Detroit Lions: Corey Hilliard

Lions Camp Report: Day 1

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
8:30
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The most important and interesting item to come out of the first day of Lions training camp had nothing to do with anything the team did on the field. Instead, it had everything to do with Detroit's decision to table contract talks with Ndamukong Suh until after the season. The Lions said they decided to do this to make sure the focus remained solely on the season ahead, but they also took attention away from the first day of training camp with an off-the-field issue. At least for Detroit, it can avoid daily questions about it from now on.
  • Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a bit of a rough day. He injured his thumb during the first half of practice, ending the second round pick's participation in the first training camp practice of his career. He didn't seem too bothered by it, though. “I should be out there (Tuesday),” Van Noy said. Lions coach Jim Caldwell seemed a bit less optimistic, saying “we'll see how he goes the rest of the week.” Caldwell said the team wouldn't be able to determine the extent of the injury until Tuesday.
  • The Lions' secondary had a pretty decent first day in 11-on-11 work. Both Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis broke up passes intended for receiver Golden Tate, and the secondary covered well enough on other plays in the full-team periods to force Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to have to throw dump-off passes to running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush instead. It's only one day and they are not in pads yet, but a decent sign for a Lions secondary that needs to put together a few good days early.
  • One of two Lions players who did not practice -- as expected -- was defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Caldwell said Sunday he did not have a timetable for his return. Ansah spent most of Monday's practice off on the side chatting with folks. When asked about his return, he said he had no idea when he would come back. Another defensive end, Kalonji Kashama, was released by the team Monday.
  • In the battle for receivers not named Tate or Calvin Johnson, both Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree had nice catches Monday. Ogletree had an impressive catch over the middle -- although he probably would have been drilled by a defensive back had it been a real game. Durham made a nice catch running an out on the sideline as well. In what is expected to be an extremely tight battle, plays like that are going to be noticed every practice.
  • This will be worth paying attention to throughout the first week: Corey Hilliard took snaps at right tackle ahead of LaAdrian Waddle during 11-on-11 periods Monday. Hilliard is more of a veteran than Waddle and Waddle is still expected to win the job, but an interesting small side note on the first day.
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.
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.
The Detroit Lions are escaping for the next month or so, and while there are some potential things on the horizon -- including the continuing question of Ndamukong Suh and his contract -- the players are mostly off taking their final vacations and doing some last training to prep for camp.

In that vein, this will be the last Lions Mailbag until just before training camp, so plan your schedules accordingly. I'll also be in-and-out of vacation over the next few weeks -- but there will be fresh content every weekday on the site, so make sure to come on by.

That said, let's get to your questions. @mikerothstein: First, you're both underestimating Corey Hilliard and overestimating LaAdrian Waddle all in the same sentence, so that's impressive. That said, I believe Waddle ends up winning the job, but Hilliard beat him out initially last season for a reason -- and Hilliard is still a good player. Remember, Waddle could theoretically play both sides as well, so both could end up as a swing-type tackle. Both should make the roster, though, barring injury. It'll probably be one of the more competitive early-camp battles.

@mikerothstein: There's a chance -- a probability, actually -- the Lions at least pursue one veteran cornerback. Whether that player is Brandon Flowers or not is the question. There's also the reality of being able to both pay Flowers what he believes he deserves and how a short cornerback who has shown he struggles in press coverage would fit in Detroit's new scheme. Both of those answers lead me to believe the Lions won't end up with Flowers. That said, as rosters shake out, it wouldn't shock me to see the Lions add a veteran corner at some point if they don't like the Jonte Green/Chris Greenwood situation for the final corner spot.

@mikerothstein: It shows some of that, sure. More likely, though, it shows how little confidence Detroit has in Chris Houston contributing to the Lions -- or any other NFL squad -- in 2014. The team was going to pay him too much -- both this year and down the road -- if they felt he wasn't going to return to his 2012 level. Beyond that, the release now allowed them to take care of Eric Ebron and open up some room to make another move if necessary. Those are your real reasons. If Detroit enters camp without signing another cornerback, that's when you can think they really have confidence in Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis and that group.

@mikerothstein: If any of them make the team, Mitch, it'll be in a special teams role. Don't see that happening right now, though. The Lions have five good veteran safeties for potentially four slots. There might be a little more room at corner, but Mohammed Seisay -- who I think you're referencing -- is very, very raw and could benefit from a year on the practice squad. It wouldn't surprise me to see Seisay and Jerome Couplin on the practice squad this season. Barring injury or a major jump, it would surprise me to see an undrafted free-agent corner or safety on the 53-man roster in Week 1. 



Ryan from Parts Unknown asks: Sorry I missed the chat but I have a question about Suh and his status going forward. It seems like Suh is definitely angling to get out of Detroit and test the free-agent waters, but does he not realize that it will never happen? Unless I missed something the Lions can franchise him and he will be stuck here anyway. And it certainly seems like he has no plans on giving us a hometown discount so what difference does it make if we have to give him 120% of his current pay? So maybe someone should explain this to him so he can get this deal done and free up some cap space, might as well help the team if you are stuck here, right?

Ryan,

A lot to digest here and in practice, you are correct. Detroit could easily franchise tag Suh and keep him around for a sixth season. That said, his franchise tag number could be massive and depending what the salary cap looks like next season, it would be an interesting conversation for Detroit to have. As far as a "hometown discount," why should Suh do that? This is his chance to make enough cash to set himself and his family up for life. So why should he settle for less just to stay in Detroit? I have no problem with what Suh is doing. None. He needs to look out for himself first, as almost any other person would do.
The offseason workouts have concluded and with players and coaches about six weeks away from the start of training camp, one last rest and individualized training period will commence.

