This week, the Detroit Lions will enter Phase Three of the offseason. Starting on Tuesday, May 25, the team will kick off its first of 10 organized team practice activities (OTA). These practices could give us our first look at how the Lions look like as a team. The Lions will be permitted to run 7-on-7s, 9-on-7s, and the all-important 11-on-11 drills. Of course, live contact isn’t allowed until training camp, but this is still the closest we’ll get to a real practice until late July.
Here are the top seven things we’ll be looking for during this week’s set of practices (May 25-27).
Who will show?
This is the biggest question facing the Lions and several other teams around the NFL. Back in April, Lions players released a statement through the NFLPA that they will not participate in voluntary workouts due to COVID-19 concerns. OTAs remain voluntary, so it remains to be seen which players will actually end up showing in Detroit.
However, it certainly looks like players have loosened up from their stances a month ago, and several Lions have traveled to Detroit in the past week or two, according to their social media accounts.
We got our first taste of the Lions’ rookie class with last week’s rookie minicamp, but that was only alongside other rookies. How will they look when lined up against NFL veterans?
And maybe more importantly, will we see Lions first-round pick Penei Sewell? The offensive tackle missed rookie minicamp due to a positive COVID test back in early May. It would appear that he has since been cleared, as he signed his rookie contract in Allen Park late last week, but will he take the field for the first time, and if so, will the Lions push him into the starting lineup right away?
How will the defensive scheme look?
Last week, defensive line coach Todd Wash spilled the beans regarding Detroit’s defensive front. He was surprisingly forthcoming on which positions each player would play. Trey Flowers, for example, we learned will be playing the outside linebacker position in Detroit’s base 3-4 sets, a moderate surprise to many.
But how will everything else look? Who will be manning the starting linebacker positions? How often will they practice their 3-4 base? How often will they be in dime and nickel subpackages? Who the hell is this team’s starting nickel cornerback?
For as much as the Lions coaches gave us last week, there are still endless questions about how the defense will actually look on gameday. With more players likely in attendance this week, we’ll hopefully have a better idea by the end of the week.
Who will take first-team reps in the secondary?
Sticking with the defense, there are no bigger question marks than in Detroit’s secondary. Will Jeff Okudah look like a cornerback reborn after a disappointing rookie season? He’s likely to take a starting position, but who will be alongside him with the first team: Amani Oruwariye, Quinton Dunbar, or maybe even Ifeatu Melifonwu?
The safety position is even less settled. With Duron Harmon not returning, there’s an open spot in the starting lineup. Is it Will Harris’ to lose? Will Dean Marlowe start with the first team?
Which skill position players stick out?
The Lions’ backfield looks pretty set with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams likely filling out a running back by committee situation. Though after offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn talked to The Athletic recently, one has to wonder if that will be closer to a 50/50 split in distribution than previously thought.
The real question here, though is at wide receiver. Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams are the presumed starters on the outside, but can either emerge as a true No. 1? As for depth, everything is up for grabs. Amon-Ra St. Brown is essentially guaranteed a roster spot, but will he take on a significant role in Year 1? What can we make of Quintez Cephus’ future in Detroit? Will any of the young, inexperienced guys pop off?
There always seems to be one offseason wonder at wide receiver. Who will it be this year?
How will coaches run the practices?
Last week, we saw Lions coaches run a pretty loose practice with the rookies. However, that was rookie minicamp. With fewer participants and hoping to make a good first impression with rookies, it’s hard to know if that sort of tone will be carried over into more serious practices.
Additionally, media was never privy to rookie minicamp under Matt Patricia, so it’s hard to compare the new regime to the last. But we saw plenty of Patriot Way OTAs, and it’ll be fascinating to see how these compare.
Matthew Stafford Jared Goff look?
We haven’t seen OTAs run by any quarterback other than Matthew Stafford for the past dozen years. Jared Goff comes to Detroit with plenty of skeptics who believe he’s nothing more than an overpriced bridge quarterback.
This will be his first chance to make an impression on the local Detroit media, and it could set the tone for the rest of his Lions career.