ALLEN PARK -- Regular Season football is almost upon us.
As always, it’s been a long offseason filled with repetitive discussion (anymore conversation about Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning or the New Orleans Saints would be hard to stomach for most), depth chart analysis and eager anticipation.
The only thing separating the patiently waiting masses and the regular season is one more set of preseason games.
The fourth preseason game is commonly the least anticipated and is little consolation for fans desperately craving meaningful action.
Although the game may be an annoying reminder to fans that the regular season isn’t quite here, it is a vital opportunity for some players to make a final impression.
Just ask the coach.
“Oh for sure,” answered head coach Jim Schwartz when asked if the fourth preseason game could still have bearing on the final roster. “We’ve had players here that didn’t play very much in the first three that came out and played well. For sure there are still decisions to be made and there are still things they can do to solidify their chances of being on the roster. Also, (there’s) things they can do to solidify their chances of not being on the roster.”
There are some fierce competitions remaining on the team.
Maurice Stovall, Kassim Osgood and Patrick Edwards are the front runners battling for one-to-two receiver spots – Nate Hughes and Lance Long are also pushing for consideration.
Justin Miller is trying to prove his worth in the secondary as well as on special teams but the difficulty for him to make the final roster intensified when the Lions traded for former Redskin defensive back Kevin Barnes.
Also, don’t forget about Alphonso Smith; could the addition of Barnes and Miller’s special team contributions put his spot in jeopardy?
Defensive end Everette Brown is trying to prove he belongs after a strong camp but may fall victim to the numbers game considering the team is so deep on the defensive line.
Andre Fluellen is in the same boat as Brown.
Joquie Bell and Keiland Williams may benefit from Mikel Leshoure’s suspension for the first two games of the season but need to demonstrate they belong as it’s likely the team will only keep one once Leshoure returns.
Ryan Donahue and Ben Gramham are still jockeying for the lone spot as the team’s punter.
There is not a shortage of camp battles this year and they are all coming to a head. The Lions brain trust will work overtime in Buffalo after the game, painstakingly finalizing their 53-man roster.
“It’s always difficult. It comes down to shades of gray on a lot of guys,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “Some guys have different strengths and different weaknesses and trying to come up with the best 53. It will be some difficult choices and it’s always a very difficult time.”
The silver lining for anyone not making the team is the reality that their phone could ring at any time.
“If you look historically around the NFL, guys that don’t make your team, very significant portion at this point, end up somewhere back revisiting sometime during the season. Whether its practice squad, whether it’s an injury replacement; somebody that you cut at the end of camp that already knows your scheme, you see it every single year. There’s really not a finish line ever with the 53. There’s always going to be injuries and different things like that that you’re going to have to adjust to over the course of the season. When we say so long to some of these guys it won’t be farewell.
“Some of these guys will end up helping us somewhere along the line, whether it’s practice squad or an active roster.”
There will be some difficult decisions to make in order for the Lions to purge their roster down to 53. Those decisions may become more difficult depending on the performance of some bubble players in the preseason finale.