After a month of workouts, though, there have been some players who have made cases for potential roster spots in the fall and others who did not help themselves nearly as much.

Just like the start of the spring workouts, here is a look at the Detroit depth chart – along with a post-minicamp guess at the 53-man roster that could end up being the Lions’ team in the fall. Remember, a lot can change between now and then.

Changes from our May offensive prediction are in parentheses.

QUARTERBACK:

Projected starter: Matthew Stafford (no change)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Dan Orlovsky; Kellen Moore; James Franklin (no changes)

Thoughts: Stafford remains Detroit’s starter and barring injury, that won’t change. Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback – and that probably isn’t changing, either. The main battle in camp will be between Moore and Franklin for the No. 3 spot, if the Lions take a third quarterback. Franklin took no snaps in the spring, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell indicated he’ll see live game action in the preseason.

Roster locks: Stafford; Orlovsky (add Orlovsky)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Stafford, Orlovsky, Franklin (practice squad) (Franklin from 53-man to practice squad)

RUNNING BACK

Projected starter(s): Reggie Bush/Joique Bell

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Theo Riddick, Mikel Leshoure, Steven Miller.

Thoughts: Bush and Bell aren’t going anywhere. Riddick was one of the stars of the spring and looks like he’ll end up having a role in the offense beyond special teams this season. Leshoure missed part of spring workouts, so it is tough to say where his role will be this season, if he has one. But Detroit has its first three running backs pretty set right now unless it makes a free-agent move at the position.

Roster locks: Bush, Bell, Riddick (add Riddick)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Bush, Bell, Riddick, Leshoure (no changes)

FULLBACK

Projected starter: Jed Collins.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Montell Owens, Chad Abram.

Thoughts: This is a tough position to pick. Collins is the clear favorite heading into camp, although Owens’ spot on the roster could depend how Detroit feels about the rest of its teams units. If there is comfort there from other spots, Owens might be out of a job. If not, the Lions might keep him along with Collins because Owens can be a running back as well. Abram is probably headed toward the practice squad.

Roster locks: None. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Collins, Owens, Abram (practice squad) (add Owens to 53-man, move Abram to practice squad)

WIDE RECEIVER

Projected starters: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, TJ Jones, Corey Fuller, Naaman Roosevelt, Patrick Edwards, Cody Wilson, Andrew Peacock.

Thoughts: This was the spring of Jeremy Ross. He will make the roster at least as the team’s returner but probably showed enough during the spring to at least enter training camp with a good shot at being the team’s third or fourth receiver. Another surprise was Broyles, who if he can stay healthy could end up making a contribution in the fall. He isn’t a roster lock yet, but will certainly get some opportunities. The competition for the third (or fourth) outside receiver will be one to watch in the fall.

Roster locks: Johnson, Tate, Ross (add Ross)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Johnson, Tate, Ross, Durham, Broyles, Jones, Fuller (practice squad). (Add Broyles to roster from PUP, move Fuller from roster to practice squad.)

TIGHT END

Projected starters: Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Joseph Fauria, Jordan Thompson, Jacob Maxwell.

Thoughts: Moving Michael Williams to tackle all but assured Fauria a roster spot in the fall. It also means Detroit is probably going to carry only three tight ends on the roster unless either Thompson or Maxwell makes a massive move during training camp. The other thing benefiting Fauria is Ebron’s struggles with catching the ball at times.

Roster locks: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria. (Add Fauria)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria. (Minus Williams)

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Projected starters: Riley Reiff (LT); LaAdrian Waddle (RT).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Corey Hilliard, Cornelius Lucas, Michael Williams, J.B. Shugarts, Bryce Quigley.

Thoughts: This position seems fairly settled other than the No. 4 tackle spot. Reiff and Waddle aren’t going anywhere and Hilliard will likely push Waddle for a starting spot. As of now, Lucas has the inside shot on the fourth tackle position.

Roster locks: Reiff, Waddle (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Reiff, Waddle, Hilliard, Lucas.

GUARD

Projected starters: Rob Sims (LG); Larry Warford (RG).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Rodney Austin, Travis Swanson, Alex Bullard, D.J. Morrell.

Thoughts: Warford is not going anywhere and Rodney Austin had a good enough spring that both he and Swanson might make the roster as swing backups that could end up as starters by 2015 to replace Sims and Dominic Raiola. As long as Sims is healthy, he’ll make this team and start as well. The interesting question might be a practice squad candidate out of this group.

Roster locks: Warford (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Warford, Sims, Austin, Bullard (practice squad)

CENTER

Projected starter: Dominic Raiola

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Swanson, Austin, Darren Keyton, Bullard.

Thoughts: Raiola is the starter here. Austin and Swanson will eventually compete for the starter’s role. Pretty cut and dry here.

Roster locks: Raiola, Swanson. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Raiola, Swanson.
The Detroit Lions are officially in their final break before training camp starts up at the end of July, but that doesn't mean questions about the team are going to stop.

With minicamp over, if anything, some small answers are starting to emerge about the 2014 roster. We touch on that and more in this week's Mailbag.

To ask a question for the Mailbag -- which will also take a summer hiatus at some point -- email michael.rothstein@espn.com or use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter.

@mikerothstein: As of now, I wouldn't expect any big surprises. Three positions are set barring injury -- Riley Reiff at left tackle, Dominic Raiola at center and Larry Warford at right guard. Left guard should still belong to Rob Sims as long as he is able to play, although the reps Rodney Austin received in the spring could help him push to make it a competition early in camp. Right tackle is the only place really up for grabs. LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard both started games last season and split first team reps there in the spring. My feeling is Waddle ends up winning the job, but this battle will end up going down to the last preseason game. Don't expect many surprises as far as who makes the 53-man roster, either.

@mikerothstein: Already been answered. Chris Houston was released Friday.

@mikerothstein: Are there receivers available? Sure there are. The question is all about dollars and sense for the Lions here. They need to either restructure contracts or re-sign Ndamukong Suh to open enough money for the Eric Ebron rookie deal. They'll also need to leave some money as a cushion due to injuries or perhaps a defensive back. Considering Ebron can play on the outside as a receiver, don't know if the need is truly there. Detroit has Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Ebron and even Jeremy Ross who can play on the outside. The Lions will likely have Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Naaman Roosevelt and Corey Fuller to play on the outside, too. Can they find someone on the open market better than one of those guys? Maybe, but probably not at a price that would be logical. For your question, Danario Alexander would probably be the most attractive option, but he is a major, major injury risk. 


Joe from Parts Unknown asks The Lions surely have a lot of talent but the NFC is loaded and it seems they don't have a great shot to make the playoffs this year. If they were in another division or even in the AFC, do you think they'd have a better chance to win a division or make the playoffs? Thanks!

Joe,

Interesting question. Let's start with the NFC. The Lions would not do well in the NFC West with San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona all lurking there (assuming they'd replace St. Louis). The NFC South could be manageable, but New Orleans is a step above the Lions. The NFC East would be a good landing spot. The Giants are beatable. Dallas, on paper, seems very ordinary. Washington has a new coach. Philadelphia would be the biggest challenger there, but the Lions could hang with the Eagles. In the NFL in general, the NFC East might be the best spot. The AFC East still has New England. The AFC South has Indianapolis and the AFC North has Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore. For this season, the AFC West has some guy named Peyton Manning and the Broncos, along with Kansas City and San Diego. So to sum up, the Lions' best shots would be the NFC East or AFC South.



Cannon from Decatur, Georgia, asks why won't Detroit take the time to reinforce their secondary? Last season they suffered tremendously in the back field.

They did reinforce their secondary -- kind of. They replace Louis Delmas with James Ihedigbo, who is clearly a safer, more reliable option. They did add Cassius Vaughn in free agency and while he isn't going to end up as a starter, he could provide decent depth if he makes the 53-man roster. Plus, they re-signed Rashean Mathis, who could end up starting again. I've been one of the biggest supporters of adding to the secondary, however, after watching OTAs and minicamp I'm much more impressed than I expected to be with Detroit's secondary. Whether that says more about the Lions' offense of their defense is up for debate. Depending what happens with Houston, it wouldn't stun me if Detroit did add another secondary piece at either corner or safety, but not yet.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The Detroit Lions offseason officially began around 1 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, when Jim Caldwell finished his final media obligation of the spring and the players all shuttled off to begin a six-week break.

When they reconvene, things will become much more serious at the Lions’ facility to start training camp and prepare for the 2014 season. But there were some things to learn throughout the time Detroit spent here in the spring, both from an installation perspective and from who might actually see an increased role come the fall.

