluellen, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Xavier Proctor, Jimmy Sadler-McQueen. LB: Brandon Hepburn, Jon Morgan (waived/injured) Chris White. CB: Ron Bartell, Chris Greenwood. S: Amari Spievey, Tyrell Johnson, Martavius Neloms (waived/injured) P: Blake Clingan.

Three big Lions roster questions

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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People closer to the situation than me have made their best projection of the Detroit Lions' 53-man roster, which must be whittled down by Saturday afternoon. Here is one look from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press and here is another from Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.

In essence, the Lions have a handful of key decisions to make that will start the fall of the other dominoes. Here are the three most important that come to mind:

Who is their kickoff and punt returner?

The answer to that question should drive the Lions' decisions at the bottom of their depth chart at receiver and running back. Is it rookie running back Steven Miller? Or veteran receiver Micheal Spurlock? Or will the Lions try to piece the roles together with players that were already destined to make the roster like running back Joique Bell and receiver Patrick Edwards?

Do they want four tight ends on the roster?

The Lions have four at that position who are NFL-caliber: Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Michael Williams and Joseph Fauria. Williams had surgery this week to repair a bone in his hand. Will the Lions keep him on the 53-man roster with hopes of using him after a few weeks off? Will they keep him on the final roster for one day and then place him on the injured reserve-designated for return? Or could they just shelve him for the season? In any event, it seems risky to expose Fauria to waivers.

How many of their veteran backup defenders do they need to keep?

The Lions have almost a dozen seasoned defenders on their roster, many of whom with starting experience, who have no chance to start. They can't all make the team. Is it Justin Bannan or Andre Fluellen on the defensive line? Rocky McIntosh or Chris White at linebacker? Ron Bartell, Rashean Mathis, Tyrell Johnson or Amari Spievey in the secondary?

Previewing Preseason Week 4: Lions

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
11:00
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In which we look ahead to the Detroit Lions' preseason finale:

Opponent: Buffalo Bills

Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Personnel notes: Healthy starters are expected to get one series, which probably means that receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) will be among those sitting out. … The first-team offense, with or without Johnson, has managed one touchdown drive this preseason, providing enough incentive to give quarterback Matthew Stafford and others one more chance. … The Lions have a number of position battles to sort through, some of which will get a better run Thursday night than others. … You have to wonder how much the top candidates to start at right guard and right tackle (Larry Warford and Jason Fox?) will play. But we'll get a long look at the players competing to return kicks -- Steven Miller, Micheal Spurlock, Patrick Edwards and others -- and the same goes for the last few receiver positions. Edwards, Matt Willis, Spurlock and Kris Durham are all among those competing. Finally, we'll be looking for clues on how the Lions plan to work in the nickel. Is Bill Bentley still the third cornerback? Could Rashean Mathis unseat him?

Focal point: Tailback Reggie Bush has gotten 17 carries and caught 10 passes this preseason, so the guess is that he won't play much if it all. So that will make Thursday night a big final test for the Lions' backfield depth behind him. As we've discussed, Joique Bell has done just about everything he can to win the No. 2 job ahead of Mikel Leshoure, and I've gotten no sense that coaches are giving Leshoure the benefit of the doubt because he was a second-round pick. It's hard to imagine the Lions cutting Leshoure, even if he doesn't play a big role on special teams, but there is also a rookie running back in Theo Riddick that the Lions like and want to keep on the roster. Another possibility is rotating Bell and Leshoure based on game plans and matchups during the season. We'll see how it plays out Thursday night.

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