5 Players Turning Heads at Detroit Lions Training Camp
The first two days of Detroit Lions training camp haven't answered many questions, but they have presented some first impressions for the 2014 season.
And, for the following five players, they've been noticeable.
Like most things this early in the year, the news is almost overwhelmingly positive, with one exception that might be considered more neutral than negative.
Intrigued? Good. I've done my job.
Ndamukong Suh has always turned heads with his play. But this time, the news is focused on him for the same reason it has been all offseason.
And the news didn't appear welcome at first.
The #Lions have tabled contract discussions with Ndamukong Suh until after the season— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) July 28, 2014
I understand your concern. Why wouldn't Detroit lock up its best defensive player for the long haul? Could the numbers be that far off?
The answer to the former question resides in the (presumptive) yes to the latter query.
Suh came into the league under the old CBA, where rookies could demand large deals before donning their team's colors. He is already the highest-paid defensive tackle by virtue of that inaugural deal, and it's likely that he wants to make top defensive end money (Mario Williams' contract averages $16 million per year).
That's a ludicrous number for a defensive tackle. The current scenario is actually a win for Detroit because they will get the best of a guy who showed up to camp looking like an "Adonis," according to Dominic Raiola, per MLive's Kyle Meinke. Then, once Suh hits the open market and finds the market, it's likely Suh's demands will be humbled enough for the two to strike a deal because Detroit isn't going to let him walk for a reasonable sum.
And if not, freeing up all of that cap space (despite a $9.7 million cap hit in dead money, per Spotrac) wouldn't be a horrendous alternative for a talent-laden team.
Hopefully there's still some room on the Theo Riddick bandwagon. It appears MLive.com's Justin Rogers is looking for a spot.
I'm reluctantly buying a ticket on the Theo Riddick hype train. I've been burned before with offseason wonders, but man, 41 looks good.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) July 29, 2014
No matter where you turn, there's love for Riddick. ESPN's Michael Rothstein didn't just offer a tweet or a small blip in his notes, but rather a full article.
It's nice to see Riddick hasn't slowed down since OTAs and minicamp. Every report you can find illustrates a running back who trusts his instincts, allowing him to take advantage of his speed and quickness, which Kyle Van Noy learned can be devastating.
The hype continues to build for the former sixth-rounder, and it appears he might be ready to ascend to the Darren Sproles role that Dan Orlovsky thinks he's destined for, per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. Obviously, if Detroit's third running back can be more than just a change of pace and act a viable weapon, defensive coordinators throughout the NFC North will be looking bleary-eyed well into December.
Not every head-turning event will be obvious from the plays on the field. Sometimes, it's even more subtle than that.
Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com noted one such seemingly innocuous detail that could prove to have huge benefits for the Lions going forward. Namely that presumed No. 1 cornerback Darius Slay is playing with more confidence.
This should be welcome news for fans. They've known for a long time what members of the national media are emphasizing as a serious concern for Detroit in 2014.
2 keys to Lions turnaround: 1) Better secondary play 2) Stafford protecting the ball. I feel better about 2 than 1.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 29, 2014
The first step for any developing cornerback is to find his comfort zone, to learn to just play the game instead of working through everything in his head before translating it to the field. It appears new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's scheme has sped up Slay's learning curve.
Slay with two good plays in a row in one-on-ones with WR's. Went up over Broyles and jumped a Tate route to break both passes up— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) July 28, 2014
Detroit didn't wait until the draft to get help for Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford. Instead, general manager Martin Mayhew brought in a veteran to help stabilize a wide receiver depth chart that was oppressively top heavy.
So far, so good.
Lions camp scene: watching Golden Tate work in one on one drills, he's as competitive and good with the ball as advertised. Wait for game.— Mike O'Hara (@MikeOHaraNFL) July 29, 2014
And if you're worried it's just the local media suffering from a case of homerism:
Golden Tate is an outstanding route runner. Quick release, explodes in/out of break point and works back to the ball. Big year ahead.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 29, 2014
Jeremiah's next tweet expressed his condolences for the NFC North cornerbacks who will be charged with stopping this duo. If the reports coming from training camp can be believed, the dread could soon spread to the rest of the conference's defensive backs.
The Lions desperately needed to add a second threat on the outside to free up Stafford to do his thing. It's early, but since when is actual proof necessary to drop a "Mission Accomplished" banner?
While Detroit had to go elsewhere to find their No. 2 wideout, it appears the slot receiver that eludes them every time Ryan Broyles goes down with an injury might have been on the roster the whole time.
WR Kevin Ogletree going through drills with the first unit. Joined by Calvin, Golden Tate— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) July 29, 2014
Just like every report about a player during the first two days of camp, take the news with a grain of salt. Many early-camp hopes have been dashed as soon as the pads go on and the competition turns up.
However, the news that Ogletree has been "impressive"—Twentyman's words, not mine—while taking reps with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate is an encouraging sign. Just keep the recent memory of Patrick Edwards planted firmly in your mind to keep you tethered to reality.
Detroit did a lot to improve the array of weapons surrounding Matthew Stafford. If standing pat on Ogletree turns out to be a positive, there's no reason this offense can't rival the one handling business in the Rockies.