- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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The past two weeks have been full of installation and practice work, of starting to go over plays and understanding what the Detroit Lions might look like on offense and defense this fall.
So far, that has been a somewhat dicey proposition for the Lions' offense, but in some ways they kind of expected it. Now entering the final week of organized team activities with four practices beginning Monday, the Lions could start showing progress in this area.
This is the second-to-last week of offseason workouts for the Lions. Next week the team has a mandatory minicamp and then will disappear until the beginning of training camp in late July.
So here are a few things to watch for this week during the final round of OTAs (the media’s open OTA is Tuesday).
1. Offensive improvement: Let’s start with a giant caveat. This is June. Teams, often with new coaching staffs, could and should look somewhat shaky during this period of installation. There are also rookies learning the NFL for the first time and – at least in Detroit – a noted effort to keep anyone from suffering a major injury. Even with that, the Lions' offense could use a day of looking sharp throughout the entire practice, something that has yet to happen in the two open ones to the media.
Considering how many resources Detroit pushed into its offense during the offseason from its coaching staff to players brought in or brought back, it should start to come together in the near term – or certainly by training camp. If this conversation is still happening in mid-to-late August, then the Lions might actually have a problem.
2. Nick Fairley: As the Detroit Free Press reported this past weekend, he’s lost weight, seems motivated and should return to the practice field this week if he is cleared Monday. He has been so inconsistent in his career, but if he is able to actually discover consistency and play with the aggression and intelligence Ndamukong Suh does (most of the time), the Lions might finally have the dominant defensive front they have longed for. It could also leave Detroit wondering how much money it wants to invest in the defensive tackle position as Suh and Fairley are free agents after the season.
3. Kicking battle: As mentioned in the first point, this is still offseason activities, but if Giorgio Tavecchio wants to beat out Nate Freese for the job, he needs to essentially be better every single day. The Lions invested a pick in Freese since they clearly believe he has the ability to be a good NFL kicker. Tavecchio, meanwhile, appears to have an NFL-quality leg and pretty good accuracy in practice. Just something to watch as things progress.
4. Do rookies start making a push: There isn’t a complete depth chart that will come out of the offseason workouts, but as rookies – particularly tight end Eric Ebron and linebacker Kyle Van Noy – continue to practice each week, it’ll be interesting to see how much they end up worked in with the first unit. Both are expected to be starters at some point this fall – Ebron likely from the get-go and Van Noy probably in the same category. If they start pushing the vets at their positions now, that’s probably a good sign for them come training camp.
5. Continued intensity: The Lions have had a bunch of defensive energy the first two weeks of organized team activities, something already chronicled here. It’ll be intriguing to see if that stays up for a third week. Now that Detroit is in the meatier portion of its OTA practices with four this week and then next week’s mandatory minicamp, it will be intriguing to see if that focus and passion can remain throughout. After all, there are no games to be played right now, a break is starting to pop into view and once training camp starts, there will be no rest until the end of the season.