Detroit Lions: 2014 Lions training camp preview

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder -- unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Specialists

Starter: P – Sam Martin; LS – Don Muhlbach; K -- TBD

Depth (in training camp): P – None. LS – None, really. K – Nate Freese, Giorgio Tavecchio.

Likely roster spots: 3.

What to expect in camp: Barring injuries, Martin is the team’s punter and Muhlbach is the long snapper. Even the returner competition is fairly squared away unless Jeremy Ross makes a multitude of errors in camp.

The only true competition here is at kicker, where Detroit continues to search for a viable replacement for Jason Hanson, who retired following the 2012 season. David Akers was not the answer last season. The Lions searched for replacements during the season, holding tryouts, before sticking with Akers throughout the year. Last season during camp, Akers’ competition with Havard Rugland aka "Kickalicious," had never kicked in a college or NFL game before.

This season, the Lions are headed toward a young kicker no matter who wins. Freese is a seventh-round pick out of Boston College. Tavecchio, born in the fashion capital of Milan, Italy before playing college ball at California, is his competition.

Freese is more accurate. Tavecchio has the stronger leg. One of these two will be Detroit’s kicker for at least the 2014 season. It may be the most intriguing position fight of 2014.

What Detroit needs to see: Either Tavecchio or Freese needs to show enough of a combination of leg strength and accuracy to convince the coaches they are the right player to win the job. For Tavecchio, that is consistency and accuracy. For Freese, it is displaying a strong enough leg to be a player who can make kicks from beyond 50 yards.

If all things end up equal, Freese will win the job and the roster spot because the team invested (minimally) a seventh-round pick in the kicker and accuracy can often trump distance. Tavecchio, in order to win the job, will likely have to be markedly better than Freese throughout the preseason.

Some reporters have to chart every pass in quarterback competitions every fall. For Detroit this season, every kick by these two players will be scrutinized and measured.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder – unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

[+] EnlargeZach Sudfeld, Glover Quin
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsSafety Glover Quin should provide stability for the Lions' secondary.
Position: Safety

Starter: SS – James Ihedigbo; FS – Glover Quin

Depth (in training camp): Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin, Gabe Lynn.

Likely roster spots: 4.

What to expect in camp: For a position in the secondary, there is surprising stability at safety for the Lions along with some flexibility if and when injuries occur. Glover Quin will be the team’s free safety and one of the defense’s leaders. If necessary, the Lions could slide him over as well. James Ihedigbo, who the team brought in during the offseason to replace Louis Delmas, is a reliable, stable option as the starter opposite Quin.

Behind the two of them is where it becomes a little bit more interesting. Don Carey, who signed a three-year deal in the offseason, is the likely third safety and should provide some depth at nickel. He could theoretically back up both spots and will be a major factor in special teams.

Isa Abdul-Quddus and DeJon Gomes, while playing different safety spots, might be competing for one roster slot. Both have good special-teams skills, and this should be one of the more competitive battles in camp. The better special-teams player might end up as the one who makes the roster. There’s also a chance, depending on how the rest of the roster develops, both end up squeezing onto the squad but it will be difficult.

The undrafted rookies, specifically the extremely athletic Jerome Couplin, could end up with a practice squad spot if they show enough during camp, but neither are real threats at this point of making the 53-man roster.

What Detroit needs to see: It knows what it has in Quin, who played well despite an injury last season. The Lions also need a good chemistry to develop between Quin and Iheidgbo – similar to what Quin and Delmas had a season ago. There was a comfort with both of them until Delmas’ play started to slip in the second half of the season.

After that, the Lions need to see a competence with the backups – that shouldn’t be an issue because all have some level of experience starting games in the secondary in the past – and strong special-teams performances from all three. For a position group in the secondary with so many questions, safety might have one of the more talented roster groups from starters to backups on the roster.

The other key here is how the two starters mesh with the cornerbacks as the corner-safety tandem is just as important as the relationship between the two starting safeties. Detroit needs to see that grow throughout the preseason, especially since corner is the biggest question on the defense and might be the biggest overall concern on the roster.
The Lions, lying in wait as the last team to begin training camp...

