Hey, Lions fans. How’s everyone doing? Hanging in there? I get it. Life without football sucks. We’re in that dark period where unless you’re a soccer fan, all you have to get you by is baseball. Of course, baseball is the “Lord of the Rings” of professional sports. It’s really slow, long and boring, and most the time, you don’t even know why you’re watching it.
Well, fear not, everyone. We’re almost there. The Detroit Lions will return to training camp this week, and I can’t tell you how excited I am, because now we can get into the full swing of things. Now we can really start talking about the season and real expectations we should have. Wait... hold on... what? Okay, I’m being told not to have any expectations this early. Sorry guys, scrap that part.
So with camp getting started and the first preseason game just two weeks after that, I want to talk to you today about the five camp storylines that everyone should be following. They’re very important. They could very well save your life. Let’s jump in.
Who’s getting hurt?
Let’s just rip it off like a band-aid. I don’t want anything to happen and neither do you. But we all know somebody is going to get hurt. Whether it’s a very important player or a bubble guy remains to be seen.
It’s something that’s bound to happen in every single training camp around the league. Star players will go down and some of them will miss the entire season. Last year, the Lions had tons of injury issues in the weeks prior to the season. Kerry Hyder missed the entire year, Ezekiel Ansah missed the entire camp, and Eric Ebron missed a lot of camp, to name a few.
Who is the camp darling?
It happens every single year. A player that has no business making the 53-man roster will acquire an awkwardly large fan base while working over third-string players in preseason games—especially at quarterback. Remember Kellen Moore? I’ve gotten death threats for insulting Moore. Jake Rudock is also supposed to be the second coming as well.
It’s not just those positions. How about Jerome Couplin, Chris Greenwood, Zach Zenner, Carmen Messina (he was my favorite,) Havard Rugland, Matt Willis and George Winn?
Of course none of those player shave amounted to much. Sure, Zach Zenner has made the team the past few years, but he’s almost a certainty to get cut this year, in my opinion. Somewhere Carmen Messina is plotting his comeback, and you’re all gonna be sorry the Lions passed on him five years ago.
As for this year, the front runner for camp darling is rookie receiver Teo Redding. The kid might actually have a chance to backup TJ Jones if he has a good camp. It should be interesting to see what other names pop up soon.
Who will be the clear cut starter at running back?
I’ve been covering the Lions since the 2014 season. Since that following summer, I’ve been saying the Lions should or will revert to a running back by committee type of scheme. The good people over at Allen Park are apparently doing the opposite to make me look dumb. I don’t need help with that very often, but I appreciate it.
This year I’m saying it again, but with good reason. This is probably the most diverse backfield the Lions have had in a very long time, if not ever. And because of that, I have questions about how it’s all going to go down.
The most prevalent one is who’s going to head this whole thing up? If I had to guess right now, it’s rookie Kerryon Johnson. Here’s a player that seems like he’s going to be quite successful in his career. Even NFL Network’s Kay Adams thinks he’s poised to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
But Johnson still has to go out and prove it. Ameer Abdullah could redeem himself and LeGarrette Blount could also come out in front, seeing as he’s the savvy vet. Maybe even Theo Riddick shows he has what it takes to be more than a guy in the pass game.
There’s a good chance that the first scenario laid out here is the one, but you never know with training camp. And that’s the fun of it, isn’t it?
Will the offensive line shine?
This is, by far, the most important storyline to follow at camp this summer. Why? Because in my opinion, this is the biggest difference between the Lions being contenders and the Lions either missing the playoffs or getting bounced in the wild card.
I bring this Kyle Meinke stat up all the time, but he really nailed it here. The Lions went through 10 different offensive line variations in 2018 and only had their best unit for 95 out of 980 snaps. That’s insane. The run game suffered because if it and Matthew Stafford got beat up all year because of it.
Everyone is actually healthy right now. Someone quickly knock on wood, please.
But there are still some questions. The biggest one being who is playing center? Will it be first round draft pick Frank Ragnow? Or will it be Graham Glasgow? Glasgow took the majority of reps there during OTAs, but camp will begin to give us a definite answer.
Will Matt Patricia lose the team?
I fear that if Patricia keeps disciplining and conditioning his players, he’s going to lose this team before the season starts. Okay, this one is a joke.
How quickly will Patricia’s impact be felt?
In the end, this is the biggest question on everyone’s mind. Will Matt Patricia make the big difference that so many are hoping for? And if he does, is this something that Lions fans should expect to see right away?
The cynic in me says that this is something that likely won’t begin to click until the regular season is up and running. The believer in me thinks that this is something the Lions will display right away.
To the joke above, I believe there’s really something to the idea that the Lions may wind up being better conditioned than they’ve ever been. They may also be more disciplined and less likely to make mistakes. There seems to be a difference being made already in those regards.
Where I worry is the scheme change on defense. If the Lions do employ the “Do Your Job” tactic I mentioned last week, that has to be something that takes time to get in place. If anything, we should at least start to get an answer to that question at camp.