The stronger the NFL roster, the tougher it is to whittle it down to 53 men.
That hasn’t always been a problem for the Detroit Lions.
Saturday, though, they will say good-bye to several talented players as they cut the roster from 75 to 53 before the 6 p.m. Saturday deadline.
Futures hang in the balance, it’s just not an easy chore to cut 22 players who have worked so hard to get this far.
This is my projected roster based on watching practice at training camp, talking to coaches and analyzing the preseason games including the 35-13 win at Buffalo on Thursday.
Either running back Montell Owens, who has a knee injury, or tight end Michael Williams, who has a broken hand, could be a candidate for the one short-term injured reserve spot. That would open an additional roster spot for six weeks.
Keep in mind, the roster is also determined by special teams contributors.
Here is my projected 53-man roster:
Quarterbacks (3) — Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, Kellen Moore
Why: Moore could have been a candidate for the practice squad, but he’s played his way back onto the roster in the last two games with strong performances.
Wide receivers (4) — Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Patrick Edwards.
Why: Matt Willis, Micheal Spurlock and Kris Durham were also strong considerations. If they go five deep at this position one of them will be No. 5. Rookie Corey Fuller is a practice squad candidate.
Tight ends (4) — Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Joe Fauria, Michael Williams
Why: Only four wide receivers needed with Scheffler and Fauria available. Fauria, undrafted out of UCLA, is a huge target at 6-foot-7. Neither he or Williams would clear waivers to land on practice squad.
Running backs (5) — Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Mikel Leshoure, Theo Riddick, Montell Owens
Why: Steven Miller had a good game in Buffalo. This was a close call. He is a practice squad candidate. Owens is needed for special teams. Even though the Lions don’t play a traditional fullback set, Shaun Chapas might have had a chance here.
Offensive line (9) — LT Riley Reiff, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Larry Warford, RT Jason Fox, G-C Dylan Gandy, T LaAdrian Waddle, T Corey Hilliard, G Leroy Harris
Why: Waddle has been a force through the preseason and eventually will play tackle. Jake Scott and Rodney Austin close calls.
Line (9) —DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Nick Fairley, RDE Ziggy Ansah, LDE Jason Jones, DE Willie Young, DT C.J. Mosley, DE Israel Idonije, DE Devin Taylor, DT Justin Bannan
Why: No real surprises here. Veteran Andre Fluellen won’t make the cut along with Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and Xavier Proctor.
Linebackers (6) — MLB Stephen Tulloch, OLB DeAndre Levy, OLB Ashlee Palmer, MLB Tahir Whitehead, OLB Travis Lewis, Chris White
Why: White was just brought in via trade with Buffalo due to his special teams play. Randy McIntosh played well, but his age (30) may be a factor giving edge to Lewis and Whitehead. Brandon Hepburn and Jon Morgan could land on practice squad.
Defensive backs (10) — S Louis Delmas, S Glover Quin, CB Chris Houston, CB Darius Slay, N Bill Bentley, CB Jonte Green, CB/N/S Rashean Mathis, S Don Carey, S Tyrell Johnson, S John Wendling.
Why: Very tough call here. CB Ron Bartell was the starter at corner just weeks ago and now he could be a victim of numbers. With Delmas’ precarious knee, safety depth is an issue. Amari Spievey just didn’t have a good camp. Chris Greenwood needs a season to develop on the practice squad.
Special teams (3)
Kicker David Akers
Punter Sam Martin
Long snapper Don Muhlbach
Why: Martin beat Blake Clingan at the punter position. Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland was cut earlier in the week.