The open portion of Detroit Lions minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs) had come to a conclusion. The Lions do still have one more practice session scheduled this week for Thursday, but after that, the team will break until late July for training camp.
So let’s reflect on what we’ve learned over the past month as the Lions have now worked through all three phases of offseason workouts. Here are 10 things we’ve learned about the 2018 Detroit Lions.
Frank Ragnow is almost certainly playing left guard in 2018
Though there were moments in which we saw Ragnow getting limited reps at center (with the second-team offense), he was predominantly working at left guard during offseason workouts. In fact, there isn’t evidence of a single rep in which Ragnow was at center with the first string.
Toward the end of offseason workouts—at least during practices open to the media—Ragnow was taking reps at guard exclusively. If the Lions are planning on playing Ragnow at center this year, they are certainly taking an odd approach to getting him ready.
Lions linebackers are going to have a lot more sacks this year
As the offseason progressed, there was growing concern that the Lions were lacking the edge rushers needed to provide a consistent pass rush. However, it became very apparent during OTAs that the Lions intend on generating pressure from the second level of the defense.
Throughout offseason practices, the Lions were constantly running blitzing drills for their linebackers and moving them around all over the formation. Last year, the Lions only 3.5 sacks from their linebackers. Expect that number to triple in 2018.
There is a legitimate backup quarterback battle
Matt Cassel wasn’t just signed this offseason to look pretty and take snaps. The veteran quarterback is going to push Jake Rudock for the Lions’ backup quarterback job. The two traded days in which they worked with the second-team offseason, although it seems like Rudock has the early lead heading into training camp. Reports out of OTAs are that Rudock looks more comfortable than ever in his third year under the Lions offense.
The Lions have some talented WRs
We all know that the combo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. was one of the best one-two punches in the NFL last season, but the Lions’ depth at receiver has been on display over the past month.
Kenny Golladay looks primed to take a significant role with the offense. Jace Billingsley’s versatility has been on display. And Teo Redding is this year’s camp darling.
The Lions have had some injury luck at the receiver position as of late (knock on wood), but if they run into trouble in 2018, they may have the talent to weather the storm.
The Lions like their young cornerbacks
When the Lions re-signed Nevin Lawson and added DeShawn Shead, there was concern that was a sign Detroit was not happy with guys like Teez Tabor or Jamal Agnew as legitimate cornerback options. However, based on minicamp practices, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Both Tabor and Agnew got significant playing time with the first-team defense last week, and Tabor specifically sounded like he was more comfortable than last year.
“Tabor has spent extensive time working with the first team at the outside cornerback spot opposite Slay, including for the entirety of the first day of minicamp on Tuesday,” noted MLive’s Kyle Meinke. “He looked good, too.”
Of course, both of these guys getting first-team reps may simply be the team testing the waters, but it’s still a display of confidence from the Lions coaches.
The Lions backfield is going to be different... very different
If you thought the Lions were going to take it slow with second-round pick Kerryon Johnson, you were badly mistaken. Johnson was immediately sharing first-team reps alongside free agent pickup LeGarrette Blount.
As for the leftovers from last year? Ameer Abdullah, Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner were all basically afterthoughts when it came to first-team reps. Hell, Tion Green has already been cut.
We knew the Lions had made big changes to the backfield, but I’m not sure many saw the transformation happening so quickly.
Injuries still suck
Last year, OTAs proved devastating for the Lions. Taylor Decker tore his labrum during an offseason practice and missed the first few months of the season because of it.
While nothing that drastic has happened to the team yet (knock on wood), the Lions did suffer a significant injury. Seventh-round rookie fullback Nick Bawden reportedly tore his ACL during minicamp. Though the team has yet to confirm this injury and has not placed him on IR as of Wednesday morning, the expectation is that he will miss his entire rookie season.
Also, we’re still waiting on those magical words: “Ezekiel Ansah was a full participant in today’s practice.”