We’ve almost done it, y’all. In exactly a week, the Detroit Lions will open 2018 training camp, and we’ll be just weeks away from watching the team take the field for the preseason and, eventually, the regular season.
Like every year, it’s been a long, arduous offseason. The Lions kicked things off with a coaching search, then went through a somewhat modest free agency period and finished things off with an eventful draft.
The end result is a team drastically different than it was just a year ago. But with a new coaching staff and a new attitude, it’s hard to know who’s job is really safe going into camp. So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which Detroit Lions player has the most on the line at training camp?
My answer: I’m going to cheat and give you three:
1. Ameer Abdullah
The young running back will clearly no longer be the starter in Detroit after the Lions added both second-round draft pick Kerryon Johnson and veteran back LeGarrette Blount. But that doesn’t have to mean his Detroit career is over. Abdullah will need training camp to prove not only that he can be a worthy backup in case of injury, but he could even win himself a contributor role as the team’s kickoff return man. At this point, the Lions don’t have a set kickoff returner—Jamal Agnew, while electric as a punt returner, was subpar in his limited chances as a kickoff returner.
If Abdullah doesn’t impress in training camp, he could very well be gone from the team before the season starts, whether that means via a trade or a straight-up cut.
2. Kerry Hyder Jr.
Coming back from an Achilles injury is one the toughest things for a football player to do. Doing it while learning a completely new defensive scheme has to be a near-impossible task.
That’s exactly what Kerry Hyder is facing. Hyder has consistently beaten the odds since entering the season as an undrafted free agent, and while he doesn’t exactly have stiff competition at his position on the Lions roster, he still has a ton to prove. He only has one full season to his name, and though he looked quite promising that year, recreating that success after a serious injury and under a new scheme poses a tremendous challenge.
3. Jake Rudock
The Lions made a strong commitment to Rudock last offseason, moving on from veteran Dan Orlovsky and waiving sixth-round pick Brad Kaaya just a few months after drafting him. But the Lions brought in a familiar veteran in Matt Cassel this offseason, and suddenly Rudock’s job as Matthew Stafford’s backup is no longer safe.
If Rudock is to develop into a trusted, dependable backup, he needs to show it right now. This is his third year in the league, and if he can’t be a competent backup by now—especially considering he’s been in the same offense for his entire professional career—he probably never will.
The Lions could very well decide to keep three quarterbacks on the roster for 2018, but they’d likely be better served to save the roster spot for elsewhere. It’s Rudock’s job to convince them of that.