Breaking Down Detroit Lions' 5 Biggest Training Camp Projects
Training camp is like a Sunday for adult men: It's a time to work on projects, and the Detroit Lions have plenty on their honey-do list.
Of course, there are the rookies to deal with. Every undrafted free agent could be included on this list, but we want to focus on those guys who might actually make the team and have an impact on the depth chart.
However, before you just dismiss this as another article highlighting all the draftees, understand that not everything is as it seems. In fact, prepare to be surprised.
Or just click through for some analysis on the projects the Lions will be pounding away on in a couple weeks.
Defensive End Larry Webster
Let's ease into this conversation with the most obvious example: Larry Webster. I don't want to break your brains too early in this process. We still have four more slides to go.
Detroit fans remember Webster. He was the defensive end taken in the fourth round of this year's draft. It felt like a reach at the time, and it still does now.
That opinion isn't a reflection of his athleticism. It's amazing how close his combine numbers, per NFL.com, were in relation to top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. Webster was barely a breath slower in the 40 (.05 of a second), came up an inch shy in both the broad and vertical jump, and just missed the mark in the three-cone drill (.02 of a second). The former basketball player has the raw skills to become a contributor at some point.
But that point isn't likely to come soon. Webster has only been playing football for two years. While that might be all right for Ziggy Ansah, Webster doesn't have the power of Ansah. Webster needs to pack on some weight if he's going to put his hand in the dirt and fire off the line against NFL tackles.
In addition, as Bleacher Report colleague Jeff Risdon laid out in detail, Webster needs serious work on his technique, not just refinement. It's to be expected considering his late arrival to such a demanding, complicated sport.
Rest assured that defensive line coaches Kris Kocurek and Jim Washburn will be all over him in training camp.
Defensive End Ezekiel Ansah
I told you things were going to make a little less sense as we went along. As much as people hoped Ezekiel Ansah would come back after the offseason and be a complete football player, it simply isn't true.
Ansah, much like Webster, has only played football for a few years. The difference is Ansah was drafted with the fifth overall pick and is expected to have a huge impact this season.
And he very well may. He was impressive against the run last season and did accrue nine sacks.
But he isn't a finished product. Too often last year, Ansah wasn't able to disengage from a blocker because his repertoire of moves hadn't been developed, and his hand fighting wasn't on the level of a professional defensive end.
He's getting there, though, and another training camp with the teachers he has should do wonders for the wunderkind. Ansah isn't on this list because he needs the most work; he's a "big" project because of how important he is to the team's success, and there is work to be done if he's going to meet the massive expectations others have for him.
Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus
So much time has been spent worrying about Detroit's cornerbacks, and rightfully so, that the safeties have seemed to slip below the radar. Well, until free-agent signee and starting strong safety James Ihedigbo told Mlive.com's Justin Rogers that the Lions have "championship DNA."
He may be right as it pertains to the starting safeties. He and Glover Quin both graded out as top 15 safeties, according to Pro Football Focus.
As important as the primary players are, Super Bowl winners always have unlikely heroes. And in order to produce one, a team needs depth.
That's why the Lions signed safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. He's the insurance policy for when the injury bug invariably strikes and the B/R's Jeff Risdon thinks he's more than up to the challenge.
Abdul-Quddus will like playing in defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's aggressive scheme, as he likes to fly around and bang bodies. He might have been a starter briefly for the New Orleans Saints, but there's also a reason the Lions got him for one year at the cheap price of $695,000.
Cornerback Nevin Lawson
The fourth round of this year's draft and the secondary have been the paramount sources of speculation this offseason. And with good reason—they both present large question marks.
And rookie cornerback Nevin Lawson represents both.
The current trend in the NFL is toward getting large cornerbacks who can mug the former trend (big wide receivers) at the line of scrimmage. Lawson is a 5'9" peg in a 6'2" hole. He doesn't fit.
That doesn't seem to matter to general manager Martin Mayhew. He obviously believes the "scrappy" greenhorn will be able to fight for the fourth spot on the depth chart, as he hasn't brought in another competitor since cutting loose Chris Houston.
Either that, or Mayhew thinks Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood or Cassius Vaughn can seize that position, but I doubt it. Otherwise, he wouldn't have drafted Lawson.
Good thing the rookie will have a secondary coach-turned-defensive coordinator to get him up to speed since he can't get him up to size.
Quarterback James Franklin
So things weren't all that surprising. Aside from Ansah, all of these picks made sense.
That's why it only makes sense that we end with the rookie quarterback.
James Franklin put together a nice college career at Missouri. He peaked in his sophomore year with 2,865 passing yards, 981 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns.
Again, that's nice, but this is the NFL. And as Kellen Moore (and a slew of others) can attest, college success doesn't mean anything once you make the leap.
Franklin was handpicked by a Lions coaching staff that is focused on the quarterback position. He may not be ready to usurp Moore at the beginning of camp, but the 6'2", 230-pound project has a chance. And that's all you can ask for.
Brandon Alisoglu is a Detroit Lions featured columnist who has written about the Lions on multiple sites. He also co-hosts a Lions-centric podcast, Lions Central Radio. Yell at him on Twitter about how wrong he is @BrandonAlisoglu.
All statistics, grades and rankings are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription.
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