The Detroit Lions established their 53-man roster Saturday, with a number of surprises. Two decisions in particular may stand out as mistakes in the future.
Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, the general manager and head coach of the Detroit Lions, had over 20 players to cut from the team to get down to the initial 2020 53-man roster. You can find that roster, along with the 16-man practice squad here.
While there were plenty of expected moves made, such as the team keeping six wide receivers, there were a number of surprises that stood out from the roster. For one, the Lions kept just seven total defensive linemen, including both interior and edge players. They also went very linebacker heavy with eight making the squad.
Keeping to the defense, one move, in particular, seems puzzling at best while outright terrible at worst. As mentioned above, the Lions opted to only keep seven defensive linemen. One of those linemen that were cut was 2019 undrafted free agent Kevin Strong.
Strong made the team in 2019 with a strong camp that showcased his raw talent and potential he could bring to the team. He’s an interior defender by trade but has the versatility to slide to the outside if needed. That versatility is another reason it was expected he would make the team.
The defensive lineman offers a strong lower body that helps to ward off blocks and stuff gaps along the offensive line. That mix of strength with his explosiveness also gave him an interesting tangible upside for contributing some interior pressure on the opposing quarterback, which furthered the belief that Strong was a relatively safe bet to make the roster.
But that wasn’t to be, however, as the Lions waived Strong before later adding him to the practice squad. This could very well turn out to be a big mistake on the Lions’ part as Strong offered legitimate depth for the interior of the defensive line and showed promise to potentially become more in the future.
Unless Detroit designates Strong as one of the few protected practice squad players, a move that seems unlikely, another team could poach him from Detroit and develop him on their active roster.
Think of how sickening it would be to watch him develop into a quality starter on another team while the Lions continue to struggle to put a consistently quality defensive line on the field. If the Lions end up losing Strong to another team, then cutting Strong could very well end up standing out as the biggest mistake of the 2020 roster cut downs.
Another big mistake came on offense, where the Detroit Lions basically wasted a fifth-round pick.
The Detroit Lions spent a 2020 fifth-round pick on a running back, Jason Huntley, this draft class despite already having drafted Georgia runner D’Andre Swift in the second round and already rostering former second-round pick Kerryon Johnson. The belief was that Huntley would bring an element to the team that they didn’t currently possess and that was speed, speed, speed.
Huntley was clocked at an impressive 4.4 flat 40-yard dash throughout the draft process and was no doubt a big reason the Lions spent a pick on the running back. The hope was that Huntley could come in and take over return duties on kickoffs, where he starred in college, and offer the offense an electric playmaker when the ball was in his hands.
It seems that the team brass decided others on the team could offer enough of what Huntley could have brought to the team. Nevertheless, it would have been fun to see what Huntley could have done as a return man and gadget player on offense. His quickness, agility, and straight-line speed all pointed to a player that could have been a dynamic returner and successful change of pace back.
Unfortunately, despite spending a fifth-round pick on him when there were a lot of guys available who could’ve contributed to the team early on (Bradlee Anae was still available), they didn’t even keep him on the team.
Instead, they cut Jason Huntley and he got picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles off of waivers, meaning the Lions ended up wasting a late fifth-round pick on a running back. Cutting a potential playmaker like Huntley currently stands out as the worst mistake made during this year’s roster cuts.