Lions: 5 most shocking roster cuts
By Matt Urben
The Lions released some talented players today and some unheralded players that had played well in the preseason. Here are the five cuts that surprised me the most.
5. DT – Caraun Reid – 5th-round pick – 2014 Draft
Reid really improved last season, getting more playing time with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley departing. He was having a good camp and preseason, so it’s surprising to see the Lions release a good, young player at an area they need to improve. This has more to do with A’Shawn Robinson’s potential and the depth of young players the Lions had at defensive tackle. 2015 4th-rounder, Gabe Wright, who was also released. Unlike Wright, Reid had outperformed his draft status and still looked he could play in this league. You can’t keep everyone though and Khyri Thorton, Stefan Charles and Anthony Zettel all showed enough to earn a spot.
4. CB – Alex Carter – 3rd-round pick – 2015 Draft
Carter’s release is really only surprising because of his draft status and this being just his second year. He didn’t show much when he was out there and with the team also cutting Darrin Wall. The team will be thin at corner but still has some young talent. You just thought at least one or the other would be kept, particularly Carter, though, because of how high he was drafted. You have to remember, these aren’t Bob Quinn’s players, despite their recent draft status. Carter just didn’t do enough, but the Lions will have to rely on some inexperienced guys this year. Quandre Diggs, a 6th-rounder from the same draft has the starting nickel role, proving it’s all about making the most of your chances. I liked Carter’s size and speed, since the Lions are fairly small at DB outside of Darius Slay.
3. WRs – Jace Billingley & Jay Lee – Undrafted 2016
I think most figured one of these two would survive after Thursday’s impressive showing. I couldn’t decide who was a bigger cut. Both have a chance to to join the practice squad if they aren’t claimed. It’s hard to imagine either get claimed, but it just looked like they fit well in Detroit’s quick-passing offense. Jay Lee really started to look explosive, particularly in the first half of the Bills game. Billingsley has looked consistent from the start. He has shown good acceleration with the ball and extremely good hands. You have to think the Lions thought they could get one of them back and keep the more experienced, slightly underrated Andre Roberts – who also had quite a preseason.
2. WR – T.J. Jones – 6th-round pick – 2014 Draft
Jones’ release was surprising to a lot of fans, but I felt it was the right move. I just didn’t think they would also cut both Billingsley and Lee. Jones had been assumed to be making the roster because of his versatility and deep-speed. He looked to be getting better, but didn’t stand out in a preseason where several other guys did. I thought about putting Brandon Thomas here, after they traded away a very productive Jeremy Kerley for him. Watching Thursday’s game though, Thomas didn’t show all that much. Jones never really had that breakout game in the NFL but that was partly due to injury. He was a good kickoff returner, and he’s still eligible for the practice squad if nobody claims him.
1. QB – Jake Rudock – 6th-round – 2016 Draft
This was the absolute stunner. More than anything because draft picks that play well, or even overachieve, as Rudock did, generally are kept. Plus, Dan Orlovsky just couldn’t have looked more mediocre. He thew two pick-sixes. I understand Caldwell likes a veteran as a backup, but Rudock looked more cautious and accurate than Orlovsky, and it wasn’t all that close. He had a much better QB rating and you would think he has enough up-side to risk having his as a backup. My reason for him being number one on this list is because we all know the Lions are done without Stafford (they aren’t trading a 1st-round pick for an average QB like a certain division rival). Why, when nobody expects anything from Orlovsky not just take a chance on the young kid who could get picked up? I think we all knew Rudock would be the number-three QB. If they can get him back on the practice squad, it will have been the right move. There’s no guarantee in a league short on capable passers. I don’t think this is a Michigan-fan thing, most saw Rudock outplay Orlovsky. Hopefully, it won’t matter and they can get him back, still it was a shocker to most.