Chris Houston was still a member of the Detroit Lions a year ago. In many ways, the cornerback was expected to be a major contributor for the franchise. Then he wasn’t at organized team activities as he recovered from his toe injury.
Less than a month later, Houston was released and he hasn’t played since.
While no veterans are in that particular injury situation this year, there are many Detroit vets who need to prove their continued skill to the Lions in order to stick around after training camp in August. That proving time begins Tuesday.
Here are five veterans who need to have good offseason practices and workouts.
1. Ryan Broyles (pictured): Entering the final year of his rookie deal, the former second-round pick has never gone through an entire NFL season and offseason healthy. After playing sparingly in 2014 -- he wasn’t even a lock to make the roster as a wide receiver -- he comes into OTAs healthy and ready to make an impression. It might be his last chance to show his worth in a crowded, but unproven, wide receiver group beyond Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Broyles appeared effective in his very limited work last season (four targets, two catches, 25 yards), but coaches insisted he was purely the backup to Tate. For him to make this roster, he’ll have to prove to Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi, who didn’t draft him, that he can do more than that.
2. Jeremy Ross (pictured): His main role on the Lions is as a returner, and that job is clearly in jeopardy. Second-round pick Ameer Abdullah can function as a returner, especially if Joique Bell remains the team’s primary halfback. It is tough to prove yourself as a returner during non-padded practices, so Ross will need to have good practices at receiver as well to help solidify his spot. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the No. 96 receiver last season out of the 110 the website ranked. He was the team’s starting slot receiver last season, but between Broyles, TJ Jones and veteran Lance Moore, he’ll have a lot of players trying to take his spot.
3. Bill Bentley (pictured): He’s coming off a torn ACL, and in the past two seasons the Lions have drafted three cornerbacks who can play the slot. Plus, if necessary, Rashean Mathis, Don Carey and even Glover Quin can play the slot. Bentley is entering the final year of his rookie contract and has played in only 18 of a possible 48 games. He’s also never had an interception. With a glut of players at the nickel, Bentley will have to show he’s healthy and a better option than the players younger than him and possibly even recently signed veteran Josh Wilson to keep a spot on the roster.
4. Dan Orlovsky/Kellen Moore: Orlovsky is likely to be on the roster, but unlike last season his hold on the No. 2 quarterback spot is probably not secure. The Lions brought Moore back on a two-year deal, and now in his fourth NFL season he should have more opportunity to prove he can handle the No. 2 role. The Lions likely wouldn’t move away from Orlovsky completely because he’s with Detroit cheap and has in-game experience that Moore does not. But if Moore wants a real shot at the No. 2 role, this is his best chance at it.
5. Don Carey (pictured): The safety is a core special teams player and should be on the final 53-man roster in September, but the 28-year-old could get a really strong push from undrafted rookie Isaiah Johnson out of Georgia Tech. James Ihedigbo's return to OTAs could actually help Carey here since there will be fewer reps for the backups to take, so less of a chance for Johnson to make an early impression. But Carey should use his snaps wisely to remind Detroit of his value.