Now that training is over, I wanted to take a step back and think about what I’ve learned over the last month since the draft. This is an opinion piece and leans optimistic. I do not have sources noted. Just going off memory of what I’ve read from observation articles from various sources. I do not have an editor and use of things like punctuation and capitalization may be inconsistent/incorrect. Thanks for bearing with me.
- Positive stand outs (no particular order): Offensive rookies, Vaitai’s return, Goff’s advancement, Derrick Barnes development, EDGE health, the new DB swagger, Jamo’s work on the field.
- Concerns: Ragnow’s long term availability, Glasgow/O-line depth, Safety #3/4, QB to Wide Receiver relationships, ongoing injuries (though no new major injuries is a positive).
A little longer highlights:
- No heavy work left for the front office. The roster does not have glaring holes that need to be filled. The additions of Covington, Ifedi and Patterson finished the job this offseason. They can add talent, but there is not a position of need like there has been in years past.
- Quiet(er) Coaching. Things seem to be quieter without Deuce Staley. New coaches like Scottie Montgomery, John Scott Jr, Dre Bly are letting the focus fall on the players (Especially the new vocal DBs) and existing big personalities (Holmes, Campbell and Glenn).
- "Multiple" Schemes: Multiple is the word not just for the defense but also the offense. This will be an attacking team and they plan to come at you in unpredictable formations. Whether it’s Safeties that shift to Linebacker, or Running Backs who become Wide Receivers this will not be a conventional team. 3-4, 4-3, or 46 they have personnel on defense to make it all work. 11, 12, 21 or 22 formations on offense they have the personnel to do
- Quarterback(s): Goff has settled in as #1, no question. Goff is willing and able to throw down field this year. There is currently no competition for #2, currently. Sudfeld provides a stable presence. Hooker’s future appears bright.
- Rookies: The rookies that were expected to step up for starting roles are doing just that (Gibbs and LaPorta). The rest that we expected need development are doing just that.
- The DBs are going to be a strength. I am fully buying into the new DB room and their swagger. This is going to be a tough group to make the decision on the final roster spot or two.
- My biggest concern is o-line. What is the perceived strength of this team is not a sure done deal due to injuries and lack of depth. It is fantastic to hear that the starting five were all playing together at the end of the last practice.
- There will not be a battle this year in the linebacker room. Everything is pretty set player wise. The main question there is Campbell’s development timeline.
- Jamo is focused and flashing his talent. It has not been all smooth, but it has been positive.
- D-Line: Is Christian Covington the 2023 answer to the hole that is missing with Levi’s injury?
Now onto the position-by-position details:
Quarterbacks: I think they are OK with the room where it’s heading into the summer.
Goff is the guy who will throw a pass down the field this off season. He is FAR ahead of last year. He is ready to build on a successful 2nd half of 2022. Does still need some work getting in sync with his wide receivers.
Sudfeld is better than feared. His biggest positive seems to be his connection with the other players and his accuracy.
Hooker can talk the talk and is further along than expected in his recovery. Already taking light reps after practice. His spirals are tight even in heavy winds. His potential future is bright.
Martinez appears to be worse than hoped, he is still young and it’s very early.
Running Back: The starters are known, and they seem comfortable with the pieces behind them. Will depth change now that Scottie Montgomery is RB coach?
David Montgomery’s injury may be the low light of OTAs. Fortunately, it does not sound serious. I still think he will be the "workhorse" back for the team.
Gibbs looks like a hybrid back/receiver. Described as dynamic, the rookie is already working with the first team.
Reynolds looks like he’ll be holding down RB3 as Mr. Reliable. When he is on the field things are stable but lack game breaking opportunity.
Jefferson/Bell: Both can add a spark but uncertain in reliability. Still not sure who flashed when Reynolds was out last week. They wear # 28 and 29, respectively and are similar size. Blocking and special teams will be their key to the roster.
Ibrahim looked good with the rookies but was reportedly slower than the rest of the backs at OTAs. Sounds like he has a long road to make the roster.
Wide Receivers: The room looks set and not much to talk about outside of Jamo, who is making significant positive progress on the field. ARSB, Reynolds, Raymond, MJJ are all locks for the roster. There is likely one more roster spot available.
Based on draft status that last spot will likely go to Green. Green appears to be an MJJ clone and is getting regular interaction with him. No flashes yet. No serious mistakes either.
Kennedy and Cota are competing for "reliable PS guy". Kennedy is the known quantity but lacks size. Cota has the size but as an unknown.
Alexander and Drummond (pleasant surprise) are competing to be the future gadget/ST player. Both have flashed.
Trinity Benson is apparently still recovering from the knee injury from last year. Has major work to do to make the roster.
Tight Ends/Fullback: Roster is full here.
LaPorta looks legit and is already taking reps with the first team (mostly 2nd team). He will likely be TE1 come the regular season. He expands past in-line to WR routes. Blocking protections when the pads come on will be the difference.
Brock Wright is the "Wright" answer for dependable tight end role and will be seeing plenty on inline snaps.
Mitchell is still developing, which is fine. May be competing with Wright soon.
Zylstra is still a mystery with the reported weight loss but seems to be sticking with the TE group.
Deese looks to be a good find as a PS development player now that he is healthy.
Starting O-line: Veteran injuries/time off have me a bit worried about this group. Those who I don’t have a concern about: Decker, Sewell and Jackson (get an extension done).
Vaitai is on the practice field and has returned to his starting role. He’s on a snap count but without setbacks should be ready by the regular season. Fantastic news.
Ragnow’s ongoing foot injury is the most worrisome news out of OTAs. Going into OTAs the thought is that he would be fully healed up. The news is that the foot is not operable. He can still play but pain management will be a concern for the rest of his career. Note: I’d feel a lot better with Evan Brown still on the team. But, good for Brown to have the opportunity to compete for a starting role in Seattle.
