Coming into training camp, the Detroit Lions look like they have almost all of their positions set. There are still the few positional battles that will come.
In the offseason, the Lions signed cornerback D.J. Hayden, defensive end Cornelius Washington, defensive tackle Akeem Spence, and linebacker Paul Worrilow most notably on the defensive side of the ball. On the offensive side, they signed right tackle Ricky Wagner and right guard T.J. Lang. Even with those acquisitions for positions that needed help, there will still be roster battles.
Left Defensive End: When the Lions went into free agency they had a gaping hole with Devin Taylor becoming a free agent. Taylor put up 16 solo tackles, 5 assisted tackles, and 4.5 sacks. Taylor eventually left for the Giants. Before he signed with the Giants, the Lions signed former Bear’s defensive end Cornelius Washington to a 2-year deal. Washington last year with the Bears put up 14 solo tackles, 6 assisted tackles, and 2.0 sacks. The 2016 Lions breakout player, Kerry Hyder Jr. is in the mix with Cornelius Washington. Hyder put up 23 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, and lead the team in sacks with 8.0.
Weakside Linebacker: After the draft, people figured that MIKE and SAM were filled with Jarrad Davis becoming the middle linebacker and Tahir Whitehead shifting over to strongside linebacker. The weakside linebacking spot will likely come down to free agency acquisition Paul Worrilow and former fourth round draft pick Antwione Williams. Worrilow who was the starting middle linebacker for the Falcons before Deion Jones took his spot will likely see the WILL as he in 4 seasons has had 242 solo tackles, 141 assisted tackles, 10 passes defended, and 2 interceptions. Williams the inexperienced second-year player did not see much playing time but he put up 12 tackles, 8 assisted tackles, and 1 fumble recovery.
Left Outside Cornerback: Nevin Lawson who was the starting cornerback last season may not be in the same position as last year. The Lions addressed their secondary by going out and signing D.J. Hayden, then drafting Florida product Teez Tabor. Tabor who likely will not see the field in his rookie year to let him learn the system. Hayden, however, will compete with Lawson for the starting outside cornerback spot. Lawson allowed a very high 63 percent completion and gave up 36 receptions in 57 targets. Hayden, however, has committed 35 penalties in his 4 seasons.
Nickel Cornerback: Nickel probably has the most competition out of all the positions. There are likely three players that will duel for the position. Nickel includes the same competition as left outside cornerback, Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden. There is one more player who has been the starter for the past two years in Quandre Diggs who will go for this spot too. Diggs who enjoyed a rookie season as the starting nickel fell off regressed to someone that gave up almost a 91 completion percentage. The loser of the outside cornerback will be the one to compete with Diggs whether it be Hayden or Lawson.
Left Tackle: Who would have thought that coming into training camp left tackle was up for grabs? The Lions drafted their future left tackle in Taylor Decker but he injured his shoulder and will miss between 4 and 12 games. The Lions traded a seventh round pick to the Los Angeles Rams in order to acquire Greg Robinson the former number 2 overall pick from 2014. They also went out and signed tackle Cyrus Kouandjio a former 2nd round pick from 2014. In Robinson’s career, he has had 35 penalties while allowing 17.5 sacks in 46 games. In Cyrus’s case, he has had 8 career penalties, with most being false starts, and 6 occurring in 2015.
Backup Quarterback: 1 year ago the Lions drafted Jake Rudock in the sixth round out of Michigan. A year later the Lions drafted Brad Kaaya out of Miami. Both have never seen the field at the professional level, but they both also both enjoyed a solid college career. Rudock started his career off at Iowa but was a graduate transfer to Michigan where he put up 20 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, a 64 percent completion percentage and 3017 yards. Kaaya started and ended his three-year college career at Miami of Florida, in his final year he put up 27 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, a 62 percent completion percentage, and 3532 yards. Rudock does have an upper hand as he has been in the system longer but time will tell who becomes the backup.
Training Camp will be interesting this year as there are a few positions that will be decided in it. The Lions defense along with offense looks like they have a few uncertainties but training camp will decide them.