Lions Roster Projection (Issue 1, Defense)

Part Two of our Roster Projection series, analyzing the potential defense that Detroit will field in 2008. Will Cody make the cut? Will the Lions keep 10 defensive linemen? Analysis and projection of each position inside.

Part One: Offensive Projection (Spots filled: 24 - Remaining: 29)

Defensive Line (10)

  • RDE Dewayne White (6-2, 273), Cliff Avril (6-3, 252) (R), Corey Smith (6-2, 250) (Reserves)
  • UT Cory Redding (6-4, 295), Langston Moore (6-1, 305) (Reserve)
  • NT Chuck Darby (6-0, 297), Shaun Cody (6-4, 310), Andre Fluellen (6-2, 296) (R) (Reserves)
  • LDE Jared DeVries (6-4, 275), Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-5, 280) (Reserve)

    Ikaika Alama-Francis (left) has job
    security in Detroit

    AP Photo/Duane Burleson
    Bulk Analysis: White and DeVries provide a solid, veteran presence on the outside, with youngsters Avril and Alama-Francis behind them. Avril's had an outstanding camp and a strong preseason while Alama-Francis is still developing (he remains Marinelli's pet project). Redding anchors the middle, flanked by Chuck Darby, who -- unlike his predecessor (Shaun Rogers) -- won't run out of oxygen one series into a game. Fluellen and Moore are both capable of playing behind Darby or Redding. The Lions have publicly claimed that they won't carry 10 defensive linemen, and while it's a bit of a stretch (hence why this is a first-issue projection), it makes more sense than padding any other position. Fact is, the Lions need depth at this position for sake of the Tampa 2. Somewhere, Shaun Cody (see: bubble) is smiling. Overall, this is a strong group with great leadership, and even better teachers. Even without Rogers, they'll be better in 2008 than they were a year ago.

    (Cut: Victor DeGrate, Rudolph Hardie (R), Claude Harriott, Landon Cohen (R). Expect Cohen to land on the practice squad provided he clears waivers. What could change? Either the Lions keep nine, adding a tight end (3 instead of 2), or Cohen is kept and Cody is released.)

    Linebackers (6)

    • WLB Ernie Sims (6-0, 225), Anthony Cannon (6-0, 228) (Reserve)
    • MLB Paris Lenon (6-2, 235), Jordon Dizon (6-0, 229) (R)
    • SLB Alex Lewis (6-0, 230), Buster Davis (5-9, 239)

      Ernie Sims (#50) leads the
      linebacking core in Detroit.

      AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
      Bulk Analysis: This is turning into the most exciting training camp battle and position on the team. Sims is improving every year, and might be the best outside linebacker in the division. Cannon, a former late-round pick, is as solid as a back-up as you'll find and has had an outstanding camp. He is also becoming one of the team's best special teams players. In the middle, Lenon has virtually owned the position in camp; don't think that questions regarding his stature as an MLB hasn't reached him, and he has responded by taking full command of the defense. Dizon was drafted as insurance, and to push Lenon, and is a lock as the back-up. Alex Lewis is completely healthy, and provides the same speed as Sims, but the coaches love his tackling ability. Buster Davis will likely make the team on the strong side -- a position he's capable of playing. He could still get lost in a numbers game, but helped his situation significantly with a strong preseason game against New York. Watch out for this group come the regular season, as they fit the Tampa 2 LB requisites perfectly.

    (Cut: Tyrone Pruitt (R), Leon Joe, Gilber Gardner, Darnell Bing. It's unfortunate that Joe and Gardner will are victims of a numbers game, because each has had a strong training camp, in particular Joe, who showed flash against the Giants. Neither is eligible for the practice squad, but at least they'll have valuable game film to disperse to other teams once they hit the waiver wire. Pruitt is a practice squad possibility.)

    Cornerbacks (5)

    • LCB Brian Kelly (5-11, 193), Keith Smith (5-11, 191), Dovonte Edwards (6-0, 182) (Reserves) - Kelly provides that veteran leadership and a keen understanding of Detroit's Tampa 2 defense (see: his previous 10 years as a Buccaneer). He has a Super Bowl ring and is a classic cover-corner. Smith is a starting-quality NFL cornerback, but can learn the defense behind Kelly and spell the aging veteran in an on-call role. Expect Smith to see the field frequently, even if he isn't classified as a "starter." Dovonte Edwards can thank Stanley Wilson, whose preseason injury will leave him on injured reserve, leaving a roster spot to Edwards.
      RCB Leigh Bodden (6-1, 193), Travis Fisher (5-10, 189) (Reserve) - Fisher is ahead of Bodden on the depth chart but not in reality. Bodden has had a stronger training camp, has better credentials, and is simply a better talent. With Bodden across from Kelly, the Lions have a dynamic and formidable tandem at the cornerback position. Fisher, meanwhile, is a solid backup but also the team's nickel back.

    (Cut: Ramzee Robinson, Stephen Howell, Stanley Wilson -- already waived. Robinson is practice squad eligible, while Wilson is likely to rejoin the team's injured reserve list once he clears waivers).

    Safeties (5)

    • FS Gerald Alexander (6-0, 204), Daniel Bullocks (6-0, 212) (Reserve)
    • SS Dwight Smith (5-10, 201), Greg Blue (6-2, 216), Kalvin Pearson (5-10, 200) (Reserves)

      Leigh Bodden adds an exciting
      element to Detroit's secondary.

      Getty Images/Domenic Centofanti
      Bulk Analysis: The Lions secondary struggled significantly last year, due to injuries and also fundamental struggle with the requirements of the Tampa 2. The cure? Bring in two guys with Tamp 2 experience, Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson. Each has added something to the position in the off-season, especially Smith, whose leadership as a strong safety dwarfs the hitting ability of predecessor Kenoy Kennedy. Expect Daniel Bullocks (provided he stays healthy) to eventually replace Gerald Alexander. Greg Blue has had a solid training camp, but the team is aware of his knack on gameday: he's a ballhawk. This unit remains a precarious one, but they'll have help with better corners in front of them.

    (Cut: Stephen Howell, LaMarcus Hicks)

    Special Teams (3)

    • PK Jason Hanson - The veteran returns for his 17th year. He knocked in a 50-yarder against the Giants just as evidence that he still has what it takes.
    • P Nick Harris - Another veteran, and a reliable punter in Detroit's special teams package.
    • LS Don Muhlbach - Has officially put the Minnesota Viking/extra point gaffe behind him, turning into one of the league's more dependable long snapping specialists.

    Practice Squad (Does Not Count Towards 53-man Roster)

    • Kenneth Moore, Brandon Middleton, Landon Cohen, Carroll Madison, Ramzee Robinson, LaMarcus Hicks, Tyrone Pruitt (Lions could add one-to-two eligible players to this list that may have spent time with the team during the off-season, or were among cuts from other teams, but not currently with the stable of Lions players.) Practice squad eligibility.

    Offense (See Projection) 24  |  Defense & Special Teams 29 = 53

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