Training camp serves many purposes for an NFL team. For some players, it’s a means to fall back into habits and get into shape, mentally and physically, for the regular season. For coaches, it’s a way to not only evaluate their current slate of talent, but to make sure their methods are being properly installed amongst the team.
However, there’s a subset of players who have much bigger stakes for training camp. I’m talking about the players that have everything riding on the next month, whether that means gaining on the rest of the roster or a place among the starting lineup. These players are on the edge of missing out on their goals and will have to be at their best in camp to cling to those dreams.
The Detroit Lions have plenty of players dealing with this exact conundrum. Here are five of those players who have the most riding on 2016 Detroit Lions training camp.
Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy has been a popular topic all offseason and for good reason. The third-year linebacker has an excellent opportunity to win the Lions’ starting strongside linebacker job, but he could just as easily be among the final roster cuts at the end of camp.
Earlier this offseason, Van Noy was praised as an entirely new player. Jim Caldwell believes he’s drastically improved and he’s in better football shape than ever. However, his play in the past has been so bad that it will take a complete makeover to his game for him to really contest for a starting role. Training camp is his opportunity to prove he’s made that transition, and it may be his last chance to do so with the Lions.
Ridley is trying to make a comeback after injuries have derailed his career. Back in 2012, Ridley ran for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns, but since that year, he seen each of his subsequent seasons end with an injury.
Many are counting Ridley out of the picture completely. He’s commonly considered as one of the Lions’ final roster cuts. But if Ridley overcome his injuries and proves he still has something left in the tank, he’ll not only make the final roster, but he may contribute significantly as the backup running back.
Swanson’s role on the team is on life support after the Lions drafted Graham Glasgow in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Glasgow may not be ready to go right out of the gates, so Swanson will have his opportunity to show the Lions that they shouldn’t give up on him so early.
Swanson is only entering his second year as a full-time starter and theoretically has the potential to drastically improve. This year’s training camp will be crucial for Swanson to prove he belongs in Detroit’s long-term plans.
Speaking of giving up on early draft picks, Gabe Wright’s grasp on a roster spot is hanging by a thread. The 2015 fourth-round pick was forced down the Lions’ depth chart after the team chose A’Shawn Robinson in the second round of this year’s draft and signed Stefan Charles a few months ago during the thick of free agency.
Wright had essentially no impact on the team in his rookie year. Now he finds himself at one of the deepest positions on the team. Wright will have to justify his spot on the roster quickly or he’ll be taking his talents elsewhere.
TJ Jones/Jeremy Kerley
With the addition of Anquan Boldin, the already heated competition at wide receiver just went into full meltdown status. Jones and Kerley will be battling one another to get to the other side of camp with a role for their current team. Both players would play the exact same role on the team, making the final roster no longer big enough for the both of them.
The special teams stage is where each of these player will prove their full worth. Jones and Kerley both have punt return experience and the roster spot will likely go to the one who shines most at that position in camp. They may not play a huge role with the team outside of special teams this year, but if they want a job with Detroit this season, their performance over the next month is crucial.