In almost every job before this one, the term Bubble Watch meant one thing -- the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments. It was a rite of every March, charting who was in, who was out and what games really mattered.

Now in the NFL, the Bubble Watch takes on an entirely different meaning. Roster spots are the prize now, and the reality of a man's livelihood and ability to pay the bills hangs with every rep, every practice and every injury.

Entering camp, a lot of back-end jobs on the Detroit Lions are up for grabs. Here are five guys to pay attention to for spots on the end of the roster.

[+] EnlargeKris Durham and David Amerson
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsOffseason acquisitions at wide receiver have Kris Durham fighting for a roster spot.
Wide receiver Kris Durham: He appeared to be the last receiver kept by the Lions last season and turned into a starter by midseason after injuries. The signing of Golden Tate, re-signing of Kevin Ogletree, emergence of Jeremy Ross and drafting of Eric Ebron and TJ Jones once again leaves him fighting for a roster spot. His toughest competition will be Ogletree, who was signed midseason by Detroit and saw snaps behind Durham with the old regime. Unless injuries occur or another receiver surprises, it'll likely be Ogletree and Durham going after one slot.

Running back/fullback Montell Owens: The veteran reworked his deal and stayed with the Lions after a lost 2013 season due to injuries. Owens is an interesting case because he could theoretically play fullback or running back. If he is good enough to be one or both, he becomes a valuable roster asset along with a special teams standout who could bump Jed Collins or Mikel Leshoure from the roster. If he can't prove himself as a hybrid back, he might be out of a job.

Offensive guard Rodney Austin: A couple of weeks ago, Austin looked like he had the inside track to a roster spot as a swing center/guard with Travis Swanson, as the two would eventually replace Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims. Then the Lions signed veteran Garrett Reynolds, who was an NFL starter last season with Atlanta and was one of two Falcons' offensive linemen who played over 500 snaps to grade out positively according to Pro Football Focus. With the team invested in Swanson, Austin now has major competition for a roster spot.

Linebacker Travis Lewis: The Lions aren't dropping starters DeAndre Levy or Stephen Tulloch, and Kyle Van Noy is a valued rookie. Ashlee Palmer could end up beating out Van Noy initially for a starting spot, and Tahir Whitehead is a valuable special teams player. Depending on how many linebackers the Lions keep and their importance on special teams, Lewis could make the team or lose out to a cornerback, safety, receiver or perhaps a fellow linebacker such as Julian Stanford, who was signed after Lewis was suspended for four games to close out last season.

Safety DeJon Gomes: Much like Lewis, Gomes' roster spot might not be dependent as much on the other safeties as it is the special teams composition between corners, safeties, linebackers, receivers, and even running backs. Gomes is a good special teams player but might end up as the fifth safety behind starters Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo along with the versatile Don Carey and possibly Isa Abdul-Quddus. The competition for Gomes is likely Abdul-Quddus and then players such as Lewis and Stanford.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- This is a somewhat odd training camp for the Detroit Lions. Unlike some past seasons, there are not a ton of starting positions up for grabs once camp opens Monday.

Yes, there are many positions to be won or lost and injuries could change the entire dynamic of some of these position battles. Right now, though, there are precious few starting slots to be won.

Here, though, are a look at five important battles for the composition of the Lions' roster entering the 2014 season with an early prediction of who wins the slots.

KICKER
The battle: Nate Freese vs. Giorgio Tavecchio

Why this is important: The Lions are searching for their third starting kicker in as many seasons after the retirement of Jason Hanson following the 2012 season, and then a poor performance from David Akers in 2013. The team is specifically looking toward a younger kicker this time around, as neither Freese nor Tavecchio have kicked in a regular-season game. Freese is the more accurate of the two, having made all of his field goals last season for Boston College and was drafted in the seventh round by the Lions in May. Tavecchio has spent the past two training camps attempting to earn his way onto a roster, but was eventually cut from San Francisco and Green Bay. This is his third shot at a job and possibly his most realistic chance to make a team. Tavecchio has a stronger leg than Freese and if he can show accuracy, he could end up pushing the rookie hard.