Here are some thoughts on the final day of minicamp -- and of the offseason program as a whole.
  • Ross
    Jeremy Ross had the most impressive minicamp/organized team activities session of any player -- at least from what the media was able to see. He established himself as the team’s returner and spent enough time on the first team that he is going to have a role in the offense as well this fall. Yes, Golden Tate's absence had something to do with the amount of snaps Ross saw, but his speed and size make him attractive as a player who can be used in the slot and on the outside.
  • The player of the final day of minicamp might have been Joseph Fauria. The tight end caught multiple touchdown passes in team drills and used his size well in the red zone. Some of the touchdowns were over undrafted free agents, but he needed to have a good camp and he did that.
  • Conversely, Eric Ebron had what seemed to be a rough indoctrination to the NFL. He struggled with dropped passes throughout OTAs and mandatory minicamp, including two drops on the final day of practice. Drops were an issue for him at North Carolina, so to see him continue this trend during his first few weeks as a professional should be at least a little bit concerning to the Lions. That said, it is still early and he is clearly still learning everything, so it could be an issue of just overthinking on routes and not letting instincts take over. This will be a situation worth monitoring during training camp.
  • Waddle
    Right tackle is going to be a competition, and it could last all the way through the end of camp. LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard essentially split first-team snaps throughout the spring practices, and Caldwell did not give an indication one player or another was going to win the job anytime soon. Tough to see Cornelius Lucas winning the job, but the undrafted free agent could end up playing his way into the conversation at some point. His size alone makes him attractive. This will be the spot to watch on the line in camp. If Rob Sims doesn’t come into camp healthy, left guard could be a spot to pay attention to as well.
  • The defense looked a lot better than the offense Thursday -- a day after the offense looked incredibly sharp. There were not a lot of big plays on the defense, but the secondary broke up a lot of passes throughout the morning session. Seeing something like this is fine by Caldwell, because he almost expected the offense and defense to rotate having good practices. Makes it more competitive that way. The defense was particularly stout in the two-minute offense, where it held the offense to three-and-out on two straight possessions.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio rebounded from his rough Tuesday practice to make all of his kicks Thursday. Nate Freese didn’t fare as well, missing at least one field goal attempt and almost missing an extra point. Caldwell seemed fine with how both kickers have performed thus far in the spring, and it sounds like both will enter camp with a shot at the job.
  • One player who saw no action during the entire spring was James Franklin, the undrafted free agent quarterback from Missouri. He took no snaps at quarterback during team drills in any practice open to the media. Why? Just not enough reps. It will be interesting to see how he does in July and August, because it sounds like a lot of his snaps will actually come in preseason games from the way Caldwell spoke.
  • Spent some time watching Nick Fairley on Thursday since it will be the last time we see him until training camp. The weight loss really is staggering. He looks much more explosive than he was at any point last season, and he’s just moving a lot better. He is still bigger than Ndamukong Suh, but he looks like he can keep up with him more.
  • It will be interesting to see where Devin Taylor fits into the defense. He will definitely have a role, but he couldn’t compete much at the closed end position because he spent a lot of time with the first group at open end since Ezekiel Ansah did not practice. Taylor could play either spot and even some on the inside. He’s going to see more snaps in 2014 than he did in 2013 -- that’s a fairly confident prediction right now.
  • The defensive aggression will fit the secondary well. They were making plays on the ball and being smart about their reads and coverage. This is without the ability to really bump receivers at the line or press receivers at all. When they are able to do that, the Lions will likely become even more aggressive. Much different than a season ago.
  • Attendance report from practice: Not there at all: Stephen Tulloch, T.J. Jones, Chris Houston. There but not participating: Tate, Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, Ansah, Kevin Ogletree.
The Detroit Lions are just a few short days away from the beginning of their true offseason as spring workouts hit their final week with the three-day mandatory minicamp.

It has been a fairly quiet offseason for the Lions, who have had almost perfect attendance throughout their organized team activities, and that’s something they’ll likely take as they learn a new offense and new defense.

The only major things of note have been Ndamukong Suh's contract situation (still unresolved) and how fast the offense is picking things up compared to the defense (it’s coming along).

So what will we watch for over the final three practices of the offseason? Here are five things.

Bell
1. Who sits out: Some players will likely not participate due to precautionary measures, but it’ll be interesting to see who does not participate in the mandatory three-day minicamp. Since the club has about six weeks off after the minicamp, players might be more willing to give it a partial run or participate on a limited basis for their last team workouts until training camp.

Among the players to watch here would be running back Joique Bell, who participated in the Stephen Tulloch charity softball game this weekend, along with defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver Golden Tate. Tate also sat out last week with a sore shoulder, but appeared to be fine Saturday.

2. Offensive progression: The last week of OTAs showed an offense starting to pick things up, even with offensive pieces Kris Durham, Joseph Fauria, Bell and Tate missing all or part of the team’s open practice. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi didn’t appear to be too concerned with the progression when he talked earlier this spring since he knows this is a learning process. That said, the Lions would probably want to have at least one of three practices where they push ahead of the Detroit defense as a mini confidence boost heading into training camp.

3.Position battles: Nothing will be won over the next three days, but players can place themselves in more advantageous positions heading into training camp with a good week. Among the ones to watch: Right tackle (LaAdrian Waddle vs. Corey Hilliard); SAM linebacker (Ashlee Palmer vs. Van Noy); closed defensive end (Jason Jones vs. Devin Taylor); backup quarterback (Dan Orlovsky vs. Kellen Moore); cornerback (multiple candidates) and wide receiver behind Calvin Johnson and Tate (multiple candidates).

The one other battle to watch is at kicker, where seventh-round pick Nate Freese is battling with Giorgio Tavecchio. Due to the Lions using a pick on Freese -- even if it is a seventh-rounder -- Tavecchio is going to have to be markedly better than Freese to win the job. From the limited amount we've seen, Tavecchio appears to have the stronger leg.

Riddick
4. Theo Riddick's role: While it might be tough to gauge from a set of preseason practices, Riddick is setting himself up to be one of the team’s breakout performers in 2014. Either that, or the second-year pro out of Notre Dame would end up for Detroit as another of a lengthy list across the NFL of preseason hype players who don’t pan out.

Considering how he was used a season ago and his productivity in a very, very limited role in Scott Linehan’s offense, there is reason to believe he’ll fare better in an expanded role. He should end up as the No. 3 back in an offense that will spread the carries and running back receptions around over the course of a season. How much could he improve? Reggie Bush called him a more natural runner coming out of college than Bush was. That could bode well for his future.

5. Secondary play: So far, the Lions have been strong in the back end during the offseason. The safeties have been paired well and Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis have been pretty strong at cornerback. It’ll be interesting to watch the group, where everyone beyond Slay, Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo is fighting for a spot or a role, over a three-day period.

Cassius Vaughn and Bill Bentley have shown flashes of improvement at corner, as have Don Carey and Isa Abdul-Quddus at safety. Doing something in one practice compared to a three-day period, though, could give an idea on real progress and consistency. Those are four guys to watch this week.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions, at least when it comes to media viewings, are done with organized team activities.

Soon enough, the Lions will all depart Allen Park, Michigan, for a final vacation before the grind of training camp begins in July. So what happened Tuesday out at Lions practice?

