The Detroit Lions Continue Training Camp In Preparation For Another Exciting Season
The Lions dropped their first depth chart of the season this week and with it came a few surprises. Here’s a look at each Lions offensive position group and the outlook each one as the team preps for its preseason opener in Oakland.
Quarterback – Obviously Matthew Stafford is the guy at this position. Jake Rudock is fighting for his backup job against veteran Matt Cassel and apparently losing thus far. Cassel was brought in during the offseason and is currently listed as the team’s QB2. While we hear little of Cassel’s performance, early observations out of camp for Rudock are mixed. They range from throwing to nobody in the end zone, to making very difficult throws with ease. My hopes for Rudock were that he could perform well enough to give the team a chance to exchange him for a draft pick (preferably a fifth or higher). He still has the rest of camp and preseason to show out so my hopes are still to swap him and keep Cassel who has been a steady quarterback in the NFL for a long time.
Running Back – Boy oh boy, are we hearing a lot about Kerryon Johnson, AKA The Next Barry Sanders, in camp. As of right now, he sounds like the favorite to collect a majority of the team’s carries whether that be early on or later in the 2018 season. A player who has lost a lot of favor with fans, Ameer Abdullah is also getting some praise and is now more than a year removed from his lisfranc injury. Alongside offseason addition LeGarrette Blount, Johnson and Theo Riddick are locks for the roster with Abdullah being a lock if he is not traded at some point. This leaves Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington as likely cuts after being the third and fourth backs on the team for a couple of years. They’ve essentially been replaced by greater talents. Also, Nick Bellore will be the fullback.
Wide Reciever – This is another Lions offensive position with great depth. With Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, and T.J. Jones all in the fold, there’s really only one position up for grabs at the end of the roster. Eight guys are vying for the elusive fifth wide receiver spot on the depth chart. The two leaders as of this weeks depth chart are perennial end-of-the-roster contender Jace Billingsley and former Ram Bradley Marquez. Dontez Ford and Teo Redding are the two others that appear to have outside shots. Billingsley has been in the mix for this position for a few years now and continues to be a fringe roster player. The Lions didn’t take a fifth wide receiver on their roster last season, but it is more than likely now that there’s little receiving talent at tight end. Ahead of that fifth spot, there’s an argument to be made that Detroit may have the best top four wide receiver group in the league.
Tight End – This is almost certainly the weakest position group on the offense following the departures of Eric Ebron and Darren Fells. 2017 fourth-round pick Michael Roberts was in a great position to gain a lot of targets and snaps, but his camp has been dreadful to this point. Drops are something that Ebron was ragged on for and Michael Roberts actually is dropping much more than him. Roberts’ poor camp has opened the door for Hakeem Valles to potentially snag that third tight end spot. Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo are more than likely not the answers at tight end long-term, so the Lions are really counting on a strong campaign from Roberts. It’s still early and I doubt that GM Bob Quinn would be so quick to cut Roberts, but his poor camp thus far has brought that into the realm of possibility.
Exterior Offensive Line – Things are looking much better for the Lions’ offensive tackles this camp. Taylor Decker and Rick Wagner are both healthy headed into the preseason, which automatically puts this position group in a better place than it was last season. Those two together make up what should be at least an average duo of starting tackles. Behind them, Rookie Tyrell Crosby is looking like a steal in the fifth round but is currently listed as the OT5 on the depth chart. A lot of familiar names are there for depth. Corey Robinson and Brian Mihalik are the backup tackles at the moment. Here’s to hoping that they aren’t forced into starting roles again.
Interior Offensive Line – The interior of the Lions’ line is also looking to be much healthier than it was last season. Rookie Frank Ragnow has been slotted in as the starting LG and has been dominant in camp. Graham Glasgow performed well down the stretch at center last season and is currently the starter there. T.J. Lang brings with him the least amount of questions following another Pro Bowl season. The interior of line projects to be much better. There is also an increase of depth should injuries again plague the line. Joe Dahl returns along with two former starters, now playing backup roles, Kenny Wiggins and Wesley Johnson.
Overall, the Lions offensive groups look improved on paper. The offense was seventh in the league in points per game last season and should catapult into the top five with the emphasis that has been put on the running game. There will be a lot of pressure on rookie coach Matt Patricia to get the defense on the same level in order to get this team where it needs to go.