10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Which rookie impressed the most?

During the offseason Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: Decker certainly looked the part at left tackle. He moves pretty well for a man his size.

But the rookie who stood out the most to me was probably undrafted tight end Cole Wick. He took full advantage of Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron nursing injuries, in my opinion.

He's got great size at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds and showed he also has soft hands. In the third open OTA practice, Wick made a couple of terrific catches showing off those hands. He jumped up and made a high twisting catch on a ball thrown behind him in one team drill. He then went down and snatched one off his shoe strings a little later.

We'll see how putting pads on and taking contact will affect him, but so far he looks like he could very much be in the mix for that third tight end spot.

20man: The revamping of the weight room and training facilities. The players raved about the changes when they reported back for offseason workouts. Quinn wanted a tougher football team. That's step one.

20man: Ameer Abdullah.

He missed the offseason after undergoing shoulder surgery but is expected to be back on the field at the start of training camp.

Abdullah went through his fair share of ups and downs as a rookie and finished with 597 rushing yards (4.2 average) and two touchdowns.

I thought he showed a high level of maturity and dedication in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio this offseason.

"I feel like I showed some flashes last year, but in this league you can't show flashes," he said. "You have to be consistent. That definitely had a lot to do with growing pains.

"It also had a lot to do with me being immature as a player coming straight from college and not understanding what kind of preparation and mental focus it took for such a long amount of time.

"I know I have a lot to give to this team and a lot to give to this league. I know I can be a good back, but it starts with those little things I mentioned earlier."

I'd be pretty surprised if we don't see a much-improved Abdullah in year two.

20man: I have to preface this by saying what I witnessed this offseason was not true football yet. Football begins in August when the pads come on and the hitting starts.

But I'll give you two just based off what I saw this offseason in terms of increased roles and/or potential for playmaking ability.

Fourth-year defensive end Devin Taylor looked good this offseason. He has a much better understanding of how to use his hands, leverage and speed to his advantage. He'll be a factor as a first-year starter seeing a lot of one-on-one blocks along a talented defensive line.

The other player I could see having a bigger role is receiver TJ Jones. He made some big catches for Matthew Stafford down the stretch last year, and the Lions can use him in a lot of different roles. Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Jeremy Kerley are still the top three receivers in my book, but I believe Jones will have a bigger impact than people might think.

20man: I'd say the favorites heading into training camp are: Taylor Decker (left tackle), Laken Tomlinson (left guard), Travis Swanson (center), Larry Warford (right guard) and Riley Reiff (right tackle). That was the first-team unit for most of the offseason.

Maybe Gabe Ikard or rookie Graham Glasgow gives Swanson a run for his money, but it seems like Swanson's job to lose at this point.

20man: Good question. There are plenty of candidates.

On offense: Abdullah. He's going to get every opportunity to carry most of the load for the Lions' rushing attack. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry the second half of last season when the offensive line simplified some blocking schemes and played more consistently.

The Lions should be better upfront as a run-blocking unit with Decker at left tackle, Tomlinson with a year under his belt, Warford in better shape and Reiff moved over to right tackle. That should benefit Abdullah and the run game.

On defense: I'm going with Haloti Ngata. That might be an odd selection to some, but the 2015 version of Ngata wasn't exactly himself. It took a little time to adjust to his new environment and a new scheme after the trade. Then he got hurt early on. He didn't take part in training camp until the final week because of a hamstring injury. Then, injuries to his shoulder and calf early in the season limited him even more. The calf injury forced him to miss two games.

Ngata told me this offseason that he's feeling great and is very comfortable with both the scheme and his surroundings. He's even taken on more of a leadership role in the defensive line room. Watching him out at practice this offseason, I can see the difference. I'd expect Ngata to be a big factor in the middle of the defense from the very first snap this year.

@ttwentyman Lions have two excellent gunners. What is your overall view of Lions special teams? — Billy Barnes (@billy4967) June 22, 2016

20man: I'm hurt you don't already know my answer to this, Billy. I just wrote about it. My best answer is this link.

20man: The current top four are Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley and TJ Jones. That fifth spot is where it gets interesting.

Veterans Andre Caldwell, Andre Roberts and Corey Fuller are certainly in the mix. Caldwell looked good during OTAs and minicamp. Roberts brings a strong element to special teams.

Undrafted rookies Jay Lee and Quinshad Davis will have an opportunity to impress as well.

I like what a veteran like Caldwell brings to the table, but I wouldn't count out Lee making a run for the final spot either. It should be a terrific competition.

20man: I don't think you can ever consider a sixth-round draft pick a camp body.

Bob Quinn wanted him, and didn't want to take his chance on losing him in the undrafted free agent market. He'll be given every opportunity to beat out veteran Don Muhlbach for the job.

If he doesn't win that competition, I wouldn't be surprised if he fills up one of the 10 spots on the practice squad.

20man: Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin features a multiple front scheme. That means he moves players around quite a bit and features different techniques within their alignments.

There were certain packages in the past where a player like Ndamukong Suh played on the edge. I could see Robinson playing a similar role from time to time.

I see Robinson mostly playing the three-technique, but Austin gets pretty creative. Those players will shift around upfront.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content