Detroit Lions, NFC North training camp previews: Offense

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Marvin Jones (left) and Kenny Golladay (right), Detroit Lions (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Marvin Jones (left) and Kenny Golladay (right), Detroit Lions (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Detroit Lions

The pieces would mostly seem to be in place for the Lions to become one of the league’s most dangerous offenses in 2020, a familiar refrain, we know. How they all start to fit together in training camp will go a long way toward determining how potent their offense can actually become.

Matthew Stafford enters his 12th season with the Lions, and clearly needs to stay on the field to give the Lions a shot in 2019. Stafford was excelling in offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s system before a significant back injury cost him the final eight games last year.

Unwilling to risk another Stafford ailment completely torpedoing their season, the Lions paid a lot of money to Chase Daniel for him to serve as Stafford’s backup. He’s started just five games in his 10-year career, but he’s easily the most experienced second-stringer they’ve had since Shaun Hill almost a decade ago.

Count on the Lions keeping three quarterbacks on the roster given the possibility of team infections. David Blough, starter of five games for Detroit last year and the only other quarterback currently on the roster, is the third option until the Lions bring in more competition.

The top three receivers for the Lions from 2019 are back in emerging star Kenny Golladay along with veterans Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Golladay’s contract extension talks could become an important topic as the summer moves along; neither he nor the other two are signed past 2020.

Thus, establishing depth with the development of some of the Lions’ younger, inexperienced receivers will be pivotal this summer. Speed in this unit has been an issue in recent years, which may give Marvin Hall and converted cornerback Jamal Agnew an edge. Rookie Quintez Cephus, 6-2 Travis Fulgham, and veteran Geronimo Allison will all get their share of opportunities as well.

As it does for so many teams in today’s NFL, the performance of the Lions’ offensive line will be a major gauge for their success, and training camp will likely help to answer some of the questions that remain in this unit. They are set at the bookends, with left tackle Taylor Decker also up for an extension, and free-agent Halapoulivaati Vaitai brought in to replace the released Rick Wagner. Rising center Frank Ragnow returns to anchor the middle, but his neighbors remain unsettled.

The Lions would love for one of their rookie draft picks to emerge as a viable starter along with presumptive left guard Joe Dahl. Look for both Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg to be focal points during August, as they vie for snaps along with a host of veteran journeymen.

An intriguing group of tailbacks will run behind them. Rookie D’Andre Swift is the latest in a long line of star runners to come from the University of Georgia, and he will pair with Kerryon Johnson, who will look to stay healthy for the first time in his NFL career. With a strong camp, Swift could easily be the Week 1 starter, though the Lions would prefer to split the load between these two.

Depth is always critical in the backfield, and the Lions have some options behind their top two backs. The trio of power back Bo Scarborough, second-year man Ty Johnson, and rookie Jason Huntley will likely be battling for two spots. Whoever offers more on special teams figures to have an advantage.

If tight end T.J. Hockenson can make the highly-valued second-year tight end jump, the Lions’ potential on offense will be sky-high. We should get an idea early in camp of what kind of progress Hockenson has made in the offseason. Behind him, the Lions would love a bounce-back campaign from Jesse James, with Isaac Nauta and rookie free agent Hunter Bryant figuring to battle for the number three/h-back position.