Who wins: Freese (but it's close).

RIGHT TACKLE
The battle: LaAdrian Waddle vs. Corey Hilliard

Why this is important: The other four positions on the offensive line, barring injury, are fairly set with Larry Warford and Rob Sims at guard, Riley Reiff at left tackle and Dominic Raiola at center. The right tackle slot, though, should have some actual competition. Both Waddle and Hilliard started games there last season and Waddle would have never received the starting opportunity had Hilliard (and the since-departed Jason Fox) not been hurt. Considering the success of Detroit's offensive line last season, particularly in pass protection, there is pressure on the unit to replicate 2013's success in 2014. Both Waddle and Hilliard should make the roster, but who wins this battle could make a difference for line chemistry.

Who wins: Waddle, but Hilliard keeps it interesting.

SLOT RECEIVER
The battle: Ryan Broyles vs. Jeremy Ross vs. TJ Jones (maybe)

Why is this important: This is an interesting scenario because of the many options the Lions have as pass-catchers. If the team wanted, both Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron could line up in the slot and depending where pieces are placed on the field, both will end up there at some point. But from a pure slot perspective, it'll be a fairly tight competition. The main question with Broyles is his health. He has not played a full season since the middle of his college career and will be pushed throughout camp by Ross, who is the team's primary returner. Broyles insisted this spring he is healthy for the first time in a long time and Ross has a stated goal of becoming more than a returner in the league. If Ross wins the job and the Lions feel rookie TJ Jones can be productive in the slot, too, Broyles' roster spot could be in question. If Broyles wins the gig, all three of these players will likely end up on the roster, possibly squeezing out an outside receiver or running back.

Who wins: If he's healthy, Broyles.

CLOSED DEFENSIVE END
The battle: Jason Jones vs. Devin Taylor

Why is this important: Considering the attention given to Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah, this spot is often forgotten on the line. However, if the Lions are going to have success pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run, the competition between Jones and Taylor will be an important one. Jones, who was signed before last season, was a starter before a season-ending knee injury. Taylor emerged in his absence and became a productive player in spot duty. Taylor's length and athleticism make him intriguing here and both he and Jones can play both on the interior and at end.

Who wins: Taylor, but both will play a lot of snaps.

SAM linebacker
The battle: Ashlee Palmer vs. Kyle Van Noy

Why is this important: How critical this position is will depend on both the week and the scheme the Lions plan on running. If Detroit has to use mostly nickel, neither Palmer nor Van Noy will be on the field a ton. If the Lions go with a 4-3, then there will be both pass rush and coverage expectations here. At some point, Van Noy will be the starter, but the bigger question is how ready he is. If he is, he should win this competition and throw Palmer's roster spot in flux. If Van Noy is not ready, then Palmer -- the incumbent on the final season of his deal -- will hold on to his role for a little while longer.

Who wins: Van Noy.
Over the next two weeks, we'll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder -- unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Cornerback

[+] EnlargeDarius Slay
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiThis will be a critical year for Darius Slay as the Lions look to shore up their cornerback position.
Starter: Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis

Depth (in training camp): Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green, Nevin Lawson, Aaron Hester, Mohammed Seisay

Likely roster spots: 5-6.

What to expect in camp: This will be one of the most intense battles in training camp, from a starting slot all the way through the end of the roster and even the practice squad. The main reason for this is other than veteran Mathis, none of the cornerbacks on the roster have proven anything with consistency.

Slay will slide into a starter's role in his second season with the club, but his rookie season had the predictable unpredictability. Throughout spring workouts, Slay consistently appeared as a cornerback capable of going through the necessary maturity from his rookie season. Some of that had to do with hints received from his work with Rod Woodson during the offseason.

Beyond Slay and Mathis is a bunch of questions. Bentley should end up as the team's nickel back, although he'll likely be pushed there by safety Don Carey and the rookie Lawson. Expect him to hold on to the job, though, as he is the most confident he has ever been in the pros.

The other outside corners are a major question. Assuming Bentley and Lawson end up at nickel, there will be a couple spots for Vaughn, Greenwood, Green, Hester or undrafted rookie Seisay.

This is where the real competition will come. Vaughn looked the best of the group during the spring, but the team has invested more in Green and Greenwood and they are at the point in their careers where something has to be more consistent for them.

Don't expect all three to make the team, but figure at least one or two of them will end up on the roster. Pay particular attention to this during camp as it would not be surprising to see at least one of them end up in a critical situation in 2014.

What Detroit needs to see: Growth from everyone other than Mathis. The Lions know what they are getting in the veteran, who should have at least one more season of playing at a consistent, decent level.

With pads on and the ability to press, the Lions need to see steps from the other players, though. Both Bentley and Slay have insisted at various points this spring that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's new defense fits their style of play better -- but they have to prove that now.

If the Lions don't see proper progression from these players, this will be a major, major concern for 2014 and will only call into more question the decisions made by general manager Martin Mayhew to focus more on offense during free agency and early in the draft instead of bolstering the biggest positional question mark on the roster.

The best possible situation for Detroit here is one or two of the cornerbacks behind Slay and Mathis play so well during camp they are no-brainers to keep on the roster, and the four of them can have more reps than everyone else. The other potential good situation for the Lions is that players like Green -- who put himself on a roster bubble after the spring -- to play so well he forces tough decisions for the staff to make on cutdown day in August.

The worst situation is similar to that -- that decisions are tough to make, but mostly because the team is picking from the best of a very mediocre lot of players. Considering the experience levels of the players competing, any of these possibilities could happen.

Don't be surprised if the team signs a veteran here at some point as well, much like they did with Mathis a season ago.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder -- unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Linebacker

Starter: WLB -- DeAndre Levy; MLB -- Stephen Tulloch; SLB -- Kyle Van Noy

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Levy
AP Photo/rick OsentoskiDetroit outside linebacker DeAndre Levy seems on the cusp of becoming an elite player.
Depth (in training camp): Outside -- Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis, Brandon Hepburn, Cory Greenwood. Inside -- Tahir Whitehead, Julian Stanford, Justin Jackson.

Likely roster spots: 5-6.

What to expect in camp: Like a lot of the other positions on the roster, much of the competition during camp will be to spell the starters and win special teams spots. DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch are entrenched as starters and won’t be losing their jobs during camp barring injury.

The one starting spot somewhat up for grabs is the Sam linebacker, where rookie Kyle Van Noy is expected to win the job but will face a tough competition from veteran Ashlee Palmer, who had the job last season. Van Noy missed part of spring workouts because of injury, so the second-round pick might be a little bit behind when training camp opens next week. But he will be given every possible chance to win the job. If he does, it will be interesting to see if Palmer hangs on to a roster spot.

Tahir Whitehead might be close to a roster lock as well because of his special teams capability. He was a four-team player last season and was named the Lions’ special teams MVP. Considering the team retained John Bonamego and Evan Rothstein as the special teams coaches, this bodes well for Whitehead’s ability to remain on the roster.

The rest of the linebackers will potentially be competing for one roster spot, so it should be a pretty intense battle throughout camp. It will be primarily a special teams slot, and multiple guys -- including Stanford and Lewis -- have extensive experience there.

What Detroit needs to see: This starts with Van Noy. Much like Eric Ebron on offense, he needs to show Detroit he is ready to be a capable starter from the beginning of the season. Though he won’t be relied on quite as much as Ebron because the Lions will play a fair amount of nickel throughout the season, he needs to show he can handle a starter’s role after the team traded up in the second round to draft him.

At some point this season, Van Noy will end up as the starter there. His pass rush and coverage capabilities are too valuable for Detroit to keep him off the field, but the quicker the Lions see he can handle it consistently and without many mistakes, the faster he will supplant Palmer at the top of the depth chart. Ideally for Detroit, it happens by the middle of training camp.

Detroit knows what it has in Levy and Tulloch, although they wouldn’t mind if Levy completes his progression into one of the game’s top linebackers.

With reserves, if Whitehead can become a viable backup, that will give the Lions some flexibility because of his special teams capabilities. Entering his third season, he has to take that step now or be cast as a special teams player throughout his career. Lewis and Stanford are in similar positions. If they show they are able to be good in situations -- much like Rocky McIntosh was in short-yardage last season -- they have a chance to stick beyond special teams.

Justin Jackson is a player to pay attention to when it comes to a potential practice squad spot because of his athleticism, but he will have a rough road to a 53-man spot.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder: Unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Defensive line

Starter: Open end -- Ezekiel Ansah; Closed End – Jason Jones; Tackles -- Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley

Depth (in training camp): Ends -- Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp, Larry Webster, George Johnson, Kalonji Kashama. Tackles -- C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Andre Fluellen, Gregory Hickman, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Xavier Proctor.

Likely roster spots: Ends -- four; tackles -- four or five.

[+] EnlargeNick Fairley
Paul Sancya/AP PhotoA trimmer Nick Fairley comes off a season in which he posted six sacks.
What to expect in camp: One of the bigger storylines of Detroit Lions camp -- and the season -- until it occurs will be Suh’s contract situation. Until he signs a new deal or says he is not going to, it will be one of the most important focal points of the year for the Lions. That is the main off-the-field piece for Detroit.

On the field, there will be a lot to expect. Figure Ansah to finally work his way into his starting defensive end spot after missing all of spring workouts as he recovered from shoulder surgery. The most interesting competition of the camp will be at closed defensive end, where Jones and Taylor will likely be fighting for a starting role.

The situation at tackle will be set, as Suh and Fairley will occupy starting spots and Mosley will be the team’s third tackle. Most of the main competition will be behind those three, as fifth-round pick Reid will compete with veterans and former practice squad players for spots on the 53-man roster.

At end, the top three players are set and Webster is the likely fourth option at end after the team used a fourth-round pick on the developmental project. Where it could become interesting is if the Lions’ defensive staff believes both Taylor and Jones have the capability to play inside as well as out and if Suh can start playing outside some as well as inside. If that flexibility exists -- and it very well could -- don’t be shocked if the Lions keep the best possible defensive line players instead of a certain amount of ends and tackles.

Having enough players who can be effective at both spots should open up the entire defense to more flexibility throughout the year.

What Detroit needs to see: This begins with Fairley. The defensive tackle showed a slimmed-down version of himself during offseason workouts, allowing him to both feel better about himself and also play better and longer at a smarter weight for him. He has been gone for six weeks, though, and he needs to show he is back in town in the same shape in which he left. If he does that, it is a good sign for the Lions.

The team also could use growth from the two rookies they drafted on the line -- Reid and Webster. Both are going to likely have roster spots -- Reid because of his special teams capabilities, and Webster due to where they drafted him -- so they have to be able to contribute in certain areas. Neither one was used much with the first two teams during spring workouts, but that needs to change in camp.

Detroit also needs to see a healthy Ansah. He battled various injuries throughout his rookie year, including a preseason concussion, and he has to be able to produce for Detroit to have the effectiveness it hopes to have on the defensive line. He is a major piece to any defensive success the team has this fall.
For two weeks, we’re previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder – unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen during the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Offensive line

Starter: Tackles – Riley Reiff (LT), LaAdrian Waddle (RT); Guards – Rob Sims (LG), Larry Warford (RG); Center – Dominic Raiola.

Depth (in training camp): Tackle – Corey Hilliard, Cornelius Lucas, Michael Williams, A.J. Dalton. Guard – Rodney Austin, Travis Swanson, Alex Bullard, Darren Keyton, Bryce Quigley, Garrett Reynolds. Center – Swanson, Austin.

Likely roster spots: Tackle – 4, Guard – 3-4, Center – 2.