Here are some observations of what you might have heard and what you might -- or might not -- have missed.
  • Fairley
    Let’s start with Nick Fairley. The biggest topic of conversation over the past week or so has been how would the big defensive tackle look. While I wrote he had slimmed down, that probably isn’t a fair enough description. At least from a small distance, it looks like he completely reshaped his body. He appears much leaner on the sides, as well as having lost some of his stomach. That will come with dropping 30 or so pounds, but his transformation has been impressive. Of course, with him, the key will be keeping the weight off and staying in shape. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin seems focused on doing that, and with Fairley in a contract year, Fairley is probably a bit more keen on doing that as well. There is money at stake as well. From listening to Fairley talk, though, there might be a bit of pride as well. He said he thought his option should have been picked up, so he might have some proving to do. If Detroit gets a motivated Fairley this season, it could be really interesting to watch.
  • With Golden Tate (shoulder) and Kris Durham (undisclosed) sitting out, it gave some of the other wide receivers a chance to get some meaningful reps. Kevin Ogletree, back from dental surgery, had a fairly strong practice. He made all the easy grabs, some tough ones and seemed to run his routes fairly well. He’s in a battle for a roster spot -- likely will be throughout camp -- and the more showings he can have like Tuesday, the better his chances are. He already caught offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s eye during this OTA period. The competition for the backup roster spots at receiver behind Calvin Johnson and Tate are going to be some of the most competitive battles in camp.
  • Waddle
    There is going to be a competition at right tackle again. Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle have been spending time with the first group on the offensive line. This could end up similar to last season, when Hilliard, Waddle and the since-departed Jason Fox were vying for that spot. The good thing for Detroit is that both guys proved more than capable when they were in the lineup last season and both will have roles on the roster. This is a good problem to have for Detroit.
  • DeAndre Levy left practice midway through to have his left foot worked on and taped, but it did not appear to be serious. It ended up being a fairly light day for veterans overall. Missing practice along with Tate and Durham were Safety James Ihedigbo, running back Joique Bell and tight end Joseph Fauria.
  • One of the better defensive plays Tuesday came from safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who had a good read and a breakup on a Matthew Stafford pass. Unfortunately, because of where the media was situated for most of practice, some of the results of plays were blocked from view.
  • Overall, the offense looked better than it has during the previous two OTA sessions, when the defense was dominant and overall much louder. Tuesday’s practice felt a bit more even than the prior two when it came to the competitive level of the offense against the defense. Stafford also looked sharper than he has the prior two weeks. As he said Monday, though, OTAs are going to be an up-and-down period.
  • Drops, which were a major issue during last week’s OTA, didn’t seem to be as much of an issue this week. Eric Ebron had one in the team portion -- an easy, should-have-had short reception -- but other than that, the Lions were much cleaner this time around.
  • No kicking period this time around, so nothing new to report there in the competition between Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio.
The Lions, lying in wait for the new year ...

While there has been a lot of attention paid to the secondary, the offense and the whereabouts of Ndamukong Suh this offseason, not much has been made of the offensive line.

The blocking was stable in Detroit last season and when the team re-signed Dominic Raiola, the entirety of the Lions' starting line was going to return. Even though there was a coaching change, the new staff under Jim Caldwell has remained comfortable with what Detroit has on the line.

For now. Especially at tackle, where former first round pick Riley Reiff is on the left side and likely second-year player LaAdrian Waddle is on the right with Corey Hilliard backing them both up.

"They played and played well. You take a look at what they’ve been able to get accomplished, and those two guys are working extremely hard," Caldwell said of Hilliard and Waddle. "They have talent and ability. You probably remember, Corey was with us at Indianapolis, so I’ve known him since he was a young guy. He’s still young, but nevertheless, I’ve known him for quite some time. Those guys have talent and ability and they’ll do a great job.”

If anything, Detroit is looking for its fourth tackle -- probably between undrafted free agent Cornelius Lucas and converted tight end Michael Williams, who played tackle for the first time this week.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Of all the position groupings we've already looked at in terms of salary-cap numbers and percentages, the way the Lions have handled the offensive line has been the most intriguing.

Using the time frame from 2010, the Lions have actually spent less in the past two seasons on the offensive line than they did in the three before that and it is very easy to argue that the Lions' offensive line in 2013 -- and, theoretically, 2014 -- will be better than what the team was paying for from 2010 to 2012.

Why?

A combination of retirements (Jeff Backus) and high-priced contracts coming due and not being renewed (Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman) left Detroit with a lot of cheaper, younger linemen. They also, thus far, have turned out to be better.

[+] EnlargeLarry Warford
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsCounting just $714,250 against the cap this season, guard Larry Warford is a bargain for the Lions.
Should the Lions continue to hold on to last year's rookie offensive line class of Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle, the amount of money the team spends on the line will once again rise. If you're looking for a reason why Detroit could be good in 2014, it could start here, where the team is not yet paying a lot of money for talent on the line, meaning they could spend more on skill position players and on defense.

A reminder, numbers are from ESPN Stats & Information and in years other than 2014, these numbers reflect the end-of-season roster.

Prior cap studies: Running back; Wide Receiver; Tight end

2014
Total numbers: $12,322,683 (cap value); 18.96 percent (offensive cap percentage); 8.90 percent (total cap percentage); $9,631,700 (cash value).

