The Detroit Lions open their first Organized Team Activities period Tuesday morning – the media won’t get their first glimpse until Wednesday morning – but here are five things to pay attention to this week as the offseason workouts really get going.
1. Where are the rookies: It’s going to be very, very early but don’t be surprised if only two rookies – if that – are working with the first unit much at all. Fullback Michael Burton, the team’s fifth-round pick, should slide into the first unit offense immediately. The other guy would be left guard Laken Tomlinson, who is expected to win that position by the end of training camp. While the Lions mostly used their rookies on second and third teams early in last offseason, don’t be surprised if Tomlinson rotates in with or outright runs with the first group this week. He’s the team’s first-round pick. He’s expected to win that job, leaving Manny Ramirez and Travis Swanson to battle over the center spot. Considering how Jim Caldwell handled the rookies last year I’d anticipate something similar this week for everyone else.
2. How are the safety reps handled: Glover Quin will see the majority – if not all of – the first-team reps at free safety. With James Ihedigbo not expected at OTAs this week, look at Isa Abdul-Quddus, Isaiah Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Don Carey, to get a bunch of those reps. Abdul-Quddus will probably see most, if not all of, the first-team reps at strong safety but if Johnson is able to slip in for a few, that could be a good sign for him come training camp. Johnson was a high-value undrafted free agent and should be in the mix for a roster spot throughout the summer.
3. What does Stephen Tulloch look like: The public has not seen Tulloch since he was injured celebrating an Aaron Rodgers sack in Week 3. He says he’s healthy and ready to go, but in the spirit of trusting my eyes, I’ll fully believe that when I see him running on the field Wednesday. I’ll be paying special attention to him during the workout, seeing what his lateral movement and speed looks like. Those are going to be the two most important things to his full recovery anyway.
4. Position battles: While most of these won’t fully crystallize until training camp in August, there are a few that will get heated starting this week. Linebacker – the whole lot of them after DeAndre Levy and Tulloch – is the first one. Most of the contenders are healthy. One starting spot is up for grabs between Kyle Van Noy and Tahir Whitehead. Then there are a number of backup spots with a bunch of contenders including Josh Bynes, Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Brandon Copeland and undrafted rookie Kevin Snyder. Depth receiver is another spot where the Lions can really start judging this week as Corey Fuller, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, TJ Jones, Lance Moore, Greg Salas, Andrew Peacock, Vernon Johnson and even Erik Lora could all be competing for spots. All are expected to be healthy other than perhaps Jones, who told ESPN.com he’s feeling good but hasn’t been in action since shoulder surgery a year ago.
5.The defensive line rotation: Haloti Ngata is locked into one of the team’s starting spots at defensive tackle. Everything else there? That’s up for grabs. Figure Tyrunn Walker will line up next to Ngata to start OTAs and that Gabe Wright and Caraun Reid will work with the second unit. Jermelle Cudjo and the hybrid guys (Jason Jones, Darryl Tapp, Corey Wootton) could factor in there as well. Wootton, who can play both, is listed as a tackle on the team’s roster, too. At end, Jones and Ezekiel Ansah are likely starters, but pay attention to the reps Larry Webster, Devin Taylor and Phillip Hunt get. It should be an interesting competition for roster spots.