DETROIT – The Detroit Lions will report for training camp July 24 and over the next six weeks, coaches will watch position battles and measure player value to cut the roster from 90 players to 53.
While many players are already guaranteed a spot, training camp is where fans will get their first look at younger players and where coaches will define roles for the start of the season.
Here’s a group of guys to keep your eyes on throughout camp and preseason games as this year’s team takes shape.
Tavai was a head scratcher of a pick in the second round for fans. He was and still is an unknown commodity. After the draft Quinn and Patricia defended the selection saying Tavai has all the attributes they look for in a linebacker: size, speed, ability get to the quarterback and play different positions. Now we’ll get a better look at how Tavai will be used and what he can bring to the table. It’ll be interesting to see his role among the Lions’ other linebackers, namely Jarrad Davis.
Amendola is one of the former New England Patriots who was brought in this offseason. He was signed to help fill the void left by Golden Tate’s departure. So, look for him on third down and in the middle of the field running shorter routes. During training camp, Amendola will be fun to watch as he competes against the Lions’ defense as fans get to see how he’s used with other weapons. As he’s looking to do what Golden Tate did, Amendola could turn into a favorite target of Matthew Stafford.
Coleman was the other big-time free agent signings this offseason next to Trey Flowers. He’s a slot corner who spent the last few seasons in Seattle where he was ranked highly by Pro Football Focus for his coverage skills. Coleman is expected to immediately improve the Lions’ secondary as one of their better defensive backs. With a big money deal, freshly signed Coleman will be under the microscope in a defensive backfield with a couple new starters.
Teez Tabor was one of the big winners of OTA’s and minicamp. With Darius Slay choosing to stay home as he looks for a new deal, Teez stepped up making plenty of plays throughout those offseason workouts. He’s been heavily criticized during his Lions career, and partly for good reason, as he’s had his share of struggles. With a starting corner spot next to Slay up for grabs, it could be Teez’s spot for the taking with a good camp and preseason. Regardless, it’s a big year for Tabor with everyone, including Bob Quinn, hoping he steps up as a trusted option in the secondary.
The Lions had a need at tight end and elected to draft Hockenson eighth overall in this year’s draft, a decision that came with a lot of criticism. Now, we’ll be able to see why the Lions valued him so highly. We’ll get our first look at Hockenson’s blocking ability, which could really help the Lions run the ball consistently. We’ll also see what his potential is as a receiving threat. While many fans weren’t happy with picking Hockenson high in the draft, they could turn out to be pleasantly surprised with what he can bring to this team in both the run and pass game.
Last year as a rookie Tracy Walker started as special teamer and steadily got more action at safety as the Lions pushed Glover Quin to the side. This season the Lions are asking him to take control of the starting safety spot opposite Quandre Diggs. While replacing Quin isn’t easy, the Lions certainly believe Walker is on the right track. It’s his spot for the taking, although veteran Tavon Wilson and rookie Will Harris will be competing for playing time.
Ragnow was a bright spot for the Lions last year. He started every game at guard as a rookie, showing his ability and claiming a spot on the offensive line for years to come. One question this year is where he might play. In offseason workouts, he moved from guard over to center, a position he played in college. If the Lions stick Ragnow at center the question is: Can he keep up the level of play he showed last year at a new position? With years of experience playing center in college, the Lions are hoping it’s a smooth transition for him.
Da’shawn Hand burst onto the scene as a rookie last season. He went from being a fourth-round pick to starting in eight games and finishing as one of Pro Football Focus’ top-rated rookie defensive lineman. After missing the last three games of the season with an injury, Hand looks to build on a strong rookie season, as the Lions will count on him more. But, he’ll have to work to get reps that will be divided among some really good players.