The first open OTA practice of the year is Thursday, which means we get our first look at the revamped Lions roster led by new head coach Dan Campbell and his staff.
OTAs are an important time in the offseason, especially for a new staff like Campbell's, to get their first look at the veterans alongside the rookies, and to begin the on-field installation of their schemes.
Here are five things we'll be looking out for in the first OTA practice:
1. ALL EYES ON THE QUARTERBACK
For the last 12 years Detroit's offense has been run by quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he's in Los Angeles now, and for the first time since the 2008 offseason the Lions have a new man under center expected to start the season at quarterback in Jared Goff.
This will be our first look at how offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has started to incorporate some of the things Goff likes to do in the offense and how it might look different from the Stafford era.
Goff is one of only three active quarterbacks to throw for at least 3,800 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of the last four seasons. He talked this offseason about having a bit of a chip on his shoulder after being traded just three seasons after taking the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018. Goff has worked with a lot of Detroit's pass catchers in California this offseason. What will it look like on the field in Detroit?
View photos from the first day of OTAs
2. DEFENSIVE SCHEME
New defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is running a base 3-4 defense in Detroit, though teams are in nickel and sub-package defenses about 70 percent of the time in today's NFL.
Still, it will be interesting to see how the Lions utilize their weapons in the front seven in base defense. Where will Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers line up on early downs and passing downs? Who gets the early run with the first-team defense in the secondary? How does Glenn plan to utilize his linebackers? What does a deep defensive tackle group with the new rookies look like?
Things will look very different on defense in Detroit, which was a big weakness for the club in 2020.
3. OFFENSIVE LINE ROTATION
The offensive line is arguably the Lions' deepest and most talented position group right now. It's worth noting that OTA practices are unpadded, so it's hard to get a true evaluation of offensive line play without pads, but there are still things we can learn from practice.
How will first-round pick Penei Sewell fit in at right tackle? Halapoulivaati Vaitai is expected to get the first crack at the right guard spot. How will he look and move after struggling with injuries last year? Where do Tyrell Crosby, Matt Nelson and Logan Stