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Lions roundtable: What is the most interesting training camp battle in Detroit?

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The Lions open training camp in less than a week, and the team still has plenty left to figure out.

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NFL: International Series-Los Angeles Rams Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back on our business here at Pride of Detroit, and with the start of training camp less than a week away, business is about to be Metro boomin’.

If you’re unfamiliar with our roundtable or how they work, check out some of our recent discussions:

For this week, it’s all about everyone’s favorite subplot to training camp: #CampBattles. The ephemeral season to pick sides, get mad online, and then come to terms with it all within a week and a half. With all the pomp and circumstance out of the way, on with the festivities!

What is the most interesting training camp battle in Detroit?

Kent Lee: I'm excited to catch the returner battle. The Lions have a number of young options at the position and there is no incumbent so it is wide open. Jace Billingsley, T.J. Jones, Jamal Agnew, Dwayne Washington, and others are going to fight for the spot vacated by Andre Roberts and it will be neat to see how that plays out.

Kyle: Somewhat related to that spot is the competition to be the team’s fourth wide receiver, which is definitely one that I will have my eye on. Whoever wins the battle is unlikely to see a ton of action this season, but with a passing offense like the Lions’ plus the inevitable course of injuries throughout the year, the fourth receiver in Detroit will have a chance to make an impact.

As Kent alluded to, this player could also see times on special teams. Smart money is on someone like Billingsley or Jones, who can make a difference in multiple areas.

Alex Reno: While I am looking forward to seeing the result of who wins the return specialist job, I can’t say that I’m excited to see it unfold during training camp, as there isn’t really a whole lot you can tell from return drills other than who’s taking the most reps.

The backup quarterback job is Jake Rudock’s to lose, but it will be interesting to see how Brad Kaaya performs and whether he gives Rudock a run for his money. Most importantly, I’m excited to see whether the rumors of Rudock’s improvement are true.

Kent Lee: I don't think it's bold to assume we will notice improvements with Rudock in camp if they're there. Rudock had some pretty low moments in camp and the No. 2 QB battle was anything but competitive. Kaaya was highly touted coming out of Miami, whereas the reverse was true with Rudock, so the perception here is that the upside is greater with the rookie. Doesn't always hold true in practice, however.

Jeremy: I hate to be captain obvious here...

Ryan: (but he’s going to do it anyway)

Jeremy: ...but my focus will be on the left tackle camp battle. Obviously, this was a position we had hoped was locked down for the foreseeable future, but the injury to Taylor Decker has created what I think is the most crucial camp battle this year.

What makes it so intriguing, besides the importance of the position, is that the Lions now have two competitors for the left tackle spot who haven’t even taken an offseason snap with the Lions. The trade of Greg Robinson presents an interesting opportunity for the former second overall pick to turn his career around in a new city, but the free agent signing of Cyrus Kouandjio could also play a factor in this matchup.

The Lions have two complete unknowns at one of the most important positions in football. How can anything possibly be more interesting than that?

Ryan: I, for one, am glad Captain Obvious cropped up in our discussion because this thing is all over the place amongst fans. Some are sure it’s going to be Robinson at left tackle, but others think as long as Kouandjio is healthy, it’s his job.

For me, at this point, I haven’t a clue. It’s a toss up considering we’ve seen neither of these guys on the field yet. This might be more contentious than #LONGSNAPPERWATCH2016, but way less important—and by less important I mean to me it’s less important; the Lions entire season on offense hinges on how well they can make do without Decker.

Kent Lee: Another battle I am interested to see unfold is cornerback. The Lions brought in D.J. Hayden, Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew to add to the starting pair of Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson. They aren't the only ones competing though, as up-and-down nickelback Quandre Diggs is still present, and so is special teams ace Johnson Bademosi. It's a crowded group even before accounting for this year's crop of undrafted free agents—not to mention surprise roster keeper from 2016 Adairius Barnes.

Andrew Kato: Sort of related to the discussion of the secondary, I am curious to see how the shift of Alex Carter from corner to safety will work itself out and who lines up in the box. Right now, the Lions have Glover Quin as one starter and Tavon Wilson coming off a decent first season (especially against the run), but Miles Killebrew really impressed everyone a ton with how much progress he made in his rookie season. What does that mean for the mix at safety? Is Wilson the starter opposite Quin? Is Killebrew ready for a bigger role than package duty?

The departure of Rafael Bush this offseason opened a number of questions that need to be resolved fairly early in camp and the preseason to determine Alex Carter’s fate. Anyone who thinks Don Juan Carey is going anywhere is crazy; he is way too valuable in the kicking game. Are the Lions seriously going to see five safeties make the 53? No way.

Ryan: Speaking of versatility and multifaceted talent, another place to pay close attention to in camp is all along Detroit’s defensive line.

Some of it is already set in stone—Ezekiel Ansah is on one edge, trying to play his way into a wealthy extension while A’Shawn Robinson is fixed on a rookie contract along the interior. We’re pretty sure Haloti Ngata will play next to Robinson, but beyond that, who fits where?

Is Kerry Hyder opposite Ansah? Is that closed-end position prime to be taken by newcomer Cornelius Washington? Are Armonty Bryant and Khyri Thornton part of the team’s plans at this point with their suspensions? If not, does that open the door for a guy like Jordan Hill to make the team? What about holdovers from last season like Anthony Zettel and Brandon Copeland? Do any of the rookies—Jeremiah Ledbetter or Pat O’Connor—find their way onto the final 53-man roster?

There are a lot of malleable pieces to figure out how it’s all going to fit together, but time isn’t on the team’s side. The Lions front office and coaching staff have a ton of evaluating to do over the next couple of weeks, and it’s not going to be easy when you have extenuating circumstances like suspensions to take into consideration when deciding which direction to take heading into this season.

Poll

What is the most interesting Detroit Lions training camp battle?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Punt/Kick returner
    (6 votes)
  • 6%
    WR 4
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    Backup quarterback
    (0 votes)
  • 53%
    Left tackle
    (159 votes)
  • 12%
    Nickel cornerback
    (37 votes)
  • 4%
    Strong safety
    (12 votes)
  • 18%
    Defensive line
    (56 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (9 votes)
299 votes total Vote Now