Each week, we’ll take a look at how the Detroit Lions’ rookies fared the week before. This series will typically run the mornings after games. However, this is a pre-first game version, so we’ll take a look this week at expected roles for the first-year players both for Monday night against the Giants and the season in general.
TE Eric Ebron (first round, North Carolina): The Lions spent their No. 10 pick on him with the expectation he’d contribute immediately. They kept three tight ends on the roster for a similar reason. While he’ll still need some time to really work his way into the offense, the thought with Ebron is he’ll play immediately. He should play a lot, too, perhaps as early as Monday night against New York. This is a meaningful game for him, too, because he was born not too far from the old Giants Stadium.
LB Kyle Van Noy (second round, BYU): He’s on the injured reserve/designated to return list, so not much is going to be expected of him until the second half of the season. Even then, the core muscle injury and surgery probably will stunt most of his growth during his rookie season as he’ll be jumping into games at midseason while his peers are already comfortable in everything going on.
OL Travis Swanson (third round, Arkansas): He’ll play some on special teams, but the Lions aren’t counting on him for much else this season. If he has to play a lot, it means there’s an injury to center Dominic Raiola or guards Rob Sims and Larry Warford. If that’s the case, Detroit is going to have some issues considering the consistency and experience of those three.
DE Larry Webster (fourth round, Bloomsburg): This is interesting. Webster won’t be counted on for much early on and might not even be active. The skill set is there, though, for him to break out once he develops a bit more. He showed pass-rush abilities during the preseason but needs time to figure things out. By midseason, he could push for rotational time. If an injury forces him to play, he has the skills to get by immediately.
CB Nevin Lawson (fourth round, Utah State): He could end up active on game days for special teams and because the team has only five cornerbacks. He is very raw in coverage and should have little-to-no role on defense as a rookie. But he could end up playing a lot on teams when he is active.
DT Caraun Reid (fifth round, Princeton): Reid will likely be active Sundays as the fourth tackle in the rotation. He probably won’t see many snaps on game days as long as Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley and even Jason Jones are healthy and active, but he’ll work in some. Reid will have a special teams role and has a knack for blocking kicks, so expect him to be used there. By midseason, he could have more of a rotational presence.
WR TJ Jones (sixth round, Notre Dame): Is on the PUP list for now. Won’t play until midseason more than likely. Even then will be down the depth chart at receiver.
K Nate Freese (seventh round, Boston College): He is Detroit’s kicker and other than Ebron should have more of a role than any rookie. He was perfect on field goals during his senior year in college and while that seems unrealistic in the NFL, he’ll need to be a good kicker this season for the Lions to contend.
OL Cornelius Lucas (undrafted, Kansas State): The tackle will likely be active on game days, but the only way he’ll play is if there are a lot of offensive line injuries. His size is massive and he’ll end up on some special teams, but he’s still figuring out the position. Best-case scenario is he can learn for a year and compete for a starting spot in 2015.
S Jerome Couplin (undrafted, William & Mary): Another interesting situation here. He could end up seeing more time than other rookies if he ends up active. He has major special teams talent and should be capable enough if he were to have to play safety. Right now, the Lions safeties are a somewhat banged-up group, so that could happen sooner than later.