The Detroit Lions have been in training camp for a week now, and initial observations are starting to turn into trends.
It is, of course, generally a bad idea to try drawing any definitive conclusions after a few days of camp, but we've seen enough to know who is getting noticed for the right and wrong reasons.
Are there long-term implications of the first week of training camp? Maybe, but probably not. Nobody has suffered a serious injury, at the time of writing, which would be the only thing to truly send someone's stock through the floor.
Anyone being held out with nagging injuries is only doing so because it's training camp, where there's absolutely no reason for anyone to push through an injury, especially if it could be made worse.
Conversely, anyone doing really well in camp so far hasn't accomplished anything—they still have a bunch of training camp days left, as well as the preseason (to say nothing of the actual regular season).
So though we all know that any of this can—and very likely will, at some point—turn on a dime, let's take a look at who's trending in what direction early on.
For a guy who was signed mere days ago out of relative obscurity, Chaz Schilens has made a reasonable impact in Lions camp.
Last week I broke down the strange road Schilens took to the Lions organization and what he could—and couldn't—bring to the Lions offense.
Days later he drew the praise of Nate Burleson, the Lions' de facto locker room leader at the receiver position. "When you’re tall, fast and you’re catching the ball well, in this offense, you’re going to get kept around," Burleson said via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
It's still too early to peg Schilens as a diamond-in-the-rough breakout superstar in the Lions offense, but early signs seem to point towards him at least getting a shot at it.
If there's such a thing as a "good" stock down, this is it.
Stafford hasn't looked like his usual sharp self so far in training camp. According to DetroitLions.com senior writer Tim Twentyman, Stafford is having a lot more passes knocked down.
Normally he makes it look easy in training camp, but this year so far he's battling. That's a good thing, though, since it provides him opportunities very early on to fix some of his kinks. If he can start making those adjustments as early as training camp, he should be in very good shape by the time the regular season rolls around.
And that's not even the best part...
Stafford, via Twentyman, concurs. “I think it’s one of, if not the, most talented backends that’s been here since I’ve been here.”
The improved secondary is good from two perspectives. First, it's just good to have a talented secondary. But perhaps even more importantly, the fact that Matthew Stafford has to practice against that secondary should speed his development.
No longer can Stafford make lazy throws off his back foot and expect to complete them in practice, only to have the same scenario backfire on him in a game situation. He has to make sharp throws off good decisions at all times, because the secondary he practices against will no longer serve as a confidence booster.
According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' official website, Matthew Stafford is having to flush out of the pocket a lot more than usual when he faces an actual pass rush.
That's good for Stafford in that he learns how to handle pressure, but it doesn't bode well for the offensive line.
Realistically, the Lions' offensive line should be overmatched. Regardless of how the roster battles turn out, the fact is the Lions are going to have three guys out of five on the line who are first-time starters. This, against a unit considered to possibly be the best defensive line in football.
It's a trial by fire for the new starters (whoever they are), and that's a very good thing in the long run. In the short run, though, it appears they're being burned.
At least the unit's veteran leader, Dominic Raiola, is still good enough to pick on the rookies, via Twentyman.
For a guard, expectations are pretty high for rookie Larry Warford. As the Lions' third-round draft pick, Warford is more-or-less expected to become an instant starter and then become a driving, run-blocking force on the Lions' offensive line.
Well, he's working on it. Warford has only just started to take first-team reps, and according to Tim Twentyman at DetroitLions.com, he did reasonably well against the toughest matchup he could possibly have drawn.
As with Stafford and an improved secondary, the Lions' offensive line is going to (have to) grow quickly to compensate for the amount of talent on the defensive side. That goes double for Warford, whose initiation to the NFL means going up against an All-Pro (Ndamukong Suh) and a potential All-Pro (Nick Fairley) in practice every day.
After dealing with that on a daily basis, anybody he faces in a game situation should seem easy by comparison.
Ronnell Lewis showed up to training camp and passed the conditioning test. That's the good news.
The bad news is, it seems to have taken so much out of him, according to Gillian Van Stratt at MLive.com, that he hasn't been able to practice since and is on the PUP list.
Schwartz said that while Lewis passed the test, he was "one of those guys that needs a lot of IVs and stuff like that."
That is extremely bad news for a player in Lewis' position. He made the roster at DE in 2012 simply due to being a fourth-round pick and a rookie. But that draft status won't protect him any more.
Not only did Lewis only take one defensive snap all last season, but he only racked up two tackles in eight games on special teams. This is a guy who was supposed to shine in special teams, and he was invisible. That's to say nothing of the bar fight he was arrested for earlier this year and recently plead no contest to according to Kevin Bull and Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press.
Worse still, while it's good that Lewis passed the conditioning test, the aftermath suggests it wasn't by much. So not only is he missing practices, he's missing them because—presumably—he was in poor shape coming in.
So, to sum up, Lewis wasn't great last year, was one of only two Lions players to find off-field trouble this offseason then showed up to training camp and was put on PUP from running sprints. Meanwhile, the Lions have four new defensive ends who are (most likely) all better than him.
Lewis finally came back to practice on Thursday, via Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com, but he is going to have to be really, really good just to make it through the first round of cuts.
Though the secondary as a whole has already been spotlighted, Darius Slay himself has been good enough to warrant individual attention.
Slay has been taking first-team reps, and according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com (who, if you can't tell, has been a great source of camp updates and should be followed on Twitter), has been going toe-to-toe with Calvin Johnson in the red zone with some success.
The Lions have a history of not wanting to start rookie cornerbacks, but Slay hasn't looked too much like a rookie. He started taking first-team reps when veteran Ron Bartell went down with a shoulder injury, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, and he doesn't appear willing to give those reps back.
With second-year player Bill Bentley settling in nicely to the nickel cornerback position, it's starting to look like the starting RCB position is Slay's to lose.
While the secondary as a whole has been very good, not every member of it necessarily has been.
Cornerback Chris Greenwood, who you may remember as having missed all of last season with an abdominal injury, has so far missed a bunch of training camp again with a hamstring injury, according to Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
While hamstring injuries tend not to be very serious, the greater loss here is the loss of practice reps for Greenwood, who has all the measurables to be a star cornerback, but needs to learn the NFL game after spending his college career at tiny Division III Albion College.
Cornerback Jonte Green has also been out with a hamstring injury, but Green has at least had an opportunity to show his stuff on the field. Greenwood has barely been able to practice as a Lion.
It won't matter how much he looks like the Calvin Johnson of cornerbacks if he can't ever show it on the field.