LIONS INSIDER

TWENTYMAN: 5 roster competitions that stand out

Posted May 29, 2016

Tim Twentyman identifies five roster spot battles that stood out in Week 1 of OTAs.

The real competition for roster spots and playing time begins in August, but after observing the Lions’ third OTA practice of the offseason last Thursday, it’s clear that the competition has been upped at a number of positions.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn went into the offseason wanting to improve the depth of this football team, and did so at a number of spots.

The competition upfront along the offensive line, at defensive tackle and safety, in particular, could be quite fierce in training camp.

There’s better competition at just about every spot, but here are five that stand out to me:

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

On the roster: Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, A’Shawn Robinson, Caraun Reid, Stefan Charles, Gabe Wright, Khyri Thornton and Kerry Hyder.

Returning starters: Ngata and Walker

Twentyman: This is by far the deepest position group on the team with the additions of Robinson and Charles this offseason.

Reid had a solid sophomore campaign last season with 29 tackles and a couple sacks. We could be talking about him in August as a potential fifth interior man behind Ngata, Walker, Robinson and Charles. That’s depth.

“I see a lot of depth,” Ngata said of the position last week. “It’s going to be a lot of fun just to see the competition as it rolls along. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be hard to tell who’s going to come out (on top) because we have so many good guys right now.”

Consider this: If the Lions keep five defensive tackles, a player like Wright, who was a fourth-round draft pick last season, could be on the outside looking in when it’s all said and done.

GUARD

On the roster: Laken Tomlinson, Larry Warford, Geoff Schwartz, Graham Glasgow (C/G), Joe Dahl (G/T), Chase Farris and Andrew Zeller

Returning starters: Tomlinson and Warford

Twentyman: The additions of Schwartz, Glasgow and Dahl give coaches a lot of options. If Glasgow doesn’t end up as the starting center, he could be in the mix at guard. He played guard along with Schwartz on the second unit at last week’s open OTA session. Dahl has experience at both guard and tackle. There appears to be great depth and good competition developing at the position.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

On the roster: Taylor Decker, Riley Reiff, Michael Ola, Joe Dahl (T/G), Cornelius Lucas, Corey Robinson,

Returning starters: Reiff and Ola

Twentyman: Decker will get a look at both tackle spots, but coaches seem serious about him starting out at left tackle. He’s already played there early on in OTAs. It’s still very early in the process, but if Decker does ultimately play on the left side, and Reiff is moved to the right side, the Lions may have improved at both spots.

Ola played well down the stretch and won't just hand over his starting spot. He’s a veteran. Dahl, the team’s fifth-round draft pick, played some left tackle with the second unit at last week’s open OTA.

When it comes to the offensive line, we always have to think in terms of the 46-man gameday roster. The more versatile a player is, the better opportunity he has to make the gameday roster. It’s why players like Glasgow and Dahl, who play multiple spots, will very much be in the mix.

SAFETY

On the roster: Glover Quin, Rafael Bush, Miles Killebrew, Isaiah Johnson, Tavon Wilson, Don Carey

Returning starter(s): Quin

Twentyman: The biggest question mark right now is who lines up next to Quin at strong safety. Bush has a lot of experience and seems to be the favorite, but don’t count out Johnson, Wilson and Killebrew. Johnson is a name fans should watch out for. The undrafted rookie made the 53-man roster out of camp last season. He knows the scheme and has good size at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds.

Killebrew (6-2, 217) will be in the mix, though it might take some time for him to fully adjust to the speed at this level. Wilson and Carey have both played on defense and are especially good special teams players. It will be very hard to keep all six, which means some tough decisions are coming down the road.

RUNNING BACK

On the roster: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Stevan Ridley, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, George Winn

Returning starter: Abdullah

Twentyman: Typically, teams keep four running backs and a fullback. What the Lions ultimately do will depend on the numbers game and how this competition develops. Abdullah and Riddick are in, but after that the competition should be pretty fierce.

Ridley is a former 1,000-yard back in this league. Zenner showed flashes last season after leading the NFL in rushing in the preseason. Winn is a big, powerful back that can get tough yards. Washington, the team’s seventh-round pick, has a rare size and speed combination. It should be fun to see who emerges from this competition to fill out the roster spots behind Abdullah and Riddick.