We’re two weeks into the Detroit Lions’ organized team activities, but before we jump into the final week, the NFL has schedule a three-day mandatory minicamp smack dab in the middle. On Tuesday, the Lions’ mandatory minicamp will take place and stretch through Thursday.
Practically speaking, there is very little difference between OTAs and mandatory minicamp. The biggest difference is right there in the name: mandatory minicamp is mandatory, while OTAs are voluntary.
Another noticeable difference is that while media gets access to one OTA practice a week, they are privy to all three days of mandatory minicamp. So if you’re a fan of our daily practice observations, the next three days are going to be fun for you.
But in terms of the actual practices, the two are nearly identical. Full-team drills are allowed, but there is no full contact yet and players will not be wearing pads.
Through two weeks, we’ve had a lot of information thrown our way. We know some of the specifics about Detroit’s new defensive scheme. We know of a couple position changes that are being tried out. We have a clearer picture on the injury statuses of players like Jeff Okudah, DJ Chark, and, to a lesser extent, Jameson Williams and Romeo Okwara.
For some teams, there’s more intrigue in mandatory minicamp because it forces everyone who has skipped out on OTAs to show or face potential fine. But there isn’t much drama there with Detroit, because the only player truly unaccounted for during OTAs was John Penisini.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
What is the biggest Lions storyline heading into mandatory minicamp?
My answer: It may seem lame and unoriginal, but I still think the play of the rookies will be the most interesting part of minicamp. We’ve already seen Aidan Hutchinson make the jump to some first-team packages, but the rest of the rookie class is still working on making an impression.
Injuries have slowed the progression a little bit across the board. Williams remains sidelined. Josh Paschal missed last week’s OTA session open to the public. Tight end James Mitchell remains sidelined with his torn ACL from last September, and Chase Lucas missed at least one day of OTAs for an undisclosed reason.
Aside from those players getting back from injuries, here are my biggest questions about Detroit’s rookie class heading into minicamp:
Can Malcolm Rodriguez work his way into the linebacker competition?
Last week, we saw the Lions play around with the starters, giving Chris Board a lot of time with the first-team offense mostly n place of Derrick Barnes. Given everything this coaching staff has said about competition at the linebacker position, it would not surprise me to see a different player rotated in there on a regular basis. Rodriguez has already earned a lot of praise from this coaching staff, so is it possible the sixth-round pick can climb his way up the depth chart this early? Seems a tad unlikely, but there’s at least some justification around the hype for this pick.
Will James Houston’s pass rush flash against third stringers?
Houston has a while to go before jumping the likes of Julian Okwara, Jarrad Davis, and others who are competing for Detroit’s hybrid SAM linebacker position/edge rusher. But if he starts beating up some of the reserve offensive lineman the way he did at Jackson State last year—and he should—he’ll be turning heads in no time.
How much can Kerby Joseph progress in his rookie offseason?
At this point, I think it would be too much to expect Joseph to earn a starting job right out of the gate. Unless something drastically changes, it appears those jobs belong to Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott. And with the potential move of Ifeatu Melifonwu into the safety room, Joseph has a lot of room to make up in order to get some playing time on defense.
That said, he got some time with the second-team defense last week, and made an impact by notching an interception—and almost a second one. The more he progresses, the stronger case he has for at least being a subpackage guy with potential as an injury fill-in.
Your turn. What storylines will you be following in this week’s mandatory minicamp?