Aside from the inevitability of the Detroit Lions making several transactions to bolster the back end of their depth chart, the 90-man roster is set for the most part. The NFL Draft has concluded, and they will head into OTAs and training camp with what they have now. General manager Bob Quinn did a wonderful job of drafting to fill the team's biggest needs and there will be a lot of fighting going on to solidify that final 53-man roster. Let's take a closer look at some of the top training camp battles that will transpire this year.
Probably the closest battle that will ensue this year is the battle for the starting center spot. You have two players in Travis Swanson and rookie Graham Glasgow that were both presumably drafted to be the starter by two different GMs, with both being selected in the third round of their respective draft classes.
After a disappointing 2015 campaign, Swanson has a lot to prove if he wants to remain a starter in Jim Bob Cooter's offense, and it appears as though Glasgow is already up to the task, claiming that he wants to "push Travis" and see what happens.
If you're the Lions, this is a great problem to have. Swanson was essentially forced into the starting role last year because there just wasn't really any alternative aside from Manny Ramirez. Job No. 1 for Bob Quinn this offseason was to improve the offensive line. Setting up a competition for the starting center role is a great way to kick things off.
Center isn't the only position up for grabs along the O-line. The Lions also selected former Buckeye Taylor Decker with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Decker was most likely drafted to be the starting right tackle for the Lions, but it's not that simple. The Lions brass refuses to state which side Decker will play on to start the year, and I believe it's because they don't know yet.
You can have a solid idea of where you want the player you drafted to line up, but you truly aren't going to know for sure until you give him some reps and have him compete during training camp. Both Decker and Riley Reiff are going to get their fair share of reps on both sides of the offensive line and the Lions are going to decide who fits where and what their best lineup is.
The third wheel in this competition is Michael Ola, who served as the Lions' starting right tackle down the stretch at the end of last year and did a fairly decent job considering the state of the O-line. He'll have a chance to prove his worth and either maintain his starting job or become a solid backup and provide some much needed insurance. It will also be interesting to see the development of Corey Robinson, who was selected in the seventh round of last year's draft.
Ah, the most prized position in all of football. This will likely be the most popular camp battle for a lot of fans for two reasons. One, Michigan fans love their golden boy, Jake Rudock, and secondly, everyone loves a good skill position battle. Depending on how many quarterbacks the Lions keep, Dan Orlovsky and Rudock might not just be fighting for the backup QB role, but for a spot on the final 53-man roster as well.
As of now, Orlovsky has the leg up over Rudock because of his experience and understanding of the offense, but Rudock is no slow learner. He's one of the smartest QBs the Lions could have added to their roster, but it's his skills on the field that will be put in question. Can he subdue the efforts of Orlovsky? Only time will tell.
Like center, the defensive tackle position will be a heavily contested battle between two players (maybe three if Gabe Wright shows any signs of improvement) with similar skill levels. Many will label Tyrunn Walker as the starting 3-tech alongside Haloti Ngata, but why? Because he was the starter going into next year? I might even give the edge to Caraun Reid right now because we don't know how Walker will look post-injury.
Wait a minute... are we even sure that Ngata is a lock to play the 1-technique? A'Shawn Robinson might have something to say about that, and if Ngata gets off to his usual slow start, there may not be another chance for him.
One thing is certain, however. Teryl Austin loves to rotate his guys along the defensive line, and no matter who gets to start the game, the other guys are going to get their fair share of snaps.
Left defensive end
Well we already know that Ezekiel Ansah is locked in as a starter on the right side, but who will start opposite him? Is it Devin Taylor's time to shine? Could it be the nine-year vet, Wallace Gilberry? Or could a rookie (I'm looking at you, Anthony Zettel) rise to the occasion and shock us all?
Other position battles to look out for
- Strong safety
- Long snapper
- Final RB slot(s)
- Final WR slot(s)
- Blocking TE