The Detroit Lions return to action Thursday night, as they take on the New England Patriots in the team's preseason opener. While many of the team’s stars will only play limited snaps, if any, there are still a lot of storylines to watch.
Here are the top three to keep an eye on.
The skill position battle
While the top spots on the depth chart in the skill positions seem to be set, there will be a battle at the bottom. Brandon Powell and Tom Kennedy will both be competing to earn a spot on the roster as a second slot receiver, Andy Jones will try to steal a roster spot as another outside receiver. While rookie Travis Fulgham seems to have a roster spot locked up, he still needs to play well to put off any potential challengers.
There are battles at the bottom of the running back and tight end positions as well, as rookie Ty Johnson still needs to lock up a spot, and tight ends Isaac Nauta and Logan Thomas will both hope to give Detroit a reason to keep four tight ends on the roster this year.
Who starts at corner?
Darius Slay will clearly be the CB1 in 2019, but who will start across from him?
Slay may not play tonight, and if he does it will certainly be only a few snaps. The competition for CB2 seems wide open, though. Rashaan Melvin is the front runner, but Teez Tabor and Amani Oruwariye should be in contention as well. Even the dark horses Mike Ford and Marcus Cooper have a chance to earn a starting role, but will be competing for a roster spot as well.
Whatever corners the Lions choose to put out on the field in the first quarter will be a good signal as to who the coaching staff likes most at the moment, and whoever is the current CB2 is probably a lock to make the final roster. Though Cooper and Tabor aren’t expected to play due to injury, this should still be an intriguing storyline to follow Thursday night.
Who starts at guard?
The other big camp battle at left guard. There are a few names in contention, including recently-extended Joe Dahl, Oday Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins. None of them have really managed to stand out in the early weeks of training camp, but Detroit is going to have to put one of them out with the first-team offense tonight, and whoever it is has a leg up on the depth chart at the moment.
With the race for starting guard as close as it is at the moment, though, watching the performance of all three throughout the game will be interesting, as a good game from any of them could give them the upper hand.