Detroit Lions 2013 Training Camp Preview
Detroit Lions 2013 Training Camp Preview
On the bright side, the one area that is set for years is at quarterback, where Matthew Stafford inked a long-term deal this offseason. Stafford has his mechanical issues to work through; Detroit as a whole must work out the kinks that led them to the NFL's fifth-worst record in 2012, just a year after snapping their playoff drought.
"It was a total, learning experience just because it was a tough year," Stafford said, via ESPN. "You have to find a way to battle through it." Coach Jim Schwartz showed a similar frustration from minicamp earlier this offseason. "Matt's not happy with last year. None of us were happy with last year, but you also can't overreact."
General manager Martin Mayhew has thrown all his eggs in the Stafford basket, though it's hard to say the same for Schwartz. Entering his fourth season with the club, Schwartz has helped Detroit escape its hole of mediocrity. They've assembled a clearly talented roster, boasting blue-chip talent in Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The defensive line has looked downright dominant at times, including against the Green Bay Packers at home last season.
Yet, this unit and Schwartz have lost their cool at times, and composure is exactly what they'll need for a postseason return. Building the requisite confidence and chemistry all starts in Lions training camp.
Stafford has no competition for the starting role and Shaun Hill serves as a capable backup in the event of injury. Stafford broke the passing attempts single-season record last season, and this offense hinges on his arm.
The Lions have grown increasingly like hoarders when it comes to their backfield, and now carry six backs into training camp. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell both seem fit for a third-down back role, while they're still waiting on Mikel Leshoure to become a reliable every-down back. Detroit drafted Theo Riddick to challenge them for snaps; also adding Montel Owens and Steven Miller.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
I probably should've saved my "hoarders" analogy for this position: Detroit has 12 receivers vying for snaps. Granted, it's Calvin Johnson, Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson who will devour approximately 95 percent of the receiver targets when healthy, but who knows which player could eek onto the roster and make an impact. Corey Fuller, Matt Willis, Cody Wilson, Mike Thomas, Patrick Edwards, Kris Durham and Devin Thomas are all fighting to make it, though Fuller's draft position helps him a lot.
Detroit favored two-tight end sets last season, especially when both Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler go out to receive. Again, Lions love to pass like none other.
Jeff Backus' retirement along with Stephen Peterman and Gosder Cherilus' flight into free agency created a lot of moving plates on an offensive line that was very good last year, especially in pass pro. Dylan Gandy, Leroy Harris and Rodney Austin will compete with 6-3, 330-pound rookie third-rounder Larry Warford for the right guard spot and Jason Fox faces Corey Hilliard for right tackle. 2012 first-rounder Riley Reiff moves to left tackle next to incumbent guard Rob Sims and center Dominic Raiola.
Fairley and Suh we know will hold down the middle, and do it about as well as any tandem in the league. The question is where the edge rush will come from after losing so many defensive ends to free agency. It could come from any combination of Willie Young, rookie Devin Taylor, Jason Jones and rookie fifth overall selection Ziggy Ansah. My bet is free agent Israel Idonije gets the lion's share.
Middle backer Stephen Tulloch comes off a down year and DeAndre Levy has proven mediocre, while the other outside backer spot remains up in air. Justin Durant's departure leaves second-year players Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis to battle veteran Ashlee Palmer for the role.
Drafting rookie second-rounder Darius Slay was crucial for a secondary that's been both thin and poor for years. Slay should join one of the league's more underrated corners in Chris Houston to start for this unit, with Bill Bentley and Jonte Green among those battling for snaps in nickel and dime packages. Safety Louis Delmas invigorates this unit when healthy, while free agent Glover Quin provides a nice versatile element at the back end.
Rookie fifth-rounder Sam Martin battles free agent Blake Clingan for punting duties, while David Akers and Norwegian rookie Havard Rugland vie for kicker. Signing Michael Spurlock and Bush this offseason makes for two great options in the return for both punts and kickoffs, but it's really wide open with the likes of Theo Riddick, Joique Bell, Mike Thomas and others potentially getting a shot.