The Detroit Lions cut 21 players on Saturday, trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players. Here’s a closer look at the final cuts:
Most significant move: The Lions made a pretty big move Saturday, when they cut receiver TJ Jones. He did not play in the team’s final preseason game against Buffalo on Thursday, and it appeared to be because he was going to be safe as the team’s No. 4 receiver. He had been the primary backup at every receiver spot and appeared to be in contention for the returner job, too. Jones played in 10 games for Detroit last season, catching 10 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Jones does have practice-squad eligibility remaining. He could be a quick-return candidate if he clears waivers, either on the practice squad or whenever the Lions place Jon Bostic on injured reserve. Jones' release was also surprising because it left the Lions with four receivers on their squad. Considering the Lions are likely to go often with three-receiver sets, that seems like a potential depth issue if there’s an in-game injury. Jones’ release was one of three surprising moves by the Lions; they also cut quarterback Jake Rudock and offensive lineman Michael Ola.
Most significant non-move: The Lions went heavy on the defensive line, keeping six defensive ends and five defensive tackles. A bunch of those players were expected, either as starters, rookies or key reserves. But it shows that the Lions believe in the depth of their defensive line and clearly plan on rotating a bunch of players. Of the six defensive ends kept, three can play tackle and end: Wallace Gilberry, Anthony Zettel and Kerry Hyder. Hyder was one of the bigger surprises to stick on the initial 53-man roster after he had a monster fourth preseason game with three sacks. The tackles kept were also valuable. Besides starters Tyrunn Walker and Haloti Ngata and second-round pick A’Shawn Robinson, the Lions kept Khyri Thornton and Stefan Charles. Thornton seemed to wrap up a spot last week, and Charles won a three-way battle for the final spot.
Lions going with two quarterbacks: The Lions gave Rudock a ton of time for evaluation in the final preseason game, and he appeared to play his way onto the roster with a 14-of-23, 171-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Bills. He made few mistakes in his most extended playing time and continued to trend positively throughout training camp and the preseason. The sixth-round pick from Michigan picked up good command of the offense and seemed to be the backup quarterback of the future for the Lions. Now, he’s cut and could end up on the practice squad if he clears waivers. It means the Lions are going with two quarterbacks to start the season: starter Matthew Stafford and veteran backup Dan Orlovsky. If Rudock somehow doesn’t clear waivers, this could be a move the Lions end up regretting.
Draft picks did not matter: Bob Quinn showed he doesn’t pay much mind to draft picks -- either his own or those taken by his predecessor, Martin Mayhew. Quinn axed one of his own draft picks -- Rudock -- and put long snapper Jimmy Landes on injured reserve. Quinn cut last year’s third-round pick, Alex Carter, and fourth-round pick, Gabe Wright. Detroit’s fifth-round pick in 2014, Caraun Reid, was released, as was Jones, the team’s sixth-round pick from that year. Meanwhile, the Lions kept an undrafted cornerback, Adairius Barnes, who came out of nowhere to make the initial squad.
Lions' moves: QB Jake Rudock, RB George Winn, WR TJ Jones, WR Jace Billingsley, WR Jay Lee, WR Quinshad Davis, TE Adam Fuehne, OL Gabe Ikard, OL Michael Ola, OL Brandon Thomas, OL Lemuel Jeanpierre, OL Luke Marquardt, DT Caraun Reid, DT Gabe Wright, LB Khaseem Greene, LB Zaviar Gooden, LB Jayson DeManche, CB Darrin Walls, CB Alex Carter, DB Charles Washington, S Isaiah Johnson. Suspended: TE Andrew Quarless.