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Detroit Lions OTAs: Wednesday’s practice provides clues to how Lions will look in 2017

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Media reports out of Wednesday give us a hint as to what Detroit Lions may be doing in 2017.

NFL: Detroit Lions-Training Camp Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions are neck deep in OTAs and news is decidedly limited given that not a lot is happening there and the media has limited access. Fans were given a taste in the form of some galleries that show us a few hints as to who is playing where and a couple of the plays that may be made there, but there isn’t really a lot of meat to bite into. Even the reports coming directly from the media only scratch that Lions itch a little bit, leaving us wanting more. No news is often good news during OTAs, but a few of the reports coming out of camp have some intriguing long-term implications worth discussion.

Alex Carter, Safety

Many like to look back on the third-round selection of Alex Carter as a reach, and while there are some that likely viewed him lower, there are plenty who viewed him higher than where he was drafted. Regardless of the perceived value at the time, Carter cannot be viewed as anything other than a disappointment at this point in his career, but the tides may have shifted in his favor. Whether he was perceived as a reach or a steal by draft analysts, almost all agreed that an eventual move to safety was not only a possibility but in some cases a necessity. He’s still listed as a corner, but he has continued to bulk up and played there during OTAs on Wednesday. There is a logjam at cornerback on the Lions roster, so safety is the only way he even stands a chance of being in a Lions uniform in 2017. How good of a chance? Not great, but the team will likely keep ten defensive backs, so being able to play at least passably at both corner and safety could keep him on the roster if he shows any special teams ability.

Zettel looks lean, Robinson looks mean

Anthony Zettel is a tweener DE/DT who played almost entirely outside in 2016. He was fine as a rotational pass rusher, but was probably the worst run defender on a team that had some pretty bad showings there. He doesn’t appear to have bulked up as if a move inside is in the cards, likely signalling his role will be outside backing up Ezekiel Ansah or competing at LDE. On the other side of the spectrum, the already massive A’Shawn Robinson looks even bigger than last year. Robinson wasn’t sloppy in his weight distribution in 2016, but he looks like he’s gained a decent amount of muscle in the offseason. Robinson was an adept run defender and showed a good understanding of how to disrupt passing lanes as a rookie, but struggled to create any kind of a pass rush. Whether or not that continues to be an issue, if he develops in the two areas he is already solid in, we could be looking at the Lions version of Pat Williams, clogging up the middle and making it an area no rusher dares attack.

Left guard sounds settled

Graham Glasgow didn’t play quite as well as many Lions fans like to think he did, given how bad the offensive line played as a whole, but he had an impressive rookie campaign and was considered the favorite coming into the season to start at left guard. Still, it was booked as an open competition between Glasgow, former first-round pick Laken Tomlinson, and 2016 late-round pick Joe Dahl. According to reports, Glasgow was holding down left guard on his lonesome while Tomlinson alternated with Dahl at right guard. With left guard likely locked down until we have reason to think otherwise, it’s worth noting that both Laken Tomlinson and Joe Dahl look to be in great shape. Newly signed free agent T.J. Lang is unlikely to do much work until training camp is in full swing, so they’ll both get plenty of reps.

From AA to ZZ

With Theo Riddick still sidelined after his surgery, and Ameer Abdullah taking the lead duties with no red non-contact jersey, it is exciting to see that Zach Zenner was receiving first team reps. Many thought he should have been getting carries far earlier than he was in 2016, and he confirmed those early suspicions by playing great down the stretch for the team. Perhaps the team starts 2017 with a more ‘lightning and thunder’ approach with Abdullah and Zenner with Theo Riddick (if he’s ready) taking a role on passing downs or *gasp* on two back sets with Ameer Abdullah.

Drops

The opening of OTAs are always a time when players bust off what rust they have from the offseason, but it’s still disappointing to hear of the slew of drops happening among the receivers and tight ends. Drops were a killer problem in 2016 and one fans are expecting improvement upon in 2017. Sure handed additions like Kenny Golladay (only 5 drops on 165 targets at NIU) and Michael Roberts ought to help ease that problem somewhat.

The F and the Y

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke reported that the Lions tight ends have been working in tandem. Many have speculated that the team would be moving to more of a two tight end offense, but what’s important is who Bob Quinn was referring to as his “F” and “Y” tight ends. He spoke about Eric Ebron and Michael Roberts working in tandem, hinting that Roberts might have a bigger role as a rookie than most expected.

Lions Manes

This is a pointless thing, but something I found funny. The Lions second/third team offensive line sure has a lot of hair going on. Leo Koloamatangi, Arturo Uzdavinis, Storm Norton and Matt Rotheram all lined up together and it could have quickly transitioned into a shampoo commercial.

Quick Hits

Jeremiah Ledbetter is another tweener type, but he’ll be playing inside for the Lions. He’s still fairly lean, but I expect him to bulk up prior to camp some.

Ryan Spadola is a name most Lions fans don’t even know, but he’s been on the practice squad for a couple seasons now and made some nice plays according to reports. Dark horse fifth receiver?

Leo Koloamatangi isn’t a widely known UDFA, but he was taking second-team reps at center behind Travis Swanson. Brandon Thomas and Cornelius Lucas rounded off your second team right side OL.

Jace Billingsley was fielding punts. I don’t have anything to add, it’s just part of the ransom we pay the good people of Winnemucca that we mention him at least once an article. (Help us!)

Jamal Agnew, who is expected to find a quick home as a returner, has been held out with injury.

Armonty Bryant, who some expect to contend for the LDE starter job, has been held out with injury.

Cole Wick was the talk of 2016 camp, but he’s been pretty quiet this year. It will be a much steeper climb for him in this improved TE group.

Brandon Copeland has moved from LB to DE and is now being used at both. There’s something to be said about versatility, but if he’s retained, it’ll likely be due to his excellent special teams capabilities.