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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What are the Lions' strengths & weaknesses heading into camp?

With training camp kicking off Sunday in Allen Park, Tim Twentyman answers 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: The greatest strength is an easy one. It's an offensive line that I believe is top two in the NFL along with Philadelphia. Center Frank Ragnow and right tackle Penei Sewell are arguably the best in the league at their positions. Left guard Jonah Jackson has been to a Pro Bowl. Taylor Decker is consistently a top 10 player at left tackle. And right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai played great in 2021 before a back injury kept him out all of last season.

Lions GM Brad Holmes has done a pretty good job bolstering weaknesses on the roster, but one area that might still be a concern heading into camp is depth along the interior of the defensive line. Alim McNeill and Isaiah Buggs are really good in there, but how much depth do the Lions have behind them? If Levi Onwuzurike can return from a back injury that kept him out all of last year things change a bit. Veteran Christian Covington and rookie Brodric Martin provide some depth, but the Lions are a McNeill or Buggs injury away from being pretty thin in the middle.

Aidan Hutchinson, John Cominsky, Romeo Okwara and Josh Paschal can all play inside too if needed, but I think they are more effective players on the edge. I wouldn't be surprised if Holmes is still looking to add depth there before the season begins.

20man: I think it will be really tough this year for those players given the current state of the roster. That being said, three guys in particular showed some promise in the spring:

1. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim

At 5-foot-8 and 203 pounds, Ibrahim has a little different bowling ball low-to-the-ground run style than anyone else in the room. He showed an ability to catch the football in the spring and will have a shot to win the No. 3 or No. 4 running back spot in camp.

2. Cornerback Starling Thomas V

He had a really impressive spring and will look to carry that over into camp. He competes hard and got his hands on a lot of footballs in OTAs and minicamp. He has a good shot to earn a reserve role at CB.

3. WR Dylan Drummond

Drummond was actually a tryout player that got signed, and I thought he had a really nice spring. He runs really nice routes and found himself open a lot. With Jameson Williams suspended the first seven games of the season, there could be one extra receiver spot open to begin the year.

20man: Like I mentioned above, I wouldn't be surprised if an interior defensive lineman becomes available and Holmes looks to add depth there. Possibly at wide receiver too, if no one else emerges in camp with Williams out the first six weeks.

But I think the more likely scenario is using cap space to extend some of their own players. Starting left guard Jonah Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He's already made a Pro Bowl and is one of the better young guards in the league. Quarterback Jared Goff has two years left on his deal, but if he continues to play as well as he did last year he'll outplay his contract. He'll also have shown he's the long-term answer at quarterback, and that would come with the security of a long-term deal.

We also have to consider that the Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown rookie deals only run through 2024. The team has the fifth-year option for Sewell but my guess is he's re-signed before that comes into play.

As for the trade deadline, it will really just depend on where the Lions are record-wise, what their injury situation is like and who is available from other teams who can make an immediate impact. I'll say this: If the Lions are active at the trade deadline this year I don't expect them to be sellers.

20man: I certainly expect him to. The Lions have a good problem in that they are pretty deep on the edge with Hutchinson, Charles Harris, Cominsky, Paschal, both Okwara brothers and Houston. Houston has a very unique skill set amongst that group. His ability to bend around the edge and get under tackles is elite.

He only played 140 defensive snaps last year in seven games but with every game he played we saw his reps tick up because of his production. He played over 30 snaps in each of the last two games of the season.

How Houston has progressed understanding the scheme – not only his role but those around him – and him being able to set the edge and be tougher in the run game will go a long way in determining if he's more than a situational pass rusher in 2023. He can also expand his linebacking roles and show he can play in space, which could earn some more time as well.

It's really up to Houston showing coaches that he's a more well-rounded player going into his second season that will determine if he gets more than pass-rush reps or not.

20man: I can't remember in my 15 years covering the Lions that they've ever had three kickers on the 90-man roster to begin camp. My curiosity prompted me to stop by Mike O'Hara's desk, and he told me he couldn't remember there being three kickers on the roster to begin camp in the 40-plus years he's been covering the team. It tells me the competition is wide open between Michael Badgley, Riley Patterson and Parker Romo.

I think Badgley has the edge, but he'll have to prove it in camp. He was 24-of-28 kicking field goals last year and hit all 33 of his extra-point tries. He doesn't have a big leg, but he's proven to be accurate and that's the most important trait a kicker can have.

20man: Hooker told the media in June he was 'way ahead of schedule' in his recovery from a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee. It was around the same time he began throwing routes on air.

Hooker is about eight months out from the injury, and I would expect him to be on the Non-Football Injury list to begin camp. He'd be on NFI and not PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) because the injury occurred when he was in college.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this year might be a redshirt year for Hooker. I think there will be a point in the season where he's ready to return full-go to practice and maybe push Nate Sudfeld for the backup spot, but I don't see that happening in the near future.

20man: That one is always an interesting call. Last year the Lions kept four running backs on the 53-man roster Week 1, but we should also note that fullback Jason Cabinda started the season on the PUP list due to an ankle injury. He's a versatile player and core special teamer who I think will be tough to cut.

Counting Cabinda in the mix, I see three other backs making the Week 1 roster. Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery are 1A and 1B. Craig Reynolds was consistently taking the third reps in the spring, and I think he heads to camp as the leader for the No. 3 spot. He's been a proven playmaker, protector and pass catcher out of the backfield and to me is the man to beat for other backs like Jermar Jefferson, Greg Bell and Ibrahim. But those three guys will get their chance to impress in the preseason and put themselves in the conversation too.

20man: This will be a good storyline to watch throughout training camp. He was taken No. 18 overall, but linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard said that doesn't play a factor in the decision here in Detroit.

"It is proven. We are going to play the best player," Sheppard said. "We do not care what that looks like. When that starts top down it's easy for me to walk in my linebacker room after we take a guy pick 18.

"Probably in 20 other rooms that player is starting and there's nothing you can do about it as a position coach. Well, that's not the case here. If Jack isn't the top two or three Jack will continue to go through the process of rookie development until he's hit that mark."

Sheppard has been really impressed with how Derrick Barnes has improved his game heading into his third season. He took first-team reps next to Alex Anzalone in the spring.

We talk all the time about the big jump players take heading into their second season. Malcolm Rodriguez started 15 games last year and finished with 87 tackles, eight tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He should be even better in Year 2.

But as long as Campbell continues to absorb the technique differences the Lions are teaching him and the game continues to slow down for him with more reps, his size (6-5, 243) and speed combo will be hard to take off the field. If he doesn't start, he plays considerable reps in a rotation with Barnes and Rodriguez.

20man: It's a good point because play-action is where Goff is at his very best. Consider this: Goff completed 70.6 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns vs. only three interceptions with a 127.3 passer rating in play-action throws last season. On non-play action throws his completion percentage dipped to 63 percent and his passer rating to 88.8.

Gibbs has a chance to be a weapon in the passing game. He catches the ball effortlessly and doesn't break stride.

Tight end Sam LaPorta was a favorite target of both Goff and Sudfeld in the spring. He's got a terrific ability to separate at the top of his routes and was a weapon in the red zone. I think both players will benefit from a play-action pass game in Detroit that's one of the best in the league.

20man: It's the secondary for me 100 percent.

The additions of Cam Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley completely reshapes this secondary with proven playmakers. Plus the return of safety Tracy Walker, who only played in two and a half games last year because of an Achilles injury, is huge too. Those four along with Kerby Joseph, who is expected to take a big leap forward going into his second season, easily makes this secondary the most improved unit from a year ago.

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