The 5 Biggest Takeaways from the Detroit Lions' Rookie Minicamp
For the Detroit Lions, rookie minicamp is a time to get their newest players on the field and acclimate them to the NFL grind. It's not a time for position battles to be won or lost, but there are still things one can take away from the weekend that was.
The Lions assembled a talented group of rookies. Some are already penciled in as starters, others will be solid depth guys and some will be relegated to special teams.
Others won't be on the roster when the regular season starts.
Rookie minicamp didn't clarify any of that, but here are some things we know.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from this past weekend.
5. No One Got (Seriously) Injured
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Injuries happen every day in the NFL, but the Detroit Lions always seem to get hit the hardest. They lose one or two of their youngest stars each year.
So far so good. There are no "serious" injuries to speak of at the conclusion of rookie minicamp.
Actually, Warford did return to the field later in the day, so it would appear things are fine.
Then there's Darius Slay. According to ESPN, he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery for a torn meniscus on Friday, but doctors say he could play in 10 days if he needed to. He sat out rookie camp, but he'll be ready to go for training camp.
Slay wasn't active this weekend, but he did get some valuable one-on-one time with Gunther Cunningham. That private tutor session more than makes up for the missed time on the field this weekend.
4. Havard Rugland Has a Lot to Learn
Prior to the draft, the Lions signed veteran kicker David Akers to presumably take over for the recently retired Jason Hanson.
Akers had a subpar season last year in San Francisco, so the Lions were wise to bring in others to compete for the job.
Of course by "others" I mean Harvard "Kickalicious" Rugland, the YouTube kicking sensation who, until this weekend, had never put on a football helmet.
The Lions got Rugland a helmet this weekend. It fits and he seems to be adjusting well. The next step will be to don pads and see if he can still boot a 60-yarder while wearing them.
If not, the job will go to Akers and Rugland will go back to making viral videos in Norway.
3. Patrick Edwards Is a Lock to Make the Final Roster
Lions fans have heard the media sing the praises of Patrick Edwards before. Last summer he was the darling of training camp. Even though he had many of the same struggles as other rookies—his route running and command of the offense needed to improve—he made plays and stood out.
Edwards was placed on the Lions' practice squad prior to the start of the regular season, but his performance in training camp put him in a great position.
As Justin Rogers of MLive.com reports, Edwards would have been an ideal call-up after Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles were lost to injury last season. Unfortunately, Edwards was dealing with his own injury and missed a golden opportunity.
He's healthy now, and as Rogers' article reports, he looked head and shoulders better than the other young receivers at camp.
His development as a receiver isn't the only reason he's a lock to make the roster though. We know Mayhew and Schwartz love versatile players, and Edwards brings a lot to the table. Besides catching the football he has plenty of experience as a return man.
Lucky for him the Lions are in need of one, so look for Edwards to be in the mix for kickoff and punt returns.
His ability to do multiple things will ultimately earn him a roster spot.
2. Brandon Pettigrew Better Watch His Back
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Brandon Pettigrew's had the Lions' starting tight end spot locked down for the past four years, and on paper, it doesn't look like that will change in 2013.
After all, Tony Scheffler is a nice complementary player but hasn't beaten Pettigrew out yet.
The Lions also drafted a TE in the seventh round—Michael Williams—and signed another as an undrafted free agent—Joseph Fauria.
Nothing to worry about right?
Actually, the Lions late-round tight ends have a decent shot at putting significant pressure on Pettigrew, particularly Fauria.
He's got a lot to prove as a blocker, but as a downfield threat, he's second to none. As Foxsportsdetroit.com reported, he was a slot receiver his senior year at UCLA and caught 12 touchdown passes, the same number as Tavon Austin who was the No. 8 overall pick in the draft.
Fauria, 6'7", 255 lbs and the nephew of former NFL tight end Christian Fauria, has the size and pedigree to be a solid pro.
Not only that, he's got a permanent chip on his shoulder from not being drafted. Look for him to work his tail off to prove the naysayers wrong.
In the process, he could earn himself a roster spot, and with a quarterback like Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball, the sky is the limit.
Watch out, Pettigrew!
1. Ezekiel Ansah Is Right Where He Should Be
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There were struggles and adjustment periods this weekend, but when it was all said and done first-round pick Ezekiel Ansah performed, and dominated, like a first-rounder should.
Detroitnews.com's Chris McCosky reported:
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah, the fifth overall pick in the draft, did what he was supposed to do. He got visibly better and more confident every day. There were times, especially on Sunday, when he completely dominated the 11-on-11 drills.
It's great news to hear that Ansah wasn't completely lost this weekend. With only one season playing football at a high level, who could blame him if he was?
Lions fans need to temper their expectations for Ansah this offseason. His learning curve will be huge and he'll struggle at times. When that happens, everyone should keep the "bust" talk to a minimum. We won't know for three or four years whether that label is apt.
Instead, accept that he's a work in progress and expect bumps in the road. He's still a sure-fire starter, just don't expect Jason Pierre-Paul this season.