[+] EnlargeDominic Raiola
Greg McWilliams/Icon SMICenter Dominic Raiola, with 188 starts in his career for the Lions, is still a solid NFL center at 35.
What to expect in camp: The Lions return all five starters from their offensive line from 2013, something that is key for continuity, familiarity, blocking calls and tandem blocks. This was also one of the top lines in the league last season, blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher (Reggie Bush). It also kept quarterback Matthew Stafford mostly upright throughout the season.

Yet of the five slots, only three starters are likely guaranteed entering the season. Warford emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last season and was extremely reliable. Raiola returned for another season after one of the best seasons of his career at center. Reiff should also end up as the left tackle for the second straight season.

Waddle – one of the biggest surprises on the Lions last season – will end up competing with veteran Hilliard at right tackle. While both will make the roster, Hilliard might push Waddle more than expected. At left guard, Sims missed a lot of the team drills during the spring recovering from injury and Austin filled in. While Sims should win that job, Austin could make a strong push to unseat the veteran.

Hilliard, Austin and Swanson -- a rookie -- are going to be the key backups. It will be interesting to see if any of the younger players behind them can steal a roster spot. Lucas, an undrafted free agent tackle who could make the roster, is an intriguing prospect. The addition of Reynolds this week should put some pressure on Austin throughout camp as Reynolds is an established veteran who started 10 games for Atlanta last season.

If Austin can't make the jump the staff is hoping for, he could be out of a job. The other wrinkle with Reynolds' signing is if the team doesn't have confidence in Sims continuing a high level of play. Reynolds' signing could be insurance based off that in the preseason since Sims missed time in the spring.

Bullard can play any spot on the line and would be a good practice-squad candidate if he can continue to show that versatility.

What Detroit needs to see: More of the same from last season. If the starting group shows the same sort of connectivity from a year ago, the five starters will likely remain together for one more season before Sims and Raiola become free agents in 2015.

Among the things to watch -- if Raiola, at 35, can build on last season’s resurgence; how Sims rebounds from his injury; and if Warford and Waddle will have sophomore slumps.

Unlike many other positions, it is difficult to tell how good an offensive line will be until the season starts. At this point a season ago, nobody could have predicted Warford being of the league’s top rookies or Waddle turning into a competent starter so quickly.

Depth is going to be a key here as well. Remember, Waddle began the season as the team’s fourth tackle and he only played after injuries to Hilliard and the since-departed Jason Fox.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder -- unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Tight end

Pettigrew
Pettigrew
Fauria
Fauria
Starter: Eric Ebron/Brandon Pettigrew

Depth (in training camp): Joseph Fauria; Jordan Thompson; Jacob Maxwell

Likely roster spots: 3.

What to expect in camp: This might be one of the easiest positions to predict both in terms of roster and what will happen in camp. Since Detroit moved Michael Williams from tight end to offensive tackle before spring workouts and then drafted Ebron, it has been clear Ebron, Pettigrew and Fauria would be the team’s tight ends this fall.

All three have different strengths and issues. Ebron can spread the field open with his speed and has the flexibility to line up in the slot, on the outside and next to the offensive line if necessary. His issue throughout camp was the same problem he had at North Carolina -- catching the ball.

Pettigrew can both block and run routes and the team invested in him by bringing him back during free agency on a four-year deal (only two seasons guaranteed). His strengths come in his blocking and that he can run routes if necessary. He had issues with drops throughout his career but with Ebron on the roster, he likely won’t see the same amount of targets.

Fauria’s height and vertical make him a good red zone threat and his hands are the best of the three tight ends expected to make the roster. He has more speed than Pettigrew and can move down the field when he needs to. His route-running needs to improve, as does his blocking. Drafting Ebron also likely takes away a bunch of potential targets for Fauria, but if he improved his blocking during the offseason he should still see more snaps than last season.

Ebron
Thompson and Maxwell should not factor into the roster, although Thompson could end up as a practice squad player.