By players:

  • Rob Sims: $3,775 million (cap value); 5.81 percent (offensive cap); 2.73 percent (total cap).
  • Riley Reiff: $2,180,100 (cap value); 3.35 percent (offensive cap); 1.57 percent (total cap).
  • Corey Hilliard: $1.9 million (cap value); 2.92 percent (offensive cap); 1.37 percent (total cap).
  • Dominic Raiola: $1.5 million (cap value); 2.31 percent (offensive cap); 1.08 percent (total cap).
  • Larry Warford: $714,250 (cap value); 1.10 percent (offensive cap); .52 percent (total cap).
  • LaAdrian Waddle: $498,333 (cap value); .77 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Rodney Austin: $495,000 (cap value); .76 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Darren Keyton: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • J.B. Shugarts: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • Sherman Carter: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
2013
Total numbers: $13,221,451 (cap value); 22.32 percent (offensive cap); 12.63 (total cap); $10,147,468 (cash value).

By players:

  • Sims: $3.425 million (cap value); 5.78 percent (offensive cap); 3.27 percent (total cap).
  • Raiola: $3,012,500 (cap value); 5.09 percent (offensive cap); 2.88 percent (total cap).
  • Reiff: $1,816,750 (cap value); 3.07 percent (offensive cap); 1.74 percent (total cap).
  • Jason Fox: $1.323 million (cap value); 2.23 percent (offensive cap); 1.26 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $980,000 (cap value); 1.65 percent (offensive cap); .94 percent (total cap).
  • Leroy Harris: $937,500 (cap value); 1.58 percent (offensive cap); .90 percent (total cap).
  • Dylan Gandy: $620,000 (cap value); 1.05 percent (offensive cap); .59 percent (total cap).
  • Warford: $579,250 (cap value); .98 percent (offensive cap); .55 percent (total cap).
  • Waddle: $408,333 (cap value); .69 percent (offensive cap); .39 percent (total cap).
  • Austin: $119,118 (cap value); .20 percent (offensive cap); .11 percent (total cap).
2012
Total numbers: $22,771,263 (cap value); 36.65 percent (offensive cap); 18.88 percent (total cap); $22,005,660 (cash value).

By players:

  • Raiola: $5,417,460 (cap value); 8.69 percent (offensive cap); 4.49 percent (total cap).
  • Gosder Cherilus: $3,969,960 (cap value); 6.37 percent (offensive cap); 3.29 percent (total cap).
  • Stephen Peterman: $3,282,960 (cap value); 5.27 percent (offensive cap); 2.72 (total cap).
  • Sims: $3,079,960 (cap value); 4.94 percent (offensive cap); 2.55 percent (total cap).
  • Jeff Backus: $2,354,340 (cap value); 3.78 percent (offensive cap); 1.95 percent (total cap).
  • Reiff: $1,453,400 (cap value); 2.33 percent (offensive cap); 1.21 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $1,264,960 (cap value); 2.03 percent (offensive cap); 1.05 percent (total cap).
  • Gandy: $1,004,960 (cap value); 1.61 percent (offensive cap); .83 percent (total cap).
  • Fox: $655,263 (cap value); 1.05 percent (offensive cap); .54 percent (total cap).
  • Bill Nagy: $288,000 (cap value); .46 percent (offensive cap); .24 percent (total cap).
2011
Total numbers: $21,474,971 (cap value); 33.93 percent (offensive cap); 18.35 percent (total cap); $21,234,967 (cash value).

By players:

  • Backus: $6,723,178 (cap value); 10.62 percent (offensive cap); 5.75 percent (total cap).
  • Raiola: $4,412,500 (cap value); 6.97 percent (offensive cap); 3.77 percent (total cap).
  • Peterman: $3.028 million (cap value); 4.78 percent (offensive cap); 2.59 percent (total cap).
  • Sims: $2.725 million (cap value); 4.31 percent (offensive cap); 2.33 percent (total cap).
  • Cherilus: $2.145 million (cap value); 3.39 percent (offensive cap); 1.83 percent (total cap).
  • Gandy: $835,000 (cap value); 1.32 percent (offensive cap); .71 percent (total cap).
  • Fox: $560,302 (cap value); .89 percent (offensive cap); .48 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $525,000 (cap value); .83 percent (offensive cap); .45 percent (total cap).
  • Johnny Culbreath: $273,933 (cap value); .43 percent (offensive cap); .23 percent (total cap).
  • Leonard Davis: $247,058 (cap value); .39 percent (offensive cap); .21 percent (total cap).

2010
Total numbers: $24,318,624 (cap value); 33.36 percent (offensive cap); 21.30 percent (total cap); $24,570,553 (cash value).

By players:

  • Backus: $8,773,176 (cap value); 12.03 percent (offensive cap); 7.68 percent (total cap).
  • Cherilus: $4,585 million (cap value); 6.29 percent (offensive cap); 4.02 percent (total cap).
  • Raiola: $3,412,500 (cap value); 4.68 percent (offensive cap); 2.99 percent (total cap).
  • Peterman: $2.528 million (cap value); 3.47 percent (offensive cap); 2.21 percent (total cap).
  • Sims: $2.376 million (cap value); 3.26 percent (offensive cap); 2.08 percent (total cap).
  • Gandy: $1.176 million (cap value); 1.61 percent (offensive cap); 1.03 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $545,000 (cap value); .75 percent (offensive cap); .48 percent (total cap).
  • Fox: $430,302 (cap value); .59 percent (offensive cap); .38 percent (total cap).
  • Trevor Canfield: $225,000 (cap value); .31 percent (offensive cap); .20 percent (total cap).
  • Donald Thomas: $139,411 (cap value); .19 percent (offensive cap); .12 percent (total cap).
  • Tony Ugoh: $128,235 (cap value); .18 percent (offensive cap); .11 percent (total cap).
Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.

