We’ve looked at the promise in the Offensive Skill Positions, some concerns in the Defensive Skill Positions, and now all that is left is to cover the players in the trenches at Detroit Lions Training Camp. The Offensive and Defensive Lines have several question marks at multiple positions. It is something that hasn’t evaded the fan base, who listed both lines as two of their top concerns coming into this season, even after addressing both in the draft and the Dline significantly in FA. If the team is expected to do well, the lines will have to gel and do so quickly. If not, it could be a rough season.
Analysis: You would expect your 1st round pick to be doing the best in camp, and Reiff has not disappointed. Aside from the occasional scuffle with 2013 5th overall pick Ziggy Ansah, Reiff has dominated everyone in camp.
Chances to make the 53: Starting Left Tackle
What he has to do: Continue to dominate in pass pro and show the run blocking that made him a 1st round pick in 2012.
Analysis: Fox has the edge at RT, but it is less because he has dominated and more because he’s been the least bad. Fox has had moments of brilliance as a pass protector, but has also had flashes of trouble, getting bailed out often by the Tight Ends.
Chances to make the 53: He’ll likely make it, needs to secure a 2014 spot.
What he has to do: Fox has to learn consistency and quickly. If he continues with how inconsistent he was in camp, there will be trouble. Health is also key as a big reason for Fox’s lack of productivity so far has been injuries.
Analysis: Watching tape on Waddle, I was extremely unimpressed. Most of this was due to how Texas Tech used their Olinemen (Poorly), but Waddle has impressed enough in camp to make him a viable option as an OT, provided it is in a reserve role.
Chances to make the 53: Lions put focus on Tackles, and he is one
What he has to do: His footwork is atrocious and needs to improve. As a reserve OT, called in only to spell players, he should be fine, but the team is in trouble if they have to rely on him.
Analysis: While he has managed some 1st team reps, it’s pretty clear he is the inferior Tackle between he and Fox. Gets manhandled too easily, gives up the outside so quickly at times that the TE doesn’t even have time to bail him out.
Chances to make the 53: Should make the team, but should remain in a reserve role.
What he has to do: Poor footwork and poor functional power prove Hilliard to be exactly who he was coming into this season, a backup.
Analysis: Clearly the weakest from a physical standpoint amongst the Tackles, Holtz hasn’t had many shining moments aside from a few times where he didn’t give up as part of a double team.
Chances to make the 53: Wow, what a longshot.
What he has to do: Holtz would have to beat out Waddle in the very least, and Waddle has so much more upside it’s hard to see that happening.
Analysis: Consistency was a huge issue for Hardman coming into camp, but it hasn’t been a problem. He has been consistently poor in every drill.
Chances to make the 53: Needs a bailout
What he has to do: Hardman has to prove he isn’t a liability in pass pro, something he couldn’t do against any DEs so far. In addition, he’d have to show that he has some kind of upside or ST ability to make keeping him remotely worthwhile.
Analysis: Sims has been a stoic, consistent pass protector for years now, and that continued in camp. When the entire line was being thrown around like rag dolls, it was Sims alone that stood out.
Chances to make the 53: Could be a Pro Bowl year for him
What he has to do: His run blocking has never been great, and it would be nice to see some of that now that he has Reiff playing next to him.
Analysis: After playing Center for 74 years, he’d better look like he knows what he’s doing. The added weight isn’t noticeable, but he’s had a good showing in camp.
Chances to make the 53: Seriously, how long have they kept him?
What he has to do: Continue to breathe.
Analysis: The long time Lions swing Guard has looked decent in camp, and decent is the cap of what to expect. Gandy peaked as a player when he became the Lions swing backup years ago, the whole starter thing is likely temporary.
Chances to make the 53: They haven’t cut him yet
What he has to do: If he wants to keep his roster spot he needs to show up. If he wants to keep his starting position he’ll need Warford to not develop, there’s nothing he can do on his own to keep that spot.
Analysis: The once elite pass protector (5 sacks allowed in 4 years in Tennessee) has shown well in camp, could beat out Gandy if given time. Essentially a clone of Sims on the right side, Scott isn’t much value as a run blocker.
Chances to make the 53: Pretty decent
What he has to do: If he can shore up the middle and give Stafford time to throw, he’ll make the team.
Analysis: Austin has done as well as you’d hoped he would after very nearly making the roster a year ago. He looks sharp, but the Lions used him sparingly and he didn’t make much of an impression when he was on the field.
Chances to make the 53: Potentially a cog
What he has to do: Versatility is key, if Austin can perform as well as Scott and Harris while showing he can play Guard AND Center (Something neither Scott nor Harris can do), he could take Gandy’s old spot.
Analysis: There are moments, especially in space, where you see the man the media has been touting since draft day. Most of the time, his slow speed out of his stance is so pronounced that you wonder how he was ever considered that highly. He has one flaw, it’s just a glaring one.
Chances to make the 53: He’s not going anywhere
What he has to do: Getting out of his stance is a timing issue, but learning on the fly by being thrown into a starting role he isn’t ready for is a recipe for False Starts and bad habits. All he has to do is adjust to the speed of the game, and getting increasing and more importantly earned playing time is a big part of that.
Analysis: Keyton is just a guy. Stood out never, barely noticed him on the field.
Stock: Somehow down
Chances to make the 53: Really, really low
What he has to do: Keyton has to not only show the same kind of versatility that Austin must, but he has to do it while outperforming either Austin or Gandy.