Glasgow (G/C): Filling in as the number one reserve at both guard positions and center. I’m glad his veteran presence is with the team. There are some reports that he is getting beaten regularly. Much will work its way out when the pads come on.
Sorsdal: He’s developing like he’s expected. Clearly not ready for a starting role. Can his development match the timing of team needs?
Pierschbacher (C/G): Number 2 center. Is he the new Evan Brown? He was the front office’s first signing this off season. With Ragnow’s situation, it is likely we are going to see a lot of Pierschbacher in training camp. He has clearly jumped ahead of most of the rest of the iOL depth.
Awosika: Injured…again. I had high hopes for him when they poached him from the Eagles. He had a 79.7 PFF grade on 49 snaps at Right Guard in 2021. He cannot seem to be healthy here in Detroit.
Stenberg: Once the hope for the future at Right Guard. Just cannot switch from left to right. Looks like Glasgow and Sorsdal are now the back-up plan at right guard. Trying him out (again) as third team center.
Cecil: Stenberg is snapping ahead of him at center.
Paulo: Still hanging around and filling in at most any spot, including...
Offensive Tackle Depth:
Nelson: Getting work as left tackle with the "ones" when Decker takes a veteran break. Previously right side only. I have not read any impressive comments.
Eze: Regularly repping with the twos on the left side. Which is an upgrade from last year.
Ifedi: I thought he would come in and unseat Nelson on day one. Working with the third team, right side only.
Pircher: Free spot on the practice squad as the international player. Doubtful that they will move on from that opportunity to carry an extra player. Left tackle with the 3rd offense.
UDFAs: Swoboda (RT) and Galvin (LT): No new information.
Interior D-line: McNeill is a lock as a starter.
Christian Covington is already getting starting reps even with Buggs in the facility.
Buggs missed a couple of weeks of OTAs and is repping with the 2nd team.
Martin is already repping ahead of Benito Jones and showing off his unique physical skills by swatting down passes.
Levi O: On the field but limited. Going to make a real attempt to return.
Benito Jones & UDFAs Durden and Smith: No new information
EDGEs: Expect a greater rotation this year to get the talent on the field.
Hutchinson is a lock at weakside EDGE.
Cominsky gets the starting snaps opposite Hutchinson in walk throughs but was sitting out afterwards.
Paschal is healthy and is additionally getting work on the interior after playing exclusively on the edge last year.
Romeo and Charles Harris are both healthy and both have seen 1st/2nd team reps.
Zach Morton: No new information
Linebacker/EDGE Hybrid/SAM: Situational position. The major change with these players transitioned last year. They are now fully incorporated into the Linebacker room and no longer part of the d-line.
Julian Okwara: First in at this position when using this sub-package.
Houston: Roster lock. Spending time learning off the ball linebacker skills again. Not convinced the experiment is worth it.
Linebacker: Last year carried at least six, half for special teams. I wonder if they may split that special team’s role with the SAMs?
AA is a roster loc and continues to be a vocal team leader.
Rodriguez is injured. It is reportedly not serious, but he needed more help than Montgomery needed to leave the practice field. Worth keeping an eye on for training camp.
Barnes made a significant step forward repping with the ones. This might be the biggest positive development for a player already on the roster from 2022.
Campbell is repping with the second team. Clearly a physical presence but will need time with the complexity of the position.
Reeves-Maybin: Welcome back! Working with the 2nd team at WILL.
Pittman: Playing all three linebacker roles.
Nowaske: 3rd team reps, no new information.
DB/Cornerback: The position that has changed the most from 2022. They have a swagger that was missing the last couple of years.
Sutton changes everything, CB #1. Leader.
Moseley is still recovering. Walk-throughs as CB2.
Jacobs CB2/3. Fully healthy. Roster lock. Taking 1st team reps. Much more vocal. 1st team gunner.
DB/Nickel/Star: This position is a little tricky as the players may also play other DB roles.
CJGJ changes everything. Vocal passionate leader. Nickel on walk though. Strong Safety when Walker leaves or 4 DB sets. May not come off the field the entire season.
Will Harris: He has found a role. Taking Nickle #1 reps when CJGJ is out or playing safety. Also, 3rd CB snaps, sometimes with the 1st team. Likely to fill in as CB 4 on the final roster but flexible to play multiple positions. 1st team gunner.
Brian Branch is a lock and developing well. Playing 2nd/3rd team defense as Nickel or Safety. Provides special teams depth as a personal protector (bonus).
DB/Safety: Do they carry depth here or split snaps with the Nickel/Star defenders CJGJ and Branch?
Kerby is a free safety lock. Still making interceptions.
Walker is close to returning and doing the walk through with the 1st team.
Iffy: Getting reps with the ones. Reportedly improved. Still struggling in some situations.
DB Depth: It’s a talented but crowded group. One or two roster spots up for grabs.
Chase Lucas (Nickel/CB): 2021 draft pick but often injured (again). Did Branch take his roster spot?
Starling Thomas: This years UDFA gem that can run with Jamo but is VERY grabby with multiple would-be penalties. Gunner ability?
Brady Breeze: Stable and steady depth as a safety and special teams’ ability (PP)
Savion Smith: Fully recovered from his scarry injury last year. Special teams (PP)
Gilmore, Dorcey, Williams and Joseph. All have flashed but all have a significant battle to move up the chart.
Kicker battle: Badgley is the incumbent and not competing (injury?). The current battle is Patterson (consistent) vs Romo (big leg). Romo looks like he is in the lead with great practice last week despite Patterson being slightly better this week.