Detroit Lions 2012: Rookies Looking Good in Training Camp
The Detroit Lions are making a lot of news right now, but lost in the grind of training camp is the fact that the Lions might have their best draft class in years. The Lions look to have hit on players throughout the draft, from the first round to the last.
The Lions used their first-round pick on Riley Reiff, a tackle who will play for a long time in the NFL. He has looked extremely solid in training camp, and he will take the left tackle job when Jeff Backus retires, if not before that.
Reiff has made steady progress in training camp, and his performance during their first preseason game caught head coach Jim Schwartz’s eye. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Reiff's play has impressed Schwartz.
“He was playing in the second half of the game, but he did a really nice job, and it’s good to see from him,” Schwartz said. “It’s been part of his progression. He’s improved every single day, like we’ve talked about, and it translated to the game.”
Bill Bentley has surprised by his play in training camp, and his performance in his first professional game was worth noting. He started the game and played against Cleveland’s first team. He got beat early by a well-thrown ball but responded nicely and ended up making some plays.
He showed great click-and-close ability and dropped an interception that was going to go for a touchdown. He also jumped a route and picked off a pass. In all, it was a terrific start for Bentley. The Lions drafted Bentley in the third round, and he has been one of the biggest surprises of training camp.
The Lions took Ronnell Lewis in Round 4 of the 2012 NFL draft. Lewis is a special teams menace but has managed to make some plays during training camp and in the Lions’ first preseason game. Lewis came off the edge to make an important tackle near the goal line against the Browns. Lewis’ best bet to make the team is on special teams.
Tahir Whitehead came to the Lions in Round 5 of the draft, and he has surprised coaches and teammates alike. Whitehead is standing out with his demeanor and playing abilities.
According to Tim Twentyman of detroitlions.com, Whitehead has made an impression on linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
“He's explosive and smart,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said of Whitehead. “He's understanding and takes coaching very well, and he doesn't make the same mistakes. Whenever you see a rookie that corrects his mistakes week in and week out, day in and day out, it's a definite positive—a guy you can trust on the field. I'm looking forward to seeing him grow as we go through training camp.”
Travis Lewis was a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma. He was a standout linebacker at Oklahoma, starting all 54 games he played there. He also led the Sooners in tackles in each of his four years there.
Lewis has surprised the Lions' coaching staff with his football intelligence and his ability to adjust to the Lions' scheme on defense. According to Tim Twentyman of detroitlions.com, Lewis has shown that he can go out and play without his head getting in the way. Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham have noticed.
“I don’t want to jinx him but he has really been outstanding,” Schwartz said of Lewis. “No. 1 physically but No. 2 just his picking up the scheme. It’s one thing to know what to do but it’s another thing being able to do it when the offense is coming out quick and motioning and coming out quick and doing all those different things.
“He’s never once had any kind of problem. He’s adjusted very, very quickly to a pretty complex scheme. It says a lot about him and a lot about his coaches and his experience at Oklahoma.”
“Travis Lewis, I can’t get over him,” Cunningham said. “He is probably, other than (Tulloch), the top two middle backers calling defenses. That’s a mouthful and people don’t believe it’d come out of him. He handles things like I’ve never seen a kid handle.”
The Lions' 2012 rookie class is creating some extremely positive vibes, and that means exceptional things for the Lions down the road. The list of players making news does not include second-round wide receiver Ryan Broyles (who is slowly coming back from a torn ACL in November), fifth-round cornerback Chris Greenwood or sixth-round cornerback Jonte Green.
The Lions are expecting exciting things from Broyles, especially in 2013. They love the raw athleticism of Greenwood and Green. When put together, a picture starts to emerge. That picture tells the story of a phenomenal draft class, perhaps the best group of rookies to come to the Lions in a long time.
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