From a viewing standpoint, mandatory minicamp isn’t all that different from organized team activities. The practices have the same restrictions—mainly, no pads—and the structure of the sessions are nearly identical. The only real difference from a practice standpoint is they can be 30 minutes longer, and it’s the first stretch of three straight practices in 2019 for the Detroit Lions.
There is one more week of OTAs remaining for the Lions, but here’s what we learned from the three-day mandatory minicamp stretch last week.
Frank Ragnow to center is happening
Though the coaches haven’t straight up admitted it, last week was all the evidence you need to know that the Lions are planning on Ragnow being the starting center in 2019. While Detroit finally shook up the offensive line during minicamp—moving Joe Dahl and Oday Aboushi into the starting guard spots—they didn’t budge Ragnow from the center position. He’s there to stay.
The CB2 spot is still Rashaan Melvin’s to lose
With Darius Slay still sitting out minicamp, the Lions cornerbacks have had their opportunities to shine. Teez Tabor was a huge standout for the first couple weeks of OTAs, but he fell back to reality during the final two sessions of minicamp.
Melvin has had a very quiet few weeks of offseason activities, but that can be a good thing for a cornerback. If you aren’t getting noticed too often, that means you aren’t getting beat too often.
As far as guys like Amani Oruwariye, Mike Ford or anyone else taking a run at the starting job, they all have a lot of work to do before they’re even considered in the running. Oruwariye has been stuck with the twos and threes, while Ford was starting to get some let-team reps at safety. That can’t be a great sign for his chances at sticking as starting cornerback.
The Lions love their tight ends
Late last month I cautioned Lions fans that the Lions may not use tight ends quite as much as you think. The Lions did just about everything to disprove that during minicamp. There was a proliferation of three tight end sets early, there has been plenty of 12 personnel, and it’s clear Matthew Stafford is starting to develop a rapport with his tight ends.
Of course, much of this could be due to Detroit lacking in the wide receiver department. With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. still not participating in team drills, the Lions’ best receiving options on the practice field may just be those tight ends. Still, for all the hype these tight ends are getting early, it appears Detroit may not have been bluffing.
Danny Amendola could be in for a big year
Amendola has some pretty huge shoes to fill in Golden Tate, and he’s certainly not as capable as making the huge splash plays that Tate did throughout his Lions career, but based on the first few weeks of practice, he could quickly develop into Stafford’s security blanket.
More than any other player, Amendola seemed to be in Stafford’s ear constantly. The two were seen working one-on-one, and Amendola shined over the middle of the field during minicamp.
I’m not expecting 80 catches or 1,000 yards from Amendola this late in his career with a new offense and quarterback, but I certainly think we could see some similar production to his years with New England. Think in the 60-catch, 650-yard range.
The Lions are deeeeeeeeeeeep at safety
Without a doubt, the Lions’ deepest position on the roster right now is safety, and they’re going to flaunt it in 2019. We already know that Detroit likes utilizing three-safety sets on defense, and now that they have even better personnel at the position (no offense to Glover Quin), they’re probably going to use it more often.
Quandre Diggs and Tracy Walker are your obvious starters for this season, but third-round pick Will Harris is pretty much guaranteed to get some playing time. However, the depth doesn’t end there. Veteran Tavon Wilson reminded everyone during minicamp that he has the best grasp of this defense, as he made plays on a daily basis (though, he was running mostly with the second-team defense). Free agent addition Andrew Adams has also looked promising during his limited reps. And don’t forget a guy like Charles Washington, who brings a ton of special teams value.
Chances are the Lions are going to have to let go of a talented safety come September.