Jan 15, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew (left) , head coach Jim Caldwell and president Tom Lewand pose for a photo during a press conference at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

What We've Learned About The Detroit Lions This Offseason

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Detroit Lions training camp is right around the corner so let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far this offseason.

Plenty of potential for break out players this season

A new coaching staff means brand new schemes and concepts and a clean slate for the players. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Jeremy Ross and Theo Riddick, and both players should have plenty of opportunities to earn roles in the offense in training camp and through their preseason play.

Tight end Joseph Fauria and rookie Eric Ebron should also have a chance to be difference makers with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s reliance on tight ends and the unique skill set each posses.

On defense, Ziggy Ansah is in play to have an even bigger season than his eight-sack performance as a rookie and Darius Slay should benefit from the press coverage defensive coordinator Teryl Austin loves to run.

In other words, the new system and coaching staff should create a place of opportunity for most of the players on the roster.

The Lions will utilize their athleticism on defense

The previous coaching regime ran a 4-3 defensive front and practiced zone concepts in coverage. That vanilla style of play lead to less than stellar sack totals and the secondary struggled. This year the Lions will run an attacking defense that will demonstrate 4-3 looks with the occasional 3-4 front seven with a pass rush coming from more than just the front four.

In turn, the secondary has already started playing with more confidence and the Lions should start to see the fruits of drafting along the defensive line the first round in three out of four drafts.

The Lions are relying heavily on Darius Slay

After not addressing the cornerback position until the fourth round of the draft and signing only Cassius Vaughn in free agency, the Lions are placing total faith in the development of Darius Slay.

The Lions will need to see a big jump in Slay’s play in 2014, along with at least one contributor from the 2012 draft class of Chris Greenwood, Bill Bentley and Jonte Green to have a solid rotation this season.

If that doesn’t happen, G.M. Martin Mayhew will have a lot of questions to answer for by not addressing arguably the biggest need on the roster.

Reggie Bush and Joique Bell Won’t be the only two backs carrying the workload

With the Saints, Joe Lombardi was part of an offense that had four running backs receive at least 50 carries. The Lions top two options  in Bush and Bell are solid, but durability became a question towards the end of the season and even lingered into the offseason in Bell’s case.

If the Lions can get production from their third- and fourth-string backs it will ensure a healthy backfield late in the season which is imperative given the impact of Bush and Bell on the Lions offense.

Jim Caldwell’s Approach is Positively Affecting The Players

Who knew that being treating grown men like adults would create a positive and productive atmosphere? Apparently Jim Schwartz and his coaching staff missed that part, because players seem to be responding well this offseason to the tempered Caldwell. Caldwell depends respect and accountability and in return players are having more fun and looking better than they did a season ago, particularly the secondary. Also, there have been zero arrests so far this offseason.

Ndamukong Suh’s Contract Negotiations Have Dragged Out Eerily too long

Ok, I know Matthew Stafford‘s contract wasn’t extended at this point last year, but was there ever a question of whether or not the Lions and Stafford had mutual interest in extending their relationship? Not really; both parties were pretty straight forward with their intentions and a deal got done as expected. I’m not saying a deal can’t or won’t get done, but I don’t feel as confident about the directions of the negotiations as I did last year when Stafford was extended.

Training camp begins July 27th for the Lions. Be sure to check out SideLion Report for all the coverage and updates on training camp battles.

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Tags: Darius Slay Detroit Lions Jeremy Ross Jim Caldwell Ndamukong Suh Theo Riddick

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