By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on June 2, 2014
It's still early in OTAs, but already several position battles are starting to form across the Detroit Lions' roster. Coach Jim Caldwell will have some tough decisions to make at many positions. In his first season in Detroit, it will be hard for Caldwell to get a feel for how he will lean at some positions. That doesn't quell speculation, however, so here are five of the biggest positional battles to keep an eye on during Detroit's OTAs.
The battle at kicker is expected to be a mere formality, with seventh-round pick Nate Freese expected to win the job. Yet, veteran Giorgio Tavecchio will give the rookie a good push. Whoever wins the job will have a tough time trying to replace Jason Hanson, which even David Akers, a seasoned veteran, failed to do last season.
Dominic Raiola will be the starter this season, but don't expect him to not be tested this summer. Raiola could get a run for his money this summer with his eventual successor in Travis Swanson, a third-round pick, on the roster. While Swanson could be moved around this year between center and guard, it is a clear formality that Swanson will eventually replace Raiola. It just might happen sooner rather than later.
Jason Jones is expected to retain his starting left DE position this season, but after suffering a season-ending injury last year and with several good players behind him, this position will be intriguing to follow. Among the candidates behind Jones are 2013 fourth-round pick Devin Taylor, veteran free agent Darryl Tapp and 2014 fourth-round pick Larry Webster. Whoever wins the job will be paired opposite Ezekiel Ansah on the outside.
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate have nothing to fear as the top two wideouts in Detroit. However, the slot receiver position is up for grabs this offseason. Ryan Broyles is the best option, but his health is always be a concern. Sixth-round draft pick T.J. Jones could be a sleeper pick, but his inexperience might hurt him early on. Others expected to compete for the job will be Kevin Ogletree and Kris Durham, two holdovers from last year.
Detroit has six potential starting corners, but each of them are not elite players, making it the most intriguing positional battle. Veterans Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis started for most of 2013, but both are getting up there in age. Youngsters Darius Slay and Bill Bentley struggled for most of last season, with rookie fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson and former Indianapolis Colt Cassius Vaughn rounding out the group.
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