This is one of those dead times in the Detroit Lions’ schedule. The time between the close of minicamps and the opening of training camp. Lions fans will be watching the police blotter with new-found trepidation and getting sound bites from various charity events.
However, this becalmed period doesn’t lack for talking points. The Lions’ 90-player camp roster is all but set (There have been no roster moves since June 5). It’s a great time for us to prepare for training camp.
As your daily Detroit Lions training camp reporter—and amateur iPhone photographer—my preparations are coming along nicely. With the exception of chronically tight hammies, I’ve got a whole bunch of items on my training camp to-do list.
Preparations commence with the end of the NFL draft. By this time, phase-one free-agency activity is winding down, and the Lions begin free-agency phase two: The signing of undrafted rookie free agents and depth players to fill out the training camp roster.
I arbitrarily break down free agency into four phases: Phase one commences at the start of the mid-March free-agency period. The Lions stocked the cupboard with running back Reggie Bush, safety Glover Quin and defensive end Jason Jones.
Phase two commences with the end of the NFL draft and the signing of undrafted free agents, unrestricted-veteran free agents and veterans signed off waivers.
Phase three begins during training camp and includes players acquired due to injury or as upgrades—usually off waivers.
Phase four begins immediately following the final roster cuts and continues through the remainder of the regular season—players obtained primarily off waivers or claimed off practice squads.
Here is where I put together a depth chart, accurately track the roster activity, zero in on the soft spots and get a better feel for where the key competition truly lies for those precious 53 roster spots.
A great reference tool!
Of course, anyone’s projected depth chart will be subjective. Mine is no different, but as a jumping off point for analysis and discussion, it will do. Feel free to chime in if you see something that needs to be addressed.
My criteria for assigning depth chart positions are simple: Experience, talent and depth.
Here’s the link to my Google Spreadsheet, if you’re interested. Those using tablets or smart phones won’t be able to access it:
OK, let’s take a look at the various positions and units for some hints at what we should look for in camp. As this depth chart is open to debate, I’d like to know what you think, so bring it on.
Quarterbacks and Centers
Centers? Shouldn’t these be examined with the interior linemen? Yes and no. For the purpose of training camp, the Lions have four QBs on the roster for obvious reasons.
However, four centers are needed for many practice periods. This maximizes efficiency but has the added benefit of identifying and developing depth at a position that appears to be seriously undermanned. To this end, the Lions have been working Bill Nagy at center during OTAs and minicamps.
What about Don Muhlbach? Muhlbach’s long-snapping specialty is so critical that he would only be worked at center in the event of an outbreak of malaria in July’s sub-equatorial Allen Park. In fact, the only reason that Dylan Gandy continues to cling to a roster spot is his consistency as a backup long-snapper, rather than any prowess at center.
Lions fans should take note of Rob Sims’ reps in camp. Sims is a very accomplished center who would rather remain at left guard. It wouldn’t surprise me if he moves over in the event of a Dominic Raiola injury.
He’s that much more talented than Gandy. For the moment, I'll continue to indicate that Sims is a camp-body center.
The QBs are pretty well set with the exception of the QB3 clipboard duties. Kellen Moore, with a year in the system, has to be viewed as the favorite going into camp over the more experienced Thaddeus Lewis. Lewis will have to prove that he’s assimilated the playbook and make the throws if he wants a roster spot.
A roster spot that is under pressure because of the situation at tight end—a situation that we’ll discuss in the near future.
OK, we can see why four centers should be considered for the two available roster spots, and we have a pretty good grasp of how they will shake out. Now, if Sims starts taking long-snap reps in camp, Gandy’s days could very likely be numbered.
The competition for the third QB spot between Moore and Lewis bears watching. However, it may be a moot point if the Lions are compelled to keep only two QBs on the 53-player roster.
Next Up: The Offensive Line.