Color us surprised by many of Detroit's final cuts issued on Saturday.
The Lions reached the league's 53-man roster, albeit with one exception: the retention of seventh-round pick Caleb Campbell. Campbell is still listed on the team's "active" roster, despite being unable to play during training camp due to military obligations. One league source informed RoarReport.com that the Lions are working with the league for a special roster exemption, leaving Campbell's status in a 'limbo' state until the two sides figure something out. With Campbell on the roster, the Lions technically have 54 shirts. Either way, Campbell was not on the list of those cut, but according to the team's media relations release, he also isn't among the seven rookies who made the team.
The release of Greg Blue (S), Frank Davis (G), Artose Pinner (RB), and Jonathan Scott (T) were the most surprising. Blue didn't have a strong training camp, nor did he excel in the preseason, but he had glimpses of brilliance last year with a knack for being around the ball. Like those mentioned above, he is also not eligible for the team's practice squad, either. The Lions did, however, like the progress that defensive back Ramzee Robinson showed after spending last year on the practice squad. A former draft choice, Robinson showed great ball-hawking skills throughout the off-season program and the Lions believe he can play just about anywhere in the secondary (technically, Robinson is a cornerback).
Davis has been a pet-project of sorts that the Lions have evidently given up on. The third-year player out of South Florida was expected to compete for a starting position with Stephen Peterman, but slipped in recent weeks and fell behind reserve Manny Ramirez on the depth chart. The Lions did not keep a reserve behind Edwin Mulitalo, spelling the end of Davis' days.
Pinner, meanwhile, ran strong in the exhibition season but was ultimately the victim of a numbers game. The Lions kept Aveion Cason and Brian Calhoun on the Reserve list, so they don't count against the active roster. Many had speculated that Tatum Bell -- who entered training camp as the No. 1 running back -- might lose a roster spot after a meager exhibition showing and camp. While rookie Kevin Smith made Bell expendable, Pinner apparently did not.
Scott, last year's fifth-round pick, lost his battle with Damion Cook. The 6-5, 330-pound Cook has more NFL experience (and more seasoned experience in Detroit's zone blocking scheme) than Scott, but you can't help but cringe at the loss of any draft choice. Cook will back-up incumbent Jeff Backus at left tackle.
WR Ron Bellamy - Not eligible for the practice squad, and struggled to shine amongst a talented group of receivers.
WR Brandon Middleton - Read above.
WR John Standeford - Also not eligible for the practice squad. Standeford might have put enough on tape during the exhibition season to warrant a look elsewhere.
WR Kenneth Moore - The former Wake Forest standout was a fifth-round pick, but was virtually invisible during camp and the preseason. The Lions had drafted Moore as a potential return man, but the team's preferance to load up at other positions (more on this below) made that idea moot.
WR DeVale Ellis - Like those above him, Ellis was quite literally the victim of a numbers game. Sadly, Ellis makes the team if they don't keep only four receivers. One more, and he's likely in. He isn't a practice squad candidate, but if Detroit has any injuries to the WR core in 2008, his number will be called.
LB Buster Davis - This one hurts, because he might not clear waivers. Another victim of a numbers game, although the choice of Gilbert Gardner over him (while defensible) is peculiar. Although the team wasn't going to keep more than six linebackers anyway, Davis' tenacious play and versatility didn't go unnoticed. If (a big if) he clears waivers (31 teams must pass on him), he's a shoe-in for the practice squad. Davis, though, deserves a roster spot somewhere in the NFL.
LB Darnell Bing - Never had a chance, but was a good camp body while the Lions had him around. Not eligible for practice squad.
LB Leon Joe - Isn't eligible for the practice squad, but didn't outshine either Bing or Davis.
DE Victor DeGrate, Rudolph Hardie - The Lions kept an amazing 11 (ELEVEN!) defensive linemen (we thought 10 was a stretch), but neither of these two players had the talent or political prowess of those chosen before them. Both are practice squad candidates, but only one will make it (our guess is DeGrate).
S LaMarcus Hicks, CB Kiwaukee Thomas, CB Dovonte Edwards - Detroit's secondary is flat-out loaded, with Robinson thieving the only slot that was really up for grabs. None are practice squad eligible.
QB Drew Henson, TE Clark Harris, G Corey Hulsey - Brace yourself Michigan fans: Henson is eligible (along with Harris) for the practice squad, and the Lions may choose to keep a QB considering the precarious health of Stanton and the age of Kitna. Harris might also find himself on the practice squad.
