The Detroit Lions finished their ninth and final organized team activity on Thursday. Mandatory minicamp starts next week, but before we get to that, let's look back on the last three weeks and gather everything we've learned about this new Lions team.
The Lions are taking a long, hard look at Taylor Decker at left tackle
Detroit only had three of their nine OTA sessions open to the media, but in each session, Taylor Decker was the starting left tackle with Riley Reiff sliding over to the right side. As evidenced by photo galleries and highlights of closed practices, Decker stayed on the left side for pretty much all of OTAs. There isn't a single photo or clip of Decker taking reps on the right side.
While the rookie tackle certainly hasn't won the job yet, this is clearly not just a test for Decker. The Lions are trying to get Decker as many snaps as possible at left tackle, and they are treating the situation like he'll be taking over the blind side sooner rather than later. But it's extremely hard to evaluate performance of an offensive lineman without pads. Next week's minicamp will tell us a lot more about Decker's future with the team.
Nevin Lawson appears to be the front-runner for the No. 2 cornerback position
Although Alex Carter occasionally received first-team reps at cornerback, it was mostly Lawson who took over the position. Carter has been getting mixed reviews from media at OTAs, while Lawson has been showered with praise by his fellow teammate Darius Slay, who called the two of them combined with slot corner Quandre Diggs "The Three Amigos."
All is quiet on the A'Shawn Robinson front
For as much hype and attention Decker is getting, the Lions' second-round pick has been under the radar during OTAs. Part of that is because, again, it is very hard to judge performance of a lineman without pads. However, Robinson is also stuck behind Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker on the depth chart. The offseason is still young, but I wouldn't expect Robinson to come out and win the starting job by training camp's end.
Lions injuries are opening opportunities for fringe players on offense
The Lions are suffering from a significant amount of injuries at key positions. Detroit has been without Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Pettigrew, and Corey Fuller for most of OTAs. This has give players like tight end Cole Wick, wide receivers Andre Caldwell and TJ Jones and running back Zach Zenner opportunities to shine. Caldwell and Wick have been especially opportunistic with their chances, turning heads during the open practices over the past three weeks.
Kyle Van Noy may actually improve this year
Van Noy has been one the Lions' biggest disappointments in recent years. The 2014 second-round pick has barely seen the field in his two seasons in the NFL, and many believed he was buried for good on the Lions' depth chart. But not only has Van Noy seen some reps as the team's starting strong side linebacker, but he's reportedly looked good playing the position. "Kyle’s doing much better," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said of Van Noy last week. "He’s in phenomenal shape, running around. I think he’s put himself – He’s in much better position now than he was last year, in terms of once the ball’s snapped, so I think that’s good."
Of course, this being the offseason, almost everything is blown out of proportion. No position battles are won in the first week of June and no player's fate is sealed by a poor OTA performance. A lot can change in the next few months, and the Lions will even have a few new faces by the time the final 53-man roster is compiled. Sure, we love to dive into every single detail of every single practice, but the truth is, very little has been learned over the course of the past three weeks.