NFC North: Justin Bannan

Good morning and ROOOOAAARRR!!!!

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There was a time last month where safety DeJon Gomes might have envisioned playing in Sunday's game between the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins.

Except he probably saw himself on the home sideline, dressed in a Washington jersey, playing for the Redskins for the third consecutive season. But he didn't survive Washington's final preseason roster cuts and was claimed on waivers by Detroit.

He's been a Lion for three weeks and now is heading back to FedEx Field, a place he likely knows better than Detroit.

"I guess game day, maybe pre-game, I don't know if it's weird but just different," Gomes said. "Coming through the visitors' tunnel, visitors' locker room, being on the other sideline. But at the end of the day, it's just football, going out there, competing."

For two seasons, he did so for Washington, playing in 31 games, making 61 tackles and picking off a pass. He still has ties there, too, having been in touch this week with some of the Washington defensive backs and tight end Niles Paul.

Gomes has spent the past three weeks learning the Lions' defense and having a role on special teams, playing 47 special-teams snaps through two games. Yet when he joined the Lions, he knew he'd be making a return trip to his former home in short order.

"It's just a part of my past now," Gomes said. "Of course I have guys over there that are, we're friends. But I'm with the Detroit Lions."

He is, and now we'll take a look at the Lions from across the Interwebs.
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.
In the past two days, the Detroit Lions have signed a 34-year-old defensive tackle and a 30-year-old linebacker. They've also made plans to work out a soon-to-be 33-year-old cornerback while also signing a rookie defensive lineman whose checkered past left him unsigned when training camp began.

What in the name of panic is going on here?

I guess the easy answer is that the Lions are disappointed with their defensive personnel at certain positions and have called in reinforcements. In reality, the Lions have essentially acted on contingency plans they put in place before the start of training camp.

Defensive tackle Justin Bannan visited the team in July, as did linebacker Rocky McIntosh. In the interim, the Lions haven't had someone step up as a backup defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. And the two young challengers to the strongside linebacker job, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis, have both looked overmatched in preseason games.

Bannan is likely to have a backup role along with C.J. Mosley, while McIntosh gives the Lions an option besides Ashlee Palmer at that third linebacker spot. And in veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis, who was scheduled to visit Saturday, the Lions could see an option to incumbent Ron Bartell, who has struggled with injuries and has been pushed for playing time by rookie Darius Slay.

*Update: The Lions announced that Mathis signed a contract after his visit. He was set to participate in Saturday's practice in Allen Park, Mich.

Finally, rookie defensive tackle John Drew agreed to terms about a month after the New England Patriots reportedly pulled their contract offer to him. Drew finished his college career at North Carolina Central University after he was kicked off the team at Duke because of a gun-related arrest. The Lions obviously wanted to evaluate their own depth first before signing him.

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