The Detroit Lions will be one of four teams beginning mandatory minicamp this week, which kicks off on Tuesday afternoon. The media will be invited to watch all three practices this week, which means we may actually get some legitimate information about the 2018 squad. Though pads remain off, full football drills are now allowed at this point in the offseason, giving us a chance to see what the team may look like this upcoming season.
So here are the biggest storylines facing the Lions as we enter minicamp season.
Ragnow Watch 2018
The Detroit Lions’ first-round pick Frank Ragnow remains the team’s biggest mystery. Throughout rookie minicamp and the first week of OTAs, it has looked like the team may be grooming him as the starting left guard. Thus far, we have yet to see him practice with the first team offense at center.
However, he has apparently taken reps at the position with the second and/or third teams, as seen by official photos from the team. Lions coaches say no decision has been made on Ragnow’s 2018 position, so this week’s minicamp could provide more clarity both for the coaches and for the fans.
Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme
Last week, defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni downplayed the importance of implementing their defensive scheme at this point in the offseason.
“We’re not so much worried about scheme,” Pasqualoni said. “I think the scheme will, in the end, take care of itself. I think the issue right now is improving fundamentally and learning how to play technique.”
However, as the offseason rolls on, the Lions’ game plan on defense will start to become more clear. We know there will be some three-man fronts. We know there will be some four-man fronts. But there are still endless questions to be had about this scheme and certain individual roles within this defense.
Where will players like Devon Kennard and Quandre Diggs play? Who will be charged with rushing the quarterback? How will the stacked secondary shake out?
All those questions remain unanswered, and while we won’t get 100 percent clarity this week, we should be a little closer to some answers.
We’re obviously still three months from the Lions’ first regular season game, but offseason programs are important for proper development and preparation for the upcoming season.
During the first week of OTAs, Lions media noted a few significant injury updates. TJ Jones and Tavon Wilson, who both underwent surgery late last season, were sporting red no-contact jerseys during practice. Additionally, it will be interesting to see where Kerry Hyder is in his rehabilitation, after suffering a torn Achilles during the 2017 preseason.
However, perhaps most concerning may be the status of Ezekiel Ansah, who did not participate in most team drills during Week 1 of OTAs. Ansah’s career has been recently marred by injuries, and his health has been his biggest weakness. After having minor knee surgery this offseason, the Lions may just be taking it easy with the key pass rusher, but they can’t keep him on the shelf forever.
With the pads remaining off, we won’t get a full look at each individual’s health, but player participation will be interesting to note nonetheless.
During Week 1 of OTAs, the Lions were pretty short-handed at safety. With the aforementioned Wilson out of team drills in a red no-contact jersey and Glover Quin absent due to family obligations, the Lions relied heavily on Quandre Diggs and Miles Killebrew at safety during practice. With Quin expected to attend mandatory minicamp, how will that affect the safety depth chart?
Will Diggs move back to nickel corner? Will Miles Killebrew drop down to a more linebacker/safety hybrid role? If Wilson remains tagged with the no-contact jersey, who will play aside Quin with the first-team defense?
Running game back?
Lions fans everywhere are excited about the prospect of having a successful running game in place. The Lions have done just about everything possible to finally turn around the ground game over the past few offseasons. They’ve drafted offensive linemen high in the draft for the past few years. They’ve added proven, veteran talent to work aside those young linemen. They’ve overhauled the coaching staff to help implement a more efficient running scheme. And now they have two fresh bodies atop the running back depth chart in LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson.
In other words, the Lions are fresh out of excuses. There’s no reason Detroit should continue to rank among the bottom of the league in yards per carry.
With no contact allowed in practice, we aren’t going to really have any idea how effective the Lions’ running game will be by the end of this week. However, we may get a better idea of what the running game may look like. Zone blocking or power? Fullback or no fullback? Will Kerryon be the workhorse back or will the Lions go running back by committee? Does Ameer Abdullah have any role in this offense this year?
Hopefully we’ll get at least a little clarity in these three upcoming practices.