The Detroit Lions wrapped up their offseason training program last week with a mandatory minicamp. While you can only learn so much from OTAs and a three-day minicamp that took place before summer even officially began, there are some things that jumped out. Here are five of my biggest takeaways:
1. Injuries are a bit of a concern, especially at right tackle
I know the Lions like to be extra careful with injuries under Jim Caldwell, especially at this point in the offseason. However, the injury situation doesn't seem great right now for the Lions. Joique Bell and LaAdrian Waddle missed the entire offseason training program because they are still recovering from offseason surgery, and Joseph Fauria was limited throughout. In addition, Cornelius Lucas didn't practice last week because of an undisclosed injury, forcing the Lions to go to their third-string right tackle. Also, Jason Jones missed practice last week after having a procedure on his knee, and Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy and Nevin Lawson only practiced on a limited basis. Hopefully this is just a case of the Lions being extra cautious with everybody, but injuries will definitely be something to monitor when training camp opens later this summer.
2. Quandre Diggs is poised to make an immediate impact
As evidenced by their move to release Bill Bentley last week, the Lions are quite deep at cornerback, especially at the nickel spot. Bentley became expendable in part because sixth-round pick Quandre Diggs has already left a very positive impression. He is in position to make an impact this season, potentially as the No. 1 nickelback. He will face a heated competition for that role with Josh Wilson and Nevin Lawson, but so far, so good for the rookie.
3. Eric Ebron is in an unenviable position
Let's just be clear: Eric Ebron needs to take a major step forward in his second year in the NFL. Not only does he need to make people forget about his lackluster rookie season, but the Lions offense needs him to emerge as their No. 3 receiving option in order to be a better unit overall.
The unfortunate thing for Ebron is that he's in a position where every single play he makes -- good or bad -- is going to be dissected during training camp. Even during OTAs and the minicamp there were seemingly daily updates on if he had any drops or not, and it's clear that Ebron is going to be one of the focal points of training camp. I suppose this just comes along with being a former 10th overall pick, but at the same time, I'm more interested in how Ebron performs during the regular season. How he performs before then could certainly foreshadow what's to come, but I think we all need to take a step back and try not to overreact to every little thing that happens with Ebron this summer. Let's try to be somewhat patient before we start putting labels on a player only entering his second season in the league.
4. The Lions are bringing Laken Tomlinson along slowly
When the Lions drafted Larry Warford in the third round back in 2013, everybody expected him to be the starting right guard to open the season. Despite this, the Lions didn't hand him the starting job or anything like that. Instead, the Lions put him in a competition with Dylan Gandy and Jake Scott, and Warford actually spent quite a bit of time with the third-string offense before finally emerging as the starting right guard by the end of the preseason.
This year, it looks like the Lions are taking a similar approach with first-round pick Laken Tomlinson at left guard. Everybody expects him to be the starting left guard when the regular season opens, but Manny Ramirez seemingly got the majority of the No. 1 reps at that position this offseason. With Travis Swanson locked in at center, Tomlinson will have to beat out Ramirez to secure the starting job at left guard, and although that will likely happen by the end of the preseason, this isn't a situation where he is just going to be handed the No. 1 spot on the depth chart because of his draft status.
5. The backup quarterback job may actually be up for grabs
If Matthew Stafford gets injured and the backup quarterback actually sees extensive playing time, the Lions are probably in trouble no matter who is in that role. However, it's always fun to see what happens with the No. 2 quarterback spot in the preseason, and that's especially true this year with an actual competition set to take place. The Lions gave backup reps to both Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore this offseason, and although Orlovsky is still considered the favorite to win the No. 2 job, it's not completely out of the question for Moore to beat him out. Moore seemingly outperformed Orlovsky last summer, and the Lions seem open to having an actual position battle between them this year. What happens with the backup quarterback job will probably be one of the more interesting storylines to follow this summer.