The Detroit Lions are in the second week of their Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and once again the select local media will receive access to one of the practices. Pride of Detroit will be represented by both myself and Jeremy Reisman in Allen Park (weather permitting—if they practice indoors, only one can attend), and here are the main storylines we will be looking at.
Who will show?
Keeping in mind these practices are still voluntary, last week, more than 80 players attended Week 1 of OTAs, but there were some notable absences. On offense, rookie RB Rakeem Boyd appeared injured during rookie mini-camp and it may have factored into why he was not present last week, WR Tom Kennedy was also absent, newly signed TE Charlie Taumoepeau as well, and rumored to be on the trade block OT Tyrell Crosby. On defense, DT Michael Brockers—who reportedly will be in camp this week—, DT John Atkins, and LB Jamie Collins, also missed.
If Crosby is in attendance, where does he fit in the rotation?
With Crosby absent last week, Reisman noted in his observations that first-round pick Penei Sewell was running with the starters at right tackle. If Crosby is in Allen Park, will he reclaim his old starting role? Will he be in a rotation with Sewell? Or will he be relegated to the second line?
Will we see more action from the quarterbacks?
With no pads during OTAs, 7-on-7s are typically limited. Last week the Lions only ran 11 plays during that portion of practices. Jared Goff was at quarterback on one field, while Tim Boyle and David Blough worked on the other. Will coach Dan Campbell expand this period to include more plays? Will the offense open up their plays downfield more? Will we get more looks from the reserves? I’m not expecting much change from last week.
Will we get to see any new wrinkles in the defensive formations/packages?
The lack of exposure to scrimmage-based practice periods also limits what we can take away from the Lions’ defensive scheme. While things will still likely be very vanilla, how the defense adjusts to the offense will help us get a clearer picture of what’s to come.
Will any wide receivers separate themselves from the pack?
There seems to be a clear grouping of receiver tiers, but not a lot of separation between the players within the groups. No one stood out last week, so this time around we will be looking for anyone to show off their skill set. Will there be a clear top option among the receivers? Can a young player surprise and throw himself into the mix?
Will the cornerback pairings remain?
Last week Jeff Okudah and Quinton Dunbar paired up and worked opposite one another, while Amani Oruwariye and Ifeatu Melifonwu also saw time together. Right now there isn’t a clear top option or pairing among the corners, but how they practice this week could tell us if coaches like these pairings, or if things are more wide open than previously thought.
How the defense adjusts in sub-package sets
Corn Elder looks to have the inside track for the nickel corner spot, but the Lions have other options they can use in specific situations. Mike Ford has shown well as a speed matchup option in the past. Melifonwu could be an option to offset a big slot receiver. A number of safeties could see the field versus tight ends or running backs who flex out. Will the Lions be relying on Elder to hold down the spot or is this a position that could see a rotation of players.
Which safeties will step up?
Tracy Walker seems like a lock to earn one of the starting roles, but who steps up and grabs the other is still very much a mystery. Will it be the youngster Will Harris, the veteran who “just needs a shot” in Dean Marlow, or some combination of the two? This is also another position where a rookie or young player—like C.J. Moore, Jalen Elliott, or Bobby Price— could step up and surprise.
Any special teams standouts?
Most of the team is going to be participating in portions of special teams work and at this stage, nothing seems settled. The final few spots of the 53-man roster are typically determined by special teams contributors, so how players perform in these drills can go a long way.
Will the coaches maintain their energy/approach?
Through two practices available to the media, the Lions’ coaching staff has been energetic and engaged, while also sprinkling in some fun elements into practices. Will things tighten up as practices progress, or is this just how the staff operates?