What Detroit needs to see: This all begins with Ebron. The Lions took a chance drafting him instead of a defensive lineman (Aaron Donald) or offensive lineman (Zack Martin), both of whom were probably safer choices. They also bypassed an obvious need at cornerback (Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard) and safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor) to take Ebron.

He struggled at points during offseason workouts and while that is not surprising for a rookie at a tough-to-adjust position in the league, the Lions drafted him with the No. 10 pick, so he is expected to come in and contribute immediately.

Seeing him catch consistently and run routes well would help ingratiate him into the offense faster as an opening-day starter and someone quarterback Matthew Stafford can rely on.

The other potential surprise would be development from Fauria. If he shows that, it could provide cover for Ebron to develop at whatever pace he needs to if he isn’t quite as ready as the Lions would hope. This could benefit Fauria as well, as the former undrafted free agent wants to continue to prove he can be more than a red zone option in the NFL.

The Lions know what they have in Pettigrew and not much will change there.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder: Unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Wide receiver

Starters: Calvin Johnson/Golden Tate

Depth (in training camp): Jeremy Ross; Ryan Broyles; Kris Durham; T.J. Jones; Kevin Ogletree; Corey Fuller; Naaman Roosevelt; Andrew Peacock; Cody Wilson; Patrick Edwards.

Likely roster spots: 5-7.

What to expect in camp: Johnson is an automatic. He is typically one of the more well-conditioned athletes on the Lions and one of the most impressive athletes in the NFL. Tate figures to get a lot of reps early -- more than someone who has his position locked down. Similar to Joique Bell with the running backs, most of that will come because Tate missed a good portion of the spring with an injury.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Ryan Broyles
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsRyan Broyles, a second-round pick in 2012, has yet to make it through a season without a significant injury.
Tate’s reps are more important than Bell's because he still needs time to develop rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford both on timing routes and variations of the route tree the Lions might run. Tate is a smart, instinctual player so it shouldn’t take too long for that to happen.

After those two, expect a free-for-all for the remaining receiving spots. Ross should be on the team regardless as a returner but has been adamant he wants to turn into a reliable receiver as well. He should have a good shot to win the slot spot. Joining him there will be Broyles, who should be healthy again, and rookie Jones. They all have at least a decent shot at making the roster, especially since Ross can play outside as well if necessary.

The outside is where it could become interesting. Durham, Ogletree and Fuller will likely be playing for one spot -- maybe two depending on roster composition. Durham has more size. Ogletree has the most experience. Fuller has the speed but is still pretty raw. Another option for Detroit is to put Fuller on the practice squad again.

Other than that, the other receivers are long shots to make the roster.

What Detroit needs to see: Health. Over the past year, Johnson, Tate and Broyles have all had issues with injuries, although not all have had the same severity. Broyles is coming off his third straight season-ending injury. Johnson had two surgeries in the offseason, to fix his knee and a finger. Tate has the shoulder issue.

Don’t be surprised if Johnson’s workload in the preseason is similar to last season -- not much. He won’t need it to get into playing shape.

Other than health, Detroit should hope to see some sort of reliable option develop behind Johnson on the outside among Ross, Durham, Ogletree and Fuller. Considering the issues the Lions had when Johnson missed games last season, this is paramount. Adding Tate and tight end Eric Ebron should help. None of the players mentioned above can come close to replicating Johnson, but one of them needs to emerge as at least a decent option in case he or Tate miss any time.

What would be best for Detroit is if Ross can become similar to Jacoby Jones in role. If that happens, it could open up a roster spot the Lions could use elsewhere. This was an issue last season, when Micheal Spurlock took up a roster spot as essentially just a returner and gunner while being listed as a receiver as well.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder – unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Running back/Fullback

Starter: Reggie Bush/Joique Bell (running back); Jed Collins (fullback)

Bush
Bush
Bell
Riddick
Depth (in training camp): Running back – Theo Riddick, Mikel Leshoure, Montell Owens, Steven Miller. Fullback – Owens, Chad Abram

Likely roster spots: 5-7.

