Early Detroit Lions training camp takeaways
By Ty Finch
Training camp is only a few days old for the Detroit Lions, but there are a handful of stories and players emerging already. What have we learned about the team so far?
Taylor Decker is a near lock at left tackle
The Lions have had four days of training camp so far, and all four days Taylor Decker has been playing left tackle while Riley Reiff handles the right side. Besides a few broken facemasks for Reiff, there has not been much noise about this particular camp battle. Baring a confusing move to right tackle or injury, Decker will be guarding Matthew Stafford’s blind side for the 2016 season.
The defensive line is miles ahead of its counterpart
Speaking of the offensive line, while we all would like to think this is a positive for the defense, the gap between the two lines is startling. For example:
This is a problem, especially if the team wants to keep Stafford out of a casket. Other reports from camp are just marginally encouraging. The only option other than “get much better much quicker” is hoping the opposing team decides not to field a defense. The offensive line has been the Lions’ Achilles heel for years, and the 2015 season exacerbated the issue. Even after Jim Bob Cooter took over, Stafford was hit routinely. For the sake of the team, and for the vociferous fans shouting about how the Lions need to draft a new quarterback every offseason, this offensive line needs to step up.
The wide receiver core is deep
Beat writers, bloggers, coaches, and teammates have all been raving about this receiving core during camp. Golden Tate is a known quantity by now. Marvin Jones has been very impressive by all means. New signing Anquan Boldin has fit right in without a hiccup. TJ Jones has made some head turning plays so far as well. Those four receivers, paired with Eric Ebron (more on him later) and Theo Riddick, could be a potent mix of complementary talent. Bob Quinn has handled the devastating blow from Calvin Johnson’s retirement with aplomb this offseason. Not only is the position deeper than it ever was with Calvin, but even the bottom of the depth chart is filled with could-be contributors. Between the five of Jeremy Kerley, Andre Caldwell, Andre Roberts, Jay Lee, and Quinshad Davis, four are likely going to be playing elsewhere this season. Three years ago Kris Durham was playing opposite Calvin Johnson. Let that sink in.
Eric Ebron is poised for a breakout season
As many have suggested or predicted, Eric Ebron is in perfect position to have a true breakout year. Beyond the increase in targets that Ebron is likely to see, he has been impressing fans and writers alike in camp. From a one-handed catch on a play,
to an impressive grab the next, he has been locked in so far. Stafford will have quite a few playmakers on the field this year, and Ebron is primed to be one of the biggest.
Rafael Bush has a clear lead in the strong safety battle
Reports out of camp have seen Rafael Bush take nearly every first team strong safety snap throughout camp. A position that many, including us, thought was up for grabs for the most part has been largely taken over by Bush. Tavon Wilson has seen the 2nd team snaps, while rookie Miles Killebrew is stuck on 3rd string. There is still plenty of time for one of Wilson or Killebrew to overtake Bush on the depth chart, but the signs early point to the veteran having the edge. It is a bit surprising that neither of the two competitors have seen any first team looks yet, but again, that could change too.
Jake Rudock is fighting for a roster spot
The battle for backup quarterback already seems to be over. We here at SideLion Report thought that this was Dan Orlovsky’s battle to lose, but mostly because of Rudock’s inexperience and growing pains. This has been the case so far during training camp. Rudock has failed to impress many writers and reporters thus far, and the difference between he and Orlovsky is easily noticeable. Not to worry, however. This scenario was expected; only in rare cases do 6th round rookie quarterbacks succeed during training camp, and even fewer go on to have careers (Tom Brady being the glaringly obvious exception). The question instead: is Rudock good enough to make the 53-man roster, or will he spend a year on the practice squad? He will be battling teammates at the bottom of the roster for a spot, not just the other quarterbacks.
Other notable players
Diggs has been receiving some positive reviews for his play at the slot corner position. With his size and length, he will likely never be an outside corner, but having a slot guy like Diggs is a huge positive in today’s NFL.
Ikard seemed to be “just another guy” when the Lions signed him, but he has been taking some first team snaps at center with Travis Swanson throughout training camp. Graham Glasgow remains behind him on the depth chart. He will be an interesting story when it comes time to trim the roster.
It’s a numbers game with the tight end position at this point. Wick has been working with the one’s and two’s during camp, as he is one of the few healthy and available tight ends on the team. He has received a few promising reviews as well. He could be the Lions’ number two after Eric Ebron come the start of the season.
Reports from camp have been glowing for Walker as well. Coaches have been praising him for coming back off the season-ending injury so well, and he has been part of a defensive line that has dominated proceedings in camp so far.
With another week ahead in training camp for the players, there is still time to solidify a spot on the depth chart, or change perceptions from the first week. However, the Lions play their first preseason game in eight days, and time is running out for some team members to make an impression. We will have more coverage from camp and preseason later on in the weeks ahead.