- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Examining the Detroit Lions' roster. There have been some changes to last week's projection.
Orlovsky all but sealed up the No. 2 quarterback job with his play Saturday night at Oakland, where he looked much more comfortable handling Joe Lombardi's offense. The only question here is what the Lions do with Kellen Moore, but right now there are too many other close position battles to justify three quarterbacks. James Franklin, meanwhile, is still awaiting his first NFL snap.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
The big change here is the elimination of Mikel Leshoure, the one-time second-round pick who is in the final year of his contract. Yes, the Lions will eat some dead money by cutting Leshoure, but he has shown nothing thus far during practice or games to warrant keeping him other than extreme insurance. At this point, George Winn might be the better option -- and I considered adding him to the roster, but not yet. He and Chad Abram are ideal practice squad candidates. Remember, too, that Owens is one of the better special teams players in the league and can offer flexibility as a fourth running back and second fullback. Versatility is key here.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
This doesn't change yet, although if anything, Broyles is moving himself closer to being the fourth lock of the receiving corps along with Johnson, Tate and Ross, the returner. However, Broyles, Durham, Ogletree and Corey Fuller are still locked in a battle for, realistically, two spots. Fuller also continues to move up the chart each week and he's close. Andrew Peacock remains a good practice squad candidate.
TIGHT END (3)
All three will make the roster. Nothing is changing here barring injury.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Like last week, nothing is changing for now, but the play of the reserve interior linemen Saturday night left more questions than confidence in Rodney Austin and Travis Swanson if called upon. I'm not reading too much into converted tight end Michael Williams playing over Cornelius Lucas with the second team just yet, although if Williams does keep pushing, the loser of that battle could end up on the practice squad. I still maintain Alex Bullard remains a practice squad candidate despite less than a handful of snaps Saturday.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Johnson continues to impress during games and gets a lot of first-team run during practice as well, so he takes over the roster spot in place of Darryl Tapp, who still could easily make the roster. It is entirely possible the Lions keep 10 defensive linemen on talent and experience alone and if that happens, Tapp and Johnson both make the team. But if the Lions go with nine, Johnson has pushed ahead of Tapp -- for now.
Last week, I mentioned five linebackers being set and if they kept a sixth, Travis Lewis would be the guy because of special teams. Well, right now, Lewis has a spot on this roster projection only because of special teams. He continues to be on every unit and around the ball consistently. The last two or three spots on this roster are going to be interesting between Lewis, Tapp/Johnson, Winn and one or two of the safeties mentioned below.
This continues to be the toughest group to project. Lawson, were he not a rookie and a fourth-round pick, would likely not be on this roster -- but he should make the final cut despite not doing much this preseason. It feels like four of the corners -- Slay, Mathis, Bentley and Vaughn -- are pretty set as well. That leaves potentially one spot among uninspiring candidates. Jonte Green started camp strong, but ran with the third team Saturday and was picked on by Derek Carr and Matt McGloin. Drayton Florence was a veteran signing and hasn't shown much so far. That leaves Greenwood, who has been decent enough to warrant a roster spot. This position is one where next week's cuts around the league could force a roster shift here if any decent corners come available.
Sticking with these four for now, although this number could easily jump to five by next week. Isa Abdul-Quddus and Jerome Couplin ran with the second team last week as Carey and Gomes were part of the third team; however, that may have been to get a stronger look at both players. In many ways, Carey, Gomes and Abdul-Quddus are interchangeable as far as their skill sets, which makes it an intriguing call. By that, I mean all four players are backup safeties who would have heavy special-teams roles. Their safety spots are a bit more defined, with Carey able to play both spots (and corner), while Abdul-Quddus is a free safety and Gomes is a strong safety. Couplin is fascinating, and if he continues an upward trajectory he could steal a roster slot from another position group. In my opinion, he would be the biggest reason to keep five safeties. Otherwise, he very well may end up on the practice squad.
Nate Freese made a 55-yard field goal, but missed an extra point. Meanwhile, Tavecchio continues his consistent run through camp and if the Lions truly make this result-based, Tavecchio has looked much more confident and stronger. I'm not reading too much into Tavecchio being with holder Drew Butler, who isn't making the team. Asked Caldwell about that and he said they assigned a holder to each kicker and are sticking with it. Freese is still in the competition, though.