Top 5 Lions with something to prove


The Lions have plenty of interesting training camp battles, but no players have more on the line than these five guys. Whether it be draft picks threatening their jobs, or just the fact that they are facing legit competition for the first time in their careers, these players all have something to prove as we head into the 2016 season.

1. Travis Swanson

Travis Swanson (64) has struggled taking over for longtime starter Dominic Raiola thus far. Mandatory Credit:Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

Swanson struggled in his first year taking over for longtime starter Dominic Raiola. Some growing pains should have been expected, but as the season went on, many wondered if Swanson could be the long-term answer at center. The Lions selected University of Michigan’s center, Graham Glasgow, in the 3rd-round of April’s draft. Glasgow should at the very least push Swanson to play better. The two centers will battle it out for the starting job in training camp and the Preseason. Swanson will have to show improvement if he doesn’t want to get relegated to backup duties, as he was during his rookie season.

2. Kyle Van Noy

As I wrote last week, Van Noy may be on his last legs, if he is not able to produce this season.  Early reports from OTA’s suggest Van Noy is up to the challenge. The former 2nd-round pick out of BYU, was expected to be a disruptive force coming off of the edge. Instead, he hasn’t been a great fit for Detroit’s 4-3 base defense. Tahir Whitehead and DeAndre Levy occupy two of the Lions’ three linebacker spots. That third position is up for grabs, and with a good camp, Van Noy could be the starter next season.

3. Caraun Reid

Caraun Reid (97) has improved in each of his first two seasons and will push for the starting spot next to Haloti Ngata.Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

Reid made great strides last off-season in anticipation of extra playing time. Defensive tackle was the Lions’ most talented position group in 2014, but became a weakness last season due to the losses of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Reid played significantly better though, good enough to battle for one of the two defensive tackle spots this year.  The Lions drafted A’Shawn Robinson in the 2nd-round who could cut into Reid’s playing time. Haloti Ngata is the only sure-fire starter. Reid will have to battle it out with Tyrunn Walker and Robinson for that second starting tackle spot. Reid is the forgotten man in this battle, mainly because he is a late-round pick from a couple years ago. Production, not draft status, will determine playing time. Reid is far from the favorite to win the job, but should not be overlooked.

4. Riley Reiff

Reiff was given the starting left tackle position after Jeff Backus retired, similar to Swanson getting Raiola’s job. Reiff has been an average tackle at best, but there simply hasn’t been legitimate competition on the roster to threaten for his job. Reiff will be pushed by 1st-round pick Taylor Decker for his spot on the left side. Decker projects to the right side, according to most NFL scouts, but the Lions will shuffle Reiff and Decker around, looking for the most effective lineup. Like Decker, most believe Reiff would be better suited to play right tackle.  The Lions also signed Geoff Schwartz, who can play the position as well. Finally, Reiff will be challenged for his starting job and we will see how he responds over the next few weeks.

5. Marvin Jones

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones (82) has some big shoes to fill taking over for Calvin Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Jones is a no-brainer for this list, seeing how he is replacing the great Calvin Johnson. While in Cincinnati, Jones played second-fiddle to Pro-Bowl receiver A.J. Green. Now in Detroit, Jones is expected to compete with fellow receiver Golden Tate for the number-one receiver role. Jones is getting roughly eight million dollars per year, which is not quite Megatron money, but is more than Tate makes. If Jones can crack 1,000 yards, it will be money well spent. If he doesn’t thrive in his expanded role, it may look like a desperation signing. For what it’s worth, Jones chose Detroit over some more accomplished franchises because he wanted a chance to have a bigger role. A lot will be expected of Jones, but he welcomes that opportunity to try and fill Megatron’s shoes.