To see all of the free agents profiled so far, click this link.

Free agent to be: Jason Fox

Position: Offensive tackle

Age: 25

Fox
Years in the league: 4

What he made last season: $1,323,000 (cap number and base salary)

What he did last season: Fox won the starting right tackle job out of training camp, beating out both veteran Corey Hilliard and undrafted rookie free agent LaAdrian Waddle. After injury-plagued seasons, Fox finally looked like he was turning into the player he appeared to be out of Miami (Fla.). Then injuries returned -- first his groin followed by his knee -- and by the end of the season he was firmly behind Waddle on the depth chart and possibly behind Hilliard as well. He ended up playing in eight games in 2013 and 13 in his four years with Detroit.

His potential market value: Not great. Fox has never been able to put together enough games together to show what he could be capable of when healthy, and that will be a concern to a lot of teams. He is still a young player and if healthy could be valuable -- after all, he did beat out two other players for the job on what ended up being one of the NFL’s top offensive lines -- but that would take a degree of optimism from a team.

Will he fit the Lions still: Probably not. With Waddle projecting as the right tackle of the future after being inserted into the lineup midway through the season and performing well next to rookie right guard Larry Warford, Fox wouldn’t be a starter. Hilliard is still on the roster as well, although at a $1.9 million cap number could have cause for concern about his status with the team entering the final year of his contract. Couldn’t see the team offering him much more than the veteran’s minimum, if anything at all, and he would have to be comfortable with essentially not having a chance to play barring injury.

What happens: Fox probably heads somewhere else if he can find someone to take a shot on him. He has the talent and if he does become healthy could be an asset, but that is not a risk the Lions should take as anything more than a fourth offensive tackle at this point. That Hilliard has familiarity with Jim Caldwell from the time they spent together in Indianapolis could also help the veteran stick around. General manager Martin Mayhew was high on Fox a year ago, saying he had starter-level talent, but that was before two more injuries and the signing and then emergence of Waddle.
Recruiting has been deemed a completely inexact proposition seemingly forever. Guys who are highly rated don’t pan out. Guys who were walk-ons turn into NFL players and, sometimes, stars.

So as teams across the country sign players Wednesday, here’s a look back at where the Detroit Lions were ranked when they were high school seniors. For rankings from 2006 forward, the rankings used are ESPN’s rankings. From 2002 to 2006, we used the Rivals.com rankings.

In some cases, no rankings were available. If something is not denoted as coming from another site, it is ESPN’s ranking from that year.

What you’ll see is most of Detroit’s players were not highly-rated players coming out of high school. Some had no ranking at all. Just goes to show how blue chip recruits in high school don’t always turn into top-level college or NFL players.

This post covers the offense. The next post will cover the defense and specialists. Running backs:
    Bush
    Bush
  • Reggie Bush (2003): No. 1 running back per Rivals.com; No. 2 overall player per Rivals.com. Signed with USC.
  • Joique Bell (2005): Not listed anywhere among the Rivals rankings for the 2005 class. Signed with Wayne State.
  • Theo Riddick (2009): No. 48 athlete; No. 65 in his region (the Northeast). Signed with Notre Dame.
  • Mikel Leshoure (2008): Not ranked at all by the ESPN rankings. No. 28 running back by Rivals.com. Signed with Illinois.
  • Montell Owens (2002): No information on his recruitment was available. Signed with Maine.
  • Steven Miller (2009): Not rated in 2009 out of high school when he signed with Nassau Community College. Not rated in 2011 when he signed with Appalachian State.
Wide Receivers:
    Johnson
  • Calvin Johnson (2004): No. 6 wide receiver by Rivals.com and No. 37 overall player. (If you’re curious, Early Doucet was the No. 1 receiver in his class according to Rivals.) Signed with Georgia Tech.
  • Nate Burleson (2000): Can’t find a ranking for Burleson from 2000, but here’s an interesting story about his recruitment from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Signed with Nevada.
  • Kris Durham (2006): No. 66 receiver. No. 200 player in his region. Signed with Georgia.
  • Kevin Ogletree (2005): No. 59 wide receiver according to Rivals.com. Signed with Virginia.
  • Jeremy Ross (2006): No. 174 wide receiver. Signed with Cal.
  • Micheal Spurlock (2001): Nothing available from a rankings or story perspective. Signed with Mississippi.
  • Ryan Broyles (2007): Rated as the No. 58 wide receiver in his class. Signed with Oklahoma.
  • Cody Wilson (2009): Not rated in 2009. Signed with Central Michigan.
  • Corey Fuller (2008): Not rated by either service. Signed with Kansas on a track scholarship. Transferred to Virginia Tech for football. Was an indoor All-American in track in high school.
  • Patrick Edwards (2007): Not rated by either service. Was a walk-on at Houston.
Tight ends:
    Pettigrew
    Pettigrew
  • Brandon Pettigrew (2004): Was not ranked by Rivals.com with a number. A two-star recruit by Rivals. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Joseph Fauria (2008): No. 15 tight end. Signed with Notre Dame (eventually transferred to UCLA).
  • Michael Williams (2008): No. 26 tight end and No. 20 player in Alabama. Signed with Alabama.
  • Matt Veldman (2007): Not rated by ESPN or by Rivals. Signed with North Dakota State.
  • Dorin Dickerson (2006): No. 11 wide receiver in his class and No. 74 prospect overall.
Offensive linemen:
    Raiola
  • Dominic Raiola (1997): No available recruiting rankings, but he was the first player from Hawaii to accept a scholarship to Nebraska, according to the Nebraska website.
  • Rob Sims (2002): No. 20 offensive guard according to Rivals.com. Signed with Ohio State.
  • Riley Reiff (2008): Rated as the No. 84 defensive end. Signed with Iowa.
  • Larry Warford (2009): Rated as the No. 51 offensive guard. Signed with Kentucky.
  • Corey Hilliard (2003): Not rated by number as an offensive tackle in his class by Rivals.com. Rated as a two-star recruit. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Jason Fox (2006): Rated as the No. 22 tight end. Signed with Miami (Fla.).
  • Leroy Harris (2002): Rated as the No. 42 defensive tackle by Rivals.com. Signed with N.C. State.
  • Rodney Austin (2007): Not rated by ESPN.com or Rivals in his class. Signed with Elon.
  • Dylan Gandy (2000): Not rated by any service I could find, but here’s an interesting story from when he was drafted with some backstory of how he ended up at Texas Tech.
  • LaAdrian Waddle (2009): Rated as the No. 19 offensive tackle in his class and the No. 43 player in the Midlands. Signed with Texas Tech.
A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.

