Lions will give equal opportunity in search of starters

Posted Jul 4, 2013

The Lions are coming off a 4-12 season and no fewer than seven starting spots are now up for grabs

Training camp will offer a little more drama for the Detroit Lions than it did a season ago.

Entering the 2012 season, 21 of 22 starters were back from a 10-6 playoff team. The only real competition was to see which cornerback would start opposite Chris Houston.

Things are quite different entering training camp in 2013. The Lions are coming off a 4-12 season and no fewer than seven starting spots are now up for grabs.

If mini-camp was any indication, the Lions are going to give equal reps and equal opportunity come training camp to all those fighting for playing time.

"Yeah, we'll keep them as equal as we can and let guys work with different groups," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who's looking for three new starters along the offensive line.

During the three-day mini-camp in mid-June, the Lions rotated Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis and Tahir Whitehead each day with the first-team defense. They did the same at right tackle, right guard and within the secondary.

"They weren't kidding, it's equal footing around here," Lewis said of the competition. "This opportunity doesn't come along a lot when you have an opportunity to be a starting linebacker."

The competition that's developed for that open linebacker spot left vacant by the loss of Justin Durant via free agency should be one of the better ones in training camp.

"It's an amazing feeling just knowing that I have an opportunity to be able to show what I've got," said Whitehead, who was a fifth-round draft pick last season.

"Everybody is on equal ground and everybody has the same opportunity. Ashlee and Travis have been looking very good and everyone is just working."

Expect the Lions to rotate players in and out of their offensive line grouping, with Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard getting first-team reps at right tackle and as many as four or five players -- including rookie Larry Warford – seeing quality reps at right guard.

"Well, I think all the players feel that," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said about the number of open starting spots and the competition to fill them.

"It's a lot different when you're a young player looking at a guy like Jeff Backus or Jason Hanson or a bunch of different guys that we've had in there as key veteran players that have been around a long time. I think everybody knows what the situation is (now)."

Even a veteran player like center Dominic Raiola, who's taken all the first-team reps at center this offseason, is looking forward to the competition this fall -- even if it involves him.

"Competition brings out the best in everybody," Raiola said. "When you compete, you're going to get the best out of everybody."