5 Questions from the First Week of the Detroit Lions Training Camp
Only one week in (or just under), and things are humming along in Detroit. There are a lot of good things happening in camp, as well as some disappointments.
Let's take a look at some questions still lingering after the first week of camp.
What will become of the backfield?
Jahvid Best is on the rack for the foreseeable future, Mikel Leshoure is battling a hamstring injury, Kevin Smith is never healthy for long.
Not long ago, I was seeing this backfield as a strength, but now it’s a question mark.
It’s not shocking to see Leshoure have a hamstring pull after an Achilles injury. He’s bound to have some lower-body issues; it comes with the territory.
Overall, he has looked good, though, and once the suspension is over, should be a contributor.
Kevin Smith played well last year but was banged up at the end of the year, and that’s been the case any year he’s played. The more he plays, the more banged up he gets.
An interesting possibility is Stefan Logan, a former wide receiver who has been working with the running backs. More of a scatback than anything else, Logan could pair up nicely with either Smith or Leshoure if Best continues to be out for a length of time.
You could also see Ryan Grant or Cedric Benson in for a look as well.
This position feels very unsettled right now.
Is the offensive line good enough to keep Stafford upright?
Adding Riley Reiff in the draft is a good long-term solution, but other than that, the offensive line is basically much the same.
It helped Stafford stay healthy last year, but has been up and down for the last few years overall.
Quicker decisions, more weapons and a run game would help them—some of that they get; some of it they may not.
So far, this has been relatively quiet—which is good. It sounds like the momentum they had last fall will continue this year.
Can Stafford stay healthy two years in a row?
Speaking of guys who need to be healthy—maybe this is more of a general question, but watching Stafford last year showed everyone what he is capable of. The one caveat to that is—say it with me—if he can stay healthy.
There’s no reason to assume he’s going to get hurt if the line protects him and he gets rid of the ball when he has to. In fact, it always seemed like his previous injuries were flukier than most people believed.
Still, one year of injury-free ball in three years for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft is a concern.
The only way he can put those concerns to rest for good is to be healthy. Hopefully, he had good conditioning work this offseason and he can withstand another year of NFL grinding.
His health is very much the key to this season for the Lions, so this is a vital question and something to watch, if just for reassurance.
Is Titus Young for real?
Fellow B/R and Footballguys.com writer Sigmund Bloom coined a phrase a long time ago that I love: near career-death experience.
Any player who does something which endangers their career—to the point where people question if he can recover—gets that phrase.
Titus Young definitely earned it this year. What’s more important than a nice catchphrase, though, is that he has been fired up ever since.
Young looks great in camp so far and can easily lock down that No. 3 job, if not jump Nate Burleson at the No. 2 spot.
Is it for real, though?
Great plays in shorts and shells—or even against your own team in pads—isn’t the same as doing it in a game. Much more important is the question of whether he can control his temper on the field.
If he has all that under control, he will be a tremendous weapon this year. Let’s be honest—if Burleson can be as effective as he was last year opposite Calvin Johns, a man with Young’s talent can see some significant numbers.
If he can keep it together. So far, so good.
Is the secondary good enough?
We know that, barring a tremendous injury to Stafford or maybe Johnson, this is an offense which can put points on the board.
It’d be nice if the defense could keep them off.
Chris Houston is a good corner. Next to him is a giant question mar,k though.
With the departure of Aaron Berry (that’s the nice way of saying "got fired"), the likes of Jacob Lacey, Alphonso Smith and Chris Greenwood are fighting for the spot. All are all right, but nobody all that special.
Which is why I’m all in on rookie Dwight "Little Bill" Bentley, who has looked good in camp so far and is a guy who is pestering wide receivers like Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson for tips when they blow by him. (Not WHILE they blow by him; after.)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again, that is nothing but good coming from any player, let alone a rookie.
Bentley isn’t your prototypical sized player, but that doesn’t always mean a guy can’t play. He’s a tough player, and once he improves his tackling a little, should be very aggressive against the run as well.
I’m looking forward to more from him the next few weeks.
Safety is also a question mark aside from Louis Delmas.
Perhaps third-year player Amari Spievey will step up and take over the strong safety position full-time. Erik Coleman was a decent safety earlier in his career, but age and injury have taken their toll on him and he’s not quite as effective as he once was. Sean Jones is a new face from Tampa Bay, where he had a pair of solid seasons—he may emerge from this to take over at strong safety.
Whatever happens, this will have a huge impact on the overall season. There were games where just one more stop was the difference, and if they can get more of those toss-up games this year, they will contend for the division title.
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