The Detroit Lions have been in training camp for almost a week now, and I’m just itching to hear some news about some of the new guys who might be playing a big role during the 2011 football season. There has never been a more anticipated year for the Lions than the one they are embarking upon right now, and now that they have the pads on, I want to know what’s what with some players.
The Lions are the new hotness, and everybody knows the basic story lines for the honolulu blue and silver for the upcoming season. Can Matthew Stafford stay healthy and can the Lions turn last season’s great ending into a great start this year?
They have already suffered a set-back with prized first round pick Nick Fairley sidelined for up to 3 or 4 weeks, but the rest of camp has been going pretty smoothly. Strange to say for a team that only a couple of years ago couldn’t win a game to save it’s life, but this team is set at almost every position. The only question really is going to be who will start on the other side of the field opposite Chris Houston at cornerback. It remains to be seen who will win that position, but with the way the other teams are cutting players to get under the salary cap, the person who starts for the Lions might still be on another team, waiting for the axe.
Aside from the Suhs and the Johnsons who have national commercials, I want to know about a couple of players who could play a huge role this year, but we really don’t know yet. The first three draft choices are pretty well known commodities. The following is a list of five players I’ll be eyeballing closely this preseason.
1. Jason Fox. This could be the eventual successor to the much maligned Jeff Backus. Being the draftnik that I am, I was ecstatic to get a solid tackle in the fourth round last year who, if it wasn’t for an injury, might have been a second round selection. The injury kept him from performing until the last game last year, but nobody benefited more from the layoff than this guy. He claims to be 100 percent now and after a year of waiting, the Lions will finally see what he brings to the table.
2. Aaron Berry. I firmly believe that the Lions think they found an undrafted free agent gem in this guy. He went down with an injury after only one game last year but it was enough to solidify his status with the team. It didn’t hurt that he spent the offseason training with Darrelle Revis.
3.Willie Young. The lions have recently lost Turk McBride to free agency and it looks like the job will go to second year player Willie Young, drafted in the seventh round last year. In the post Millen era, I’m still not used to 7th round draft choices being something other than a body for the starters to abuse during training camp.
4.Johnny Culbreath. Whoa! Another seventh round draft pick who could play a significant role! In Mayhew we trust. They knew he needed seasoning when they drafted him, but with Jason Fox looking good on the left side and Gosder Cherilus still injured, he might see some action this year.
5.Doug Houge. I hear he’s a rangy kind of guy who can drop easily into coverage. He only played linebacker the last two years at Syracuse so he has a lot of room to grow. Since the Lions have the starters set, he’ll be able to develop without a lot of pressure.
I just want to say thanks to linebacker Zack Follet who had to retire due to a neck injury. In an all too brief career, he established himself as a fan favorite who kicked some serious butt on special teams. Who enters the NFL as a 7th round draft choice and says the rest of the league will pay for him sliding until the last round of the draft–then backs it up? Follett did. Good Luck Zack.