Detroit Lions: The Lowdown on the Practice Squad


For the Detroit Lions, there is some serious depth at multiple positions.

With this good problem to have, comes the thought of who to keep on the practice squad. Now, many people (myself included) have always wondered about the criteria required to be on the practice squad and who would be eligible. I did some research to find out who would actually be eligible and the possibilities that exist. My primary concern is at running back. With the talent and depth at that position, I honestly would hate to see any of those guys get the ax. They all have their own qualities that make them a good fit with the team.

Also at SLR: Five Players that are Tough Roster Choices

So, how do they determine eligibility? I will break it down for you. And then I will run through what I think would be the best case scenario to keep as much of our talent as possible. Mind you, I am no coach, but from a fan standpoint and what I have seen thus far, these are possibilities.

Practice Squad Eligibility

Now this can get a bit confusing, but I will try and make it sound as simple as possible.

First off, a player is eligible for the practice squad if he does not have an accrued season playing in the NFL. To have an accrued season, you have to be on the active roster for at least six regular-season games.

Secondly, the player must not have been on the practice squad for more than 2 accrued seasons, which by definition, is 6 weeks or more on the squad. One stipulation to the two-year rule is if the team had an active 53 man roster for both of those years, then the player can be eligible for a 3rd year on the PS.

Finally, one rule the NFL has made as of 2014 is to allow a maximum of two players with no more than two accrued seasons on the active 53 man roster.  There are 10 players in total allowed to be on the PS.

So, clear as mud, right? I know, it can be a bit confusing.

Possible Scenarios

Aug 20, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Detroit Lions running back Zach Zenner (41) carries the ball past Washington Redskins linebacker Dyshawn Davis (48) in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 21-17. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The first scenario, which is the least likely because it eats up valuable roster spots, is as follows:

Zach Zenner and Michael Burton are both currently listed as fullbacks on the roster. Leave them both in those designated positions and use Zenner as a running, pass receiving fullback. Burton showed some ability to run people over in the preseason game versus the Washington Redskins, and I would like to see him make the roster as well. They both are also very good at blocking, as shown in both preseason games. This sets George Winn up in the position at the number 4 running back on the depth charts and all is well. Like I said, this is the least likely because that alone eats up roster spots.

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The second scenario, and one which makes the most sense is this:

Keep Michael Burton at the FB position. Winn, according to eligibility rules for the PS, could go to the squad again. This opens up the number 4 RB spot for Zenner. This way, if something happens where Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, Joique Bell, or Zach Zenner go down with an injury, they can call George Winn up from the PS to fill the role.

Now, you may ask, why not put Zach Zenner on the PS and give him some more developmental time and use him in the same way as Winn? Honestly, my only reasoning for this is the fact that before the player reaches the practice squad, they are put on waivers and are able to be claimed by other teams, either for their PS or for their active roster. I personally don’t feel that there is much of a risk of losing Winn this way. Zenner, on the other hand, I think a lot of teams would like to snag him up given the chance due to his performance thus far in the preseason.

Aug 20, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback

Matthew Stafford

(9) drops back to pass against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

At the quarterback position, I also have a scenario that I think would make the most sense:

We all know Jim Caldwell likes to have two QB’s, but Martin Mayhew traditionally likes to have three. Garrett Gilbert has shown some pretty good upside and he looks like a player that would be worthy of development and could benefit from the PS. So, obviously start Matthew Stafford, set Dan Orlovsky as the No. 2, and cut Kellen Moore. This opens up a roster position, not having to dress three QB’s.

Now mind you, week two of the preseason has just come to a close for the Detroit Lions and a lot can happen between now and cut time. But, from what has been seen thus far, I feel that these would be the smartest moves to retain as much talent as possible, while using up the least amount of roster spots and allow for additional spots on the offensive line and defensive line, with the depth we have there.

The regular season is two weeks closer to kick off. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made by the coaching staff. There is a lot of talent on the team this year and lots of depth. While, from a fan standpoint, this is a good problem to have, from a coaching standpoint, these are the kinds of cut decisions that keep coaches awake at night. I do not envy the coaching staff this season. I am, however, ready to see some dominant Detroit Lions regular season football!

Mark DeGain is a columnist for of the FanSided Network. For continued Detroit Lions news, rumors and analysis, be sure to follow him on twitter at @SLR_Mark.

Next: Detroit Lions vs. Washington Redskins: The Good and the Bad

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