Ronnell Lewis will need to have an impressive camp to win a roster spot
In 2013, opponents of the Detroit Lions will see a healthy dose of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. Those players' performances will determine the Lions' success, and for that reason their roster spots are secure.
Not everyone has that kind of job security, though.
Training camp starts July 25, and the Lions will start the process of paring their roster down to 53 men. Honestly, some guys don't have a chance of winning a spot.
Others control their own destiny. These players are on the bubble. With a strong performance, they can earn their place on the final roster.
Here are the Lions' five best players on the bubble.
Hope, with the Falcons last year, is a long shot to make it with the Lions.
The Lions signed veteran safety Chris Hope not even a month ago, and I'm still trying to figure out why.
He is clearly on the decline.
He played for Jim Schwartz in Tennessee, but he's not the same player now that he was then.
Maybe Schwartz was simply reaching out to a former player to give him an opportunity. Maybe the Lions really think Hope will stick.
I doubt that.
The Lions have plenty of young, up-and-coming safeties on their roster who will easily beat out Hope.
He'll get consideration because of his veteran status, his experience and his ability to quickly pick up the game plan, but he'll have difficulty securing a final roster spot.
In the end, he'll be passed up by players the Lions have been developing for years. Don Carey, Ricardo Silva and Amari Spievey will return and back up probable starters Glover Quin and Louis Delmas.
John Wendling must also be considered for his special teams ability. That's six safeties ahead of Hope, and the Lions probably won't even keep that many.
If there is a fountain of youth, Hope better find it between now and the start of the regular season.
Riddick was an important part of Notre Dame's success, but can he stick with the Lions?
For the Lions, the running back position is turning into a numbers game. Everyone knows Jahvid Best won't be in the mix, but that still leaves six rushers currently on the roster (not including fullback Shaun Chapas).
The Lions won't/can't keep all of them. For that reason Theo Riddick, a sixth-round pick in this year's draft, is clearly on the bubble.
Although his selection was a bit of a head-scratcher to begin with, the suggestion that he won't make the final roster might be even more so.
After all, Martin Mayhew and the Lions don't make a practice of giving up on young players. In the past three years, every one of their draftees have remained with the team for at least one year.
With that said, Riddick could be the first to not last a season. As I said, it's a numbers game. Ideally the Lions will keep five rushers, and Reggie Bush, Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell and Montell Owens are locks to make the roster.
That leaves Riddick and undrafted free agent Steven Miller vying for one spot. Most would assume Riddick would win that battle; however, Miller has really impressed this offseason.
His speed and versatility have stood out, and now he's predicted to be the front-runner to handle return duties for the Lions.
The Lions might opt to stash Riddick on their practice squad if Miller wins out.
Thomas has his work cut out for him in training camp.
The Lions will need to cut their current number of receivers in half by the time the regular season starts, and that doesn't bode well for veteran Mike Thomas.
Mayhew traded for him midway through last season due to injuries to Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson, yet despite the great opportunity to succeed, Thomas had little to no impact.
He amassed only five receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown in nine games with the Lions.
One might think that a five-year NFL veteran with the type of speed Thomas has would be a valuable commodity for the Lions.
However, his lack of production last year is hurting his chances going forward. For him not to produce in a situation ideal for him to do so is damning, and the Lions have younger and cheaper options.
Namely Patrick Edwards. Edwards is a speedy slot receiver too, and he's stood out during OTAs. He was placed on the Lions' practice squad last year but would have been moved to the active roster if not for an injury.
He and Kris Durham, who is a former college teammate of Matthew Stafford, are ahead of Thomas on the depth chart right now.
Unless Thomas comes alive during training camp, his bubble is bound to burst.
Nagy must overcome his injury history to win a spot with the Lions.
Nagy, a seventh-round pick the year before, had started five games at guard for the Cowboys his rookie year. However, a fractured ankle derailed what could have been a breakout season for the versatile lineman out of Wisconsin.
He spent the final three months of the season on IR.
When he severely sprained the same ankle during the summer of 2012, the Cowboys lost their patience. They placed him on waivers but hoped he'd clear so they could place him on IR.
For the Lions, his talent and potential made him a must-have. Mayhew signed him with the understanding he'd spend most, if not all, of the 2012 regular season on IR.
It was a gamble to be sure, but Mayhew knew that after the season, the Lions offensive line would have holes to fill. He wanted Nagy to compete at guard in 2013 and potentially be the long-term answer at center.
At this point, Nagy isn't the answer at any position, and he's in danger of losing his roster spot. He's still not 100 percent recovered from the ankle surgery he had last August, and he hasn't participated in any team practices during OTAs.
The Lions value versatility on their line, and Nagy certainly fits that; however, if he cannot participate fully in training camp, the Lions will have to seriously consider letting him go. They've brought in some veteran guards this offseason to compete, and Rodney Austin, who can also play center, has shown marked improvement.
In other words, the Lions have other viable options.
Needless to say, Nagy's health will ultimately determine his status on the Lions' final roster.
Lewis during the 2012 NFL combine.
The summer of 2012 was a disaster for the Detroit Lions. They were desperate to have an offseason in which their players weren't in the news for all the wrong reasons.
This summer, players were expected to stay on the right side of the law and violators would be given the Johnny Culbreath or Titus Young treatment.
Head coach Jim Schwartz tightened the reins, but not everyone complied.
Ronnell Lewis made headlines last April because of his involvement in an Oklahoma bar fight. He faced misdemeanor charges, but according to MLive, those charges will likely be dismissed.
No matter, the damage is done. Lewis showed extremely poor judgement and self control, and that's enough to make the Lions question his long-term viability.
It's not the only thing, though.
Lewis simply doesn't have the size or talent to compete against the other pass-rushers on the Lions' roster.
Lewis was a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 but was relegated to special teams his rookie year. It was understandable then. He had veterans Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson in front of him.
No way he was going to break into that rotation.
The Lions said goodbye to three out of four of those guys this offseason, so Lewis should be next in line, right?
Wrong. The Lions had so much confidence in his ability that they picked up Jason Jones and Israel Idonije via free agency and drafted Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor. With Willie Young still in the mix, Lewis is farther down the depth chart than he was last year.
The Lions had nine defensive linemen on their roster last season. If we assume they'll keep the same number, Lewis' tenuous situation becomes clear.
I previously mentioned five defensive ends. If you add the Lions' top three defensive tackles—Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley—that leaves one roster spot open.
During training camp Lewis will need to prove he's too valuable on special teams to let go. If he does that, he might win the spot. If not, "pop" goes the bubble.