Analysis: Barely seeing the field in camp will put you firmly on the bottom of this list. Harris allowed the same amount of sacks as Scott did his entire time in Tennessee (5) last season alone, and did so on less than 300 dropbacks. Didn’t show in camp, so gotta go back to last season.
Chances to make the 53: His bonus may have been premature
What he has to do: Getting healthy is an absolute must, but even then Harris will have to outperform players in an offense he’s never been on the field for. To make matters worse, the team has him listed as a Center despite not playing Center since 2008.
Analysis: Suh doesn’t take plays off, even in practice. He looks better than last year, and he was pretty awesome last year.
Chances to make the 53: Lions have millions of reasons to keep him
What he has to do: Hit Quarterbacks.
Analysis: It was a wash as to who looked better in camp between he and Suh. Fairley lost weight and it showed. Probably the team’s quickest big man.
Chances to make the 53: He’s in.
What he has to do: Stay healthy. That’s it. Continuing from last year’s dominant showing will make the pair of DTs a joy to watch…for Lions fans.
Analysis: The Lions like a deep stable of Defensive Tackles, and Mosley helps with that. Mosley plays downright nasty, and that’s something the line could use more of.
Chances to make the 53: Perfect
What he has to do: Be ready. With Fairley’s health issues, there’s always the possibility he’ll be a starter again, and it’s likely they limit Fairley’s snaps meaning more work for the former Jag.
Analysis: After the long dropoff from Mosley, we land at JSMQ. Looks like a potential contributor, but not as much as rotating in Idonije or Jones.
Chances to make the 53: Low
What he has to do: Cause havoc and mayhem. Lions like that, and it’s the only thing keeping the team from looking for another DT once cuts start.
Analysis: A bottom of the roster guy who plays like one, when you read of how well a Guard is doing it’s usually because they’re facing him.
Chances to make the 53: Worse than most
What he has to do: Get better and fast.
Analysis: After an uneventful rookie year, Fluellen was beaten out and knocked all the way to 4th (later 5th) in the DT rotation by developmental fourth round pick Sammie Hill. He never recovered. He looks like a guy that was cut a year ago.
Chances to make the 53: “He knows the defense” is the only defense for his roster spot
What he has to do: Knowing the defense is fine, but actually performing in it is something else entirely. He needs to that.
Analysis: Brought in recently, Proctor had limited time in camp.
Chances to make the 53: Camp Guy
What he has to do: A virtual unknown, Proctor will need to make a very positive impression very quickly to even have a shot at the Practice Squad.
Analysis: While under normal circumstances it isn’t surprising to see a 5th overall pick perform the best at his position, given Ansah’s “project” label it is kind of surprising here. Ansah has shown a good understanding of the position, but he is still winning plays mainly because of his athleticism.
Chances to make the 53: Yup
What he has to do: Lots of improvement needed, but less than first anticipated.
Analysis: In a perfect world, the Lions would end up with both DE starters from the same draft. I wouldn’t go that far, and fans should learn to not overstate when someone does well. Taylor still needs a lot of work, but like Ansah is less of a project than we thought.
Chances to make the 53: He’s in.
What he has to do: Leverage is a problem, as it often is for taller DEs. Hand usage is also something that needs to be improved. When Taylor DOES get leverage, he uses his length and power surprisingly well.
Analysis: Jones has looked out of his element at times, but when rushing the interior of the line he looks fantastic. The Lions may have a plan at DE that doesn’t involve the Wide 9, which should thrill fans.
Chances to make the 53: Contract says yes.
What he has to do: Setting the edge, not a problem. Getting around the edge, huge problem. Jones could never beat an OT one on one in either Tennessee or Seattle, and that continues here. Needs to improve that.
Analysis: Still firmly on the roster bubble, Lewis is this high only because when he was finally given an opportunity to play he did very well. An unknown condition kept him off the field, but his lack of field time means the team will likely take an extended look in the preseason.
Stock: Static (But not great)
Chances to make the 53: Not good
What he has to do: Now drastically undersized for the Lions new scheme, Lewis has a very uphill battle to make the team. Needs to show some speed and power as a pass rusher and hope that’s enough.
Analysis: Limited by injury, Young has been mostly a non factor in camp. Another player that will need a very strong showing in the preseason.
Chances to make the 53: Shrinking
What he has to do: Young needs to show up like he did last preseason. Anything less will see his walking papers.
Analysis: Surprised to see him this low? So am I. Most fans, including myself, expected an immediate impact player when Idonije was signed, but he looked well past his prime in camp even when against lesser competition.
Stock: Very Down
Chances to make the 53: Should have been 100%, maybe 60/40 now.
What he has to do: Idonije needs to get back to form with the quickness if he wants to make this team. Too much young talent to keep a vet around solely because he’s good off the field.
Analysis: If you said “Who?” that’s precisely why he’s this low. Has not made an impact, at all.
Chances to make the 53: Now firmly in my bottom 5
What he has to do: Show a little pride as a pass rusher, beat an Offensive Tackle once in a while.
Analysis: Muhlbach has the distinction of being a Long Snapper the fans actually know the name of, and he’s done so by being the best LS in the league. A constant thorn in the young STers sides, Muhlbach can’t improve his already awesome self so must pass the awesome to the younger guys.
Stock: Up, you better believe it
Chances to make the 53: His seat is very cool
What he has to do: It’s less about what he HAS TO do, and more about what he could do if he felt like it. Barring injury, he’s the team’s LS once again.