What to expect in camp: Don’t be surprised to see Bell take more reps than Bush during camp. This won’t have anything to do with a switch at the top of the depth chart, but could have more to do with Bell missing time throughout the spring because of a knee injury. Bush practiced throughout the offseason, so this would be time for Bell to catch up since Detroit will need both in the fall. Figure to see Riddick also receiving a good share of snaps, in part to rest Bush and also to see if his spring breakout performance without pads translates into when he is fully dressed and being hit as well.

Fullback would seem like Collins’ spot to lose since Detroit brought him in during the offseason during its renewed commitment to the position. Yet Owens offers potentially more flexibility as he can play both running back and fullback. Abram is still an unknown but could be one of the undrafted free agents who can push for an actual spot on the 53-man roster. How things shake out could end up affecting other roster spots as well – and vice versa.

What Detroit needs to see: Bell has to have no adverse issues with the knee injury that bothered him but didn’t keep him off the field last season. Riddick needs to show he can continue to improve in his second year. He was one of the team’s better special-teams performers as a rookie but to keep a roster spot, he has to show the ability to become more involved in the offense as well.

More than the health of players, though, the Lions have to see reliable hands from Bell, Bush and Riddick. Those three will be the primary backfield players to receive passes and there were major issues there in 2013. Bush dropped 11.4 percent of the passes he was thrown. Bell dropped 8.8 percent of his attempted catches. Riddick dropped 12.5 percent of passes thrown to him, although he only had eight targets so it was a small sample size.

At fullback, Owens is the intrigue. If he can handle both roles, it could open up a roster spot at another position or bump Collins or Leshoure from the team. Abram is probably headed toward a practice-squad spot unless he really impresses during training camp both on offense and in special teams.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder – unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Quarterback

Starter: Matthew Stafford

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesMatthew Stafford may see more action during the preseason as he adjusts to a new system.
Depth (in training camp): Dan Orlovsky, Kellen Moore, James Franklin

Likely roster spots: 2-3.

What to expect in camp: Unlike the past few seasons, expect Stafford to take more reps than a usual entrenched starter throughout the course of training camp. A lot of that has to do with the Lions still installing and learning a new offensive scheme under Joe Lombardi, along with having missed a decent chunk of time with new No. 2 wide receiver Golden Tate during spring workouts. Stafford and Tate will need some reps to get their timing down and the Lions would probably want to have that happen during practice instead of in games, where both players would be left open to potential unnecessary injury.

Behind Stafford is where it becomes interesting for the Lions over the next few weeks. Orlovsky is the backup and barring injury should be the No. 2 quarterback due to his combination of experience, trust head coach Jim Caldwell has in him and the Lions’ lack of experienced options behind him. Plus, he could serve as a good role model/mentor for Stafford, much like Shaun Hill was in the past before he moved on to St. Louis.

The third spot, right now a competition between Moore and Franklin, could be one of the more underrated battles in camp. Moore has more experience than Franklin, an undrafted rookie, but has yet to play in a regular-season game in his first two seasons in the league. Detroit won’t keep both of them, but could definitely hold on to one. Franklin didn’t take a single team snap during spring workouts but Caldwell said the majority of his action will come during camp and preseason games. If he handles that well, he could make the roster (or practice squad). If not and the Lions want a third quarterback, they’ll stick with Moore or search for another arm.

What Detroit needs to see: First, no injuries to Stafford. Along with Calvin Johnson, those are the two Lions players on offense who need to remain healthy throughout the preseason. Second, they need to see smart decisions from him as he continues to pick up the offense. He likely will still make some mistakes during whatever preseason action he has, but they need him to be smart and throwing on time and on target.

Beyond Stafford, seeing Orlovsky have a strong camp could relax fears of the fan base – a group that remembers him as much for the 2008 season as anything else he has done. A good performance or two from him could also lead to less questioning about whether Moore should be ahead of him on the depth chart. As long as the top two quarterbacks are picking up Lombardi’s offense with relative ease, Detroit should feel confident in the talent level on the field at quarterback.

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