The Team (surprises):
Perhaps a nod to what everyone felt was a strong draft (especially as far as depth is concerned), the Lions placed seven of their rookies on the roster. Defensive linemen Cliff Avril, Landon Cohen and Andre Fluellen locked down spots, along with Smith, FB Jerome Felton, LB Jordon Dizon, and OT Gosder Cherilus. None are surprises, necessarily.
Who we were surprised by? Sean McHugh and John Owens, who gave the Lions a rather odd five tight ends. The team also elected to keep 15-year veteran Andy McCollum as a reserve to Dominic Raiola. This wouldn't be an issue if there wasn't players like Frank Davis who were given the axe. McCollum was late to join the club in camp and rarely played.
The Lions kept five TEs after telling media members they'd only keep two. They have 11 defensive linemen after Marinelli thought they would be set at nine. Those two positions cut short the number of receivers (only four?) and RBs (two on the active roster?). Every NFL team was forced to release many players on Saturday, so certain ball clubs won't show their hand in the "final roster." Millen and Marinelli are likely combing through cuts across the league, searching for potential upgrades that may add more balance to this roster.
Complete roster below:
51 Raiola, Dominic C 6-1 295 8 Nebraska 67 McCollum, Andy C 6-4 300 15 Nebraska 38 Robinson, Ramzee CB 5-10 186 2 Alabama 30 Bodden, Leigh CB 6-1 193 6 Duquesne 25 Kelly, Brian CB 5-11 193 11 USC 23 Smith, Keith CB 5-11 191 5 McNeese State 21 Fisher, Travis CB 5-10 189 7 Central Florida 99 White, Dewayne DE 6-2 273 6 Louisville 97 Alama-Francis, Ikaika DE 6-5 280 2 Hawaii 93 Smith, Corey DE 6-2 250 6 N.C. State 95 DeVries, Jared DE 6-4 275 10 Iowa 92 Avril, Cliff DE 6-3 252 R Purdue 98 Cohen, Landon DT 6-3 274 R Ohio 96 Fluellen, Andre DT 6-2 296 R Florida State 91 Darby, Chuck DT 6-0 297 8 South Carolina State 78 Redding, Cory DT 6-4 295 6 Texas 75 Cody, Shaun DT 6-4 310 4 Southern California 79 Moore, Langston DT 6-1 305 4 South Carolina 45 Felton, Jerome FB 6-0 246 R Furman 63 Ramirez, Manny G 6-3 335 2 Texas Tech 66 Peterman, Stephen G 6-4 323 4 Louisiana State 64 Mulitalo, Edwin G 6-3 345 10 Arizona 4 Hanson, Jason K 6-0 190 17 Washington State 59 Lewis, Alex LB 6-0 230 5 Wisconsin 53 Lenon, Paris LB 6-2 235 7 Richmond 50 Sims, Ernie LB 6-0 225 3 Florida State 52 Cannon, Anthony LB 6-0 228 3 Tulane 57 Dizon, Jordon LB 6-0 229 R Colorado 47 Campbell, Caleb LB 6-2 229 R Army 54 Gardner, Gilbert LB 6-1 228 5 Purdue 48 Muhlbach, Don LS 6-4 265 5 Texas A&M 2 Harris, Nick P 6-2 218 8 California 6 Orlovsky, Dan QB 6-5 230 4 Connecticut 8 Kitna, Jon QB 6-2 220 12 Central Washington 5 Stanton, Drew QB 6-3 230 2 Michigan State 28 Bell, Tatum RB 5-11 213 5 Oklahoma State 34 Smith, Kevin RB 6-1 217 R Central Florida 32 Pearson, Kalvin S 5-10 200 4 Grambling State 26 Smith, Dwight S 5-10 201 8 Akro 27 Bullocks, Daniel S 6-0 212 3 Nebraska 42 Alexander, Gerald S 6-0 204 2 Boise State 76 Backus, Jeff T 6-5 305 8 Michigan 72 Foster, George T 6-5 338 6 Georgia 77 Cherilus, Gosder T 6-7 319 R Boston College 74 Cook, Damion T 6-5 330 8 Bethune-Cookman 86 Gaines, Michael TE 6-4 277 5 Central Florida 89 Campbell, Dan TE 6-5 265 10 Texas A&M 49 McHugh, Sean TE 6-5 265 3 Penn State 83 Owens, John TE 6-3 255 6 Notre Dame 82 FitzSimmons, Casey TE 6-4 258 6 Carroll College 11 Williams, Roy WR 6-3 220 5 Texas 87 Furrey, Mike WR 6-0 195 6 Northern Iowa 81 Johnson, Calvin WR 6-5 235 2 Georgia Tech 84 McDonald, Shaun WR 5-10 183 6 Arizona State