After five days of practices, and plenty of time to see the players work both individually and in team drills, the Lions will finally get some time to play in game-type situations in their annual mock game.
Here are four players for the whole family to keep an eye on during Saturday’s Family Day at Ford Field:
1. Teez Tabor
Perhaps no player this training camp has received as much press as Tabor, but not for the right reasons. His tough time at camp continued on Friday, giving up a catch to Kenny Golladay and getting left in the dust by Jared Abbrederis for a long touchdown.
Tabor’s rough time at camp shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, especially during one-on-one drills where he’s lining up in press coverage, a position where he was expected to struggle. It’s possible the Lions coaching staff wanted Tabor to work on redirecting receivers to the sideline when in press, which he did on all of the reps that come to mind, but the perception is often the reality; getting beat by receivers with 4.50 speed is a tough sell.
In today’s mock game, it will be interesting to see how they use Tabor in game-like situations and where he’s lining up. If Tabor has a rough go of it today, then it’s time to start adjusting our expectations for his contributions in year one.
2. Jake Rudock
After the Lions signed Rudock from the team's practice squad late last season to prevent the Chicago Bears from poaching him, it seemed clear what direction the team was heading in when it came to backup quarterback. The team eventually moved on from Dan Orlovsky, but added rookie Brad Kaaya in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft after Bob Quinn and company couldn't ignore the former Miami Hurricane falling down the board on Day 3.
It was clear from the onset of camp that Rudock was the No. 2 quarterback in Detroit, but he's done little to show much improvement from where we last saw him in Week 4 of the preseason against the Buffalo Bills. His passes lack zip, his deep ball is getting left with too much air under it, and his accuracy on the underneath stuff has been a bit shaky in camp so far.
Many were certain Rudock's year of experience with the Lions would all but make him a lock as the backup signal caller, and while that may still be the case, Kaaya isn't as far behind as originally anticipated.
Don't expect Rudock to play outside of himself, but do pay attention to his timing, accuracy and delivery on the intermediary routes this offense is built on.
3. Jarrad Davis
Open practice on Friday had one big takeaway: Jarrad Davis is ready to start hitting.
Davis jarred the ball loose from the grip of Marvin Jones Jr. after the rookie supplied him with a nice pop from his shoulder pads. Glover Quin picked the ball up and ran down the sideline with it as all of the defensive players on the sideline celebrated, much to the chagrin of the players on offense.
For Davis, this has been par for the course during training camp. He’s been the first one to the ball during team drills, finding and plugging the holes with what would be tackles on the gameday.
In order for Detroit to take that next step, their defense needs to play big, and make big plays. Davis, who is coming in as a rookie to lead the defense as their MIKE linebacker, has his fair share of responsibilities, but he hasn't shied away from the task. His vocality during practice has been a positive sign, making all the pre-snap calls, but Friday served as an example of how he's ready to set the tone for this defense—and the linebacker position specifically—to be better than it was a year ago.
4. Keshawn Martin
The Lions have a couple of positions to fill on special teams as both the punt return and kick return duties were vacated when Andre Roberts signed with the Atlanta Falcons during the offseason.
Familiar names like TJ Jones and Jace Billingsley have received reps on punt return, along with newcomers like Jared Abbrederis, Jamal Agnew, and former Michigan State wideout Keshawn Martin. While there hasn’t been a clear pecking order established so far at camp when it comes to returning punts, the Lions worked on kick return during Friday’s practice and used two players exclusively: rookie cornerback Agnew with the first team, and Martin with the second squad.
As is the case with all of the receivers previously mentioned, there are maybe two roster spots to be had at wideout on Detroit’s 53-man roster come the end of this month. One way to make your way onto the roster is to win one of these return jobs. It’s yet to be seen whether the Lions plan on consolidating the return duties like they did last year with Roberts, but smart money says with some added depth this season, the team might want to go the same way in 2017.
While Martin has become a real candidate to claim the return work, he’s also impressed during camp as a receiver, especially in his route-running where he really sinks down into breaks, and leaves them cleanly in and out of routes.