"You want to start to build confidence with the guys around you," Owens said.
It's a statement that could apply to the entire roster, not just special teams, as the Lions open the exhibition season tonight against the New York Jets at Ford Field.
In every phase -- offense, defense, special teams -- the Lions will begin fine-tuning some parts of each unit and developing others that had more extensive reconstruction since last year.
Two weeks of training camp, after a productive offseason that included a solid draft and free agent signings that targeted specific needs, have created a level of anticipation for the faithful eager to see the Lions in competition against another team.
The urgency on both teams to bounce back from losing seasons could ramp up the intensity level above what is normal for a game that doesn't count in the standings.
Following are key issues involving the Lions that bear watching:
Offense: Stafford will throw to a familiar cast of receivers, with the notable addition of running back
"I just want to go out there and play fast," Stafford said. "I want to go out there and be assignment sound and put the ball in the right spots."
Offensive line focus: It's a critical rebuild at three spots.
It's a two-player race at right tackle between
Fox, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, has had neglible playing time because of injuries. Being healthy the entire offseason and training camp gives him a fair chance to compete with Hilliard, who also has had a good camp.
"I've been in the system now for a few years," Fox said. "I feel comfortable here. It's nice going out to practice and working to improve technique-wise and fundamentally, rather than worrying about making it through practice."
Depth at running back, wide receiver, tight end and the No. 3 quarterback behind Stafford and
Defense: It is the first game under the lights for defensive end Ziggy Ansah, the first-round draft pick. There has been nothing in camp to indicate the Lions made a mistake drafting the talented, but raw, rookie fifth overall.
"So far, so good," Ansah said. "I've been able to grasp pretty much everything."
Five of the 11 spots will have new starters.
The front four is stacked, with Ansah and
With legitimate competition to start, the nickel and dime backs will be stronger than in recent years, and
It still has to be proven, but the transformation of the secondary has been striking. The first preseason game is an important step in the progression, and it's a serious step for Quin.
"I feel like it's the beginning of the defense, the team," Quin said. "You want to win. You want to execute, do it right. You don't know how long you're going to play. When you're out there, you're going to do it right.
"However many reps I get, I want to make them count."
Special teams: It's the hardest unit to gauge in practice, but there's no doubt it will be better in almost every area.
Rookie punter Sam Martin has a strong leg. Whoever wins the return job in preseason will be an improvement over last year. Kicker
Overall consistency was a problem last year, especially on coverage. Owens is recognized as a premier hard-core special-teamer on coverage and return units.
"One of the things coaches really look for is not only a guy who can do the same thing over and over, but a unit that can do the same thing over and over," Owens said. "You know what you're going to get when the unit is on the field.
"One of the biggest worries a coach has is when you don't know what you're going to get. That consistency is important. You've got to be able to trust the guys on the field -- trust that they're all going to play together."