NFL Nation: John Drew

The Detroit Lions became the first NFC North team to start addressing the NFL's looming roster cuts by releasing five players and beginning to assess the injuries of two others.

According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' web site, the players released were: defensive back Domonique Johnson, receiver Chaz Schilens, offensive lineman Derek Hardman, defensive tackle John Drew, and cornerback Ross Weaver. Meanwhile, the Lions will have to decide what to do with running back Montell Owens, who seemed to suffer a serious knee injury Thursday night, and rookie tight end Michael Williams -- who has a broken hand and will require surgery, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Owens and Williams could be candidates for injured reserve if their injuries are serious enough. One beneficiary could be undrafted rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, whose unique skill-set had the Lions contemplating whether to open a fourth tight end spot for him.

The biggest name of those released is Schilens, whom the team signed just before camp to provide extra depth at receiver. Since then, however, veterans Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles have appeared fully recovered from their season-ending injuries. Young players Patrick Edwards and Matt Willis have also pushed for playing time, lessening the Lions' need to hold on to veteran depth.

NFL teams must cut their rosters to 75 by Tuesday and 53 by Aug. 31.
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.