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.
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.