Lions Roster Projection, 2008 (First Issue)

The first of a two part article evaluating and projecting Detroit's 2008 roster. First up: The offense. Sneak peak: "Tatum Bell's camp has been overshadowed by the rookie with the hype (see below), but nevertheless, he's a workhorse with the same speed he had a year ago." Complete analysis and much more inside.

Quarterbacks

  • Jon Kitna 6-2, 220 - Kitna's camp has been nothing short of stellar. He doesn't seem like a 35-year old under center, but that doesn't negate the fact that he's a 35-year old starting quarterback with a questionable line. He also might be the best quarterback in the NFC North, contingent upon what team Brett Favre is quarterbacking.
  • Dan Orlovsky 6-5, 230 - He struggled but has rebounded and shows no signs of slowing down. Orlovsky doesn't have a rocket arm nor does he possess the athleticism of Kitna or Stanton, but he has a smooth touch and a solid grasp of what the team wants from a relatively simplified offense.
  • Drew Stanton 6-3, 230 - Stanton is, for all intents and purposes, a rookie. But he found his athletic step in camp and has regained his throwing ability that made him a second-round pick a year ago. Considering how they each looked to begin camp, Orlovsky and Stanton have upgraded the team's depth at QB from "Kitna goes down, along with season" to " ... well, this could get interesting"

Running Backs

  • Tatum Bell 5-11, 213 - Bell's camp has been overshadowed by the rookie with the hype (see below), but nevertheless, he's a workhorse with the same speed he had a year ago, along with priceless experience in the zone blocking offense. While he will share the load on occasion, don't look for Bell -- who is a 1,000-plus yard rusher (see: Denver) -- to go away quietly.

  • Detroit's depth at running back is
    strengthened by another former third
    round pick, Brian Calhoun.

    AP Images
  • Kevin Smith 6-1, 217 - For a rookie, Smith's camp has been nothing short of impressive -- and that's an understatement. He's been fun to watch, is a quick learner, and has great athletic ability. He's stronger than Bell, he can hit the outside with NFL speed, and he has vision and patience in this system to boot. He'll be the guy, it's just a matter of time.
  • Brian Calhoun 5-10, 208 - He can only look on in jealousy as Smith is where he wanted to be a few years back when he was also drafted in the third-round. But injuries and misuse have clouded his young NFL career. Still, Calhoun's shiftiness appeals to what Jim Colletto wants in this offense, and he's still a talented back.
    (Cut: Artose Pinner: He won't be jobless for long. Strong camp, but lost in a numbers game. Aveion Cason: Didn't standout in camp at a position that absolutely required it.)

Fullbacks

  • Jon Bradley 6-1, 310 - A strong camp from a guy who is still learning the position (formerly a defensive tackle).
  • Jerome Felton 6-0, 246 - The rookie has been everything Detroit expected, and the team insiders have confirmed that they will carry two fullbacks.

Tight Ends

  • Dan Campbell 6-5, 255 - Has missed camp with an elbow injury, but should return to full practice by August 10. The team knows what it's getting with this nine-year, seasoned veteran: A reliable target, but most importantly, an absolutely essential and capable blocker anywhere on the field.
  • Casey FitzSimmons 6-4, 258 - Again, FitzSimmons doesn't have the flair of a Michael Gaines, but the Lions have enough in their arsenal of receivers to provide that. FitzSimmons will do what is asked, which is catch the ball and block. He has had a strong camp and will return for his sixth year.

    (Cut: The Lions will only keep two tight ends, leaving Gaines, and two players whom have spent time in the honolulu blue and silver, John Owens and Sean McHugh, on the outside looking in. They kept four around last year in one form or another. From what I'm told, this is not a decision that the team is looking forward to making.)

Wide Receivers

  • Roy Williams 6-3, 220 - Stud. Has used and abused Lions' defensive backs since the beginning of training camp as a preemptive strike to opponents in 2008. The interesting thing is that he almost seems to toy with the defensive backs most of the time. He cannot be covered one-on-one.
  • Calvin Johnson 6-5, 235 - Read above.
  • Mike Furrey 6-0, 195 - From his days in St. Louis, Furrey was always a Martz guy, thus he (along with an interesting story line) flew under the radar in camp. Still, Furrey has demonstrated his reliable hands and toughness as a slot receiver to make him a formidable third receiver.

  • Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson again
    star in Detroit's offense.

    Getty Images
  • Shaun McDonald 5-10, 183 - McDonald will battle Furrey for field time, but it's possible that the team could go to a four-wide set on occasion. He'll rotate in and out with Furrey, even spreading to the outside if called upon. Like Furrey, he isn't relegated to just one flanker role. He's another reliable veteran and a headache for opposing defenses (admit it, you're somewhat excited to yell, "Don't run backwards!" when McDonald runs a curl route this year.)
  • Devale Ellis 5-10, 174 - If he continues his camp pace (which has been nothing short of stellar), Ellis will actually see the field in 2008. He has proven that he belongs with Detroit's bread-and-butter receiving core., but let's wait to see if he can carry that into the preseason. Here's betting that he will. Expect him to also double as the team's primary return man.

    (Cut: John Standeford, Ron Bellamy, Kenneth Moore, Taye Biddle, Brandon Middleton. Moore was a late-round pick, but hasn't showed much flash in training camp. Middleton held a roster spot last year, but would require two things to beat out Ellis: An amazing pre-season, and Ellis falling flat on his face. Don't expect either to happen.)

Offensive Line

  • LT Jeff Backus 6-5, 305, Jonathan Scott 6-6, 318 (Reserve)
  • LG Edwin Mulitalo 6-3, 345, Frank Davis 6-3, 325 (Reserve)
  • C Dominic Raiola 6-1, 295
  • RG Stephen Peterman 6-4, 323, Manny Ramirez 6-3, 335 (Reserve)
  • RT George Foster 6-5, 338, Gosder Cherilus 6-7, 319 (Reserve)

    Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto's
    o-line needs to move in 2008.

    AP Images
    Bulk Analysis: No surprises here. The good news is that the Lions finally have experienced depth at each position, with Cherilus still honing his skills behind Foster. Like last year, however, if Foster slips, Detroit won't hesitate to toss the green but formidable Cherilus into the fire. Peterman and Mulitalo are serviceable (not special) guards, and Backus has to show improvement and protect Kitna. Meanwhile Raiola is as important to this bunch as Brett Favre thinks he is to the National Football League. Detroit's offensive line will be asked to be athletic this year, but if they fail to gel or move in the motion Colletto would like them to, Detroit's offense will collapse.

    (Cut: Carroll Madison, Andy McCollum, Nick Jones, Corey Hulsey. No one notable in this list.)

Total: 24.
Remaining: 29 (Defense and Special Teams remaining)

 


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