To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, and analyze what worked and what didn't before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is a mere seven or so months away.

Today, the series continues with offensive tackles.

Previous positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers; Tight ends.

2014 free agents: Jason Fox

Hilliard
Waddle
The good: This starts with LaAdrian Waddle, the massive right tackle the Lions were surprised to find as a free agent after last April's draft. Detroit quickly grabbed him and while the initial plan might have been to bring him along slowly, he was forced into the lineup after injuries to Fox and Corey Hilliard. By the end of the season, he turned into an entrenched starter at right tackle and the likely future at the position for the Lions. He graded out as the 13th best right tackle in the league during the regular season by Pro Football Focus. He was charged with 17 quarterback hurries -- not great -- but also no sacks, which is strong for a tackle. Pretty good overall for a rookie thrown into the lineup midseason. Riley Reiff also had a decent season at left tackle, where he was still growing into the position, although he had bouts of inconsistency depending on the opponent.

The bad: Start with the health of the tackles. All four of Detroit's tackles had some sort of injury during the season -- whether they missed part of a game like Reiff against Cincinnati or a good chunk of the season like Fox or Hilliard. Of all the positions on the Lions, this had the most consistent rotation because of injuries. Reiff's sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus, were somewhat concerning. He allowed seven sacks, tied for 16th in the NFL, and was 15th in quarterback hurries, with 34. Otherwise, the Lions received good production from this position for the majority of the season.

The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): Entering the third season of his rookie contract and his second year as the starting left tackle, Reiff has a number of $2,180,100. Hilliard, entering the final season of his deal, has a cap number of $1,900,000. Waddle has a cap number of $498,333. Hilliard has a $350,000 roster bonus due in 2014 and a $15,000 workout bonus. The Lions will likely add a fourth tackle somewhere along the line, either in free agency or through the draft.

What Caldwell might favor: Tough to say here, and it might not matter. There is no true blueprint for what Caldwell might want and the Lions brought back offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, so it'll probably be status quo here. Detroit could add a tackle through the draft or free agency as we'll cover below, but the starters seem set.

Potential cuts: Likely none, although if Detroit chooses to sign Fox, maybe they would consider releasing Hilliard. Then again, Hilliard has familiarity with Caldwell from his time in Indianapolis and is a good tackle who can play both on the left and the right. Reiff, Hilliard and Waddle should all at least be in camp if not on the final 53-man roster. There is stability here.

Draft priority: Not early. Unless someone of value falls to them in the third or fourth round, it is tough to see Detroit taking a tackle early considering Reiff and Waddle are the likely future at both tackle spots for the team. He's a local guy, but someone like Michael Schofield, who can play both guard and tackle, could be an intriguing mid-round guy who can provide depth across the line.

Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- On a day where the Detroit Lions got at least a little bit in practice from all of its players, the biggest news of all was who practiced in full: Nate Burleson.

Burleson
Burleson
The wide receiver was not limited in practice for the first time since breaking his forearm in a September car crash, but he was part of the team drills the past two days, a good sign for his potential return.

"Things are looking up for Nate Burleson," Burleson said. "Catching some balls. Getting some high-fives. My friends are talking to me again. Finally feel like things are looking up, man.

'That pizza set me back, man."

It was a good day overall as the Lions had every player on the roster available to practice on at least a limited basis.

Besides Burleson, cornerback Bill Bentley practiced fully for the first time in a couple of weeks. Cornerback Jonte Green also returned fully after being sick Wednesday. Right tackle Corey Hilliard also practiced in full.

There were, though, many Lions limited on Thursday: defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle); running back Joique Bell (Achilles); safety Louis Delmas (knee); defensive tackle Andre Fluellen (thigh); defensive end Israel Idonije (knee); wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee); tight end Brandon Pettigrew (knee) and safety Glover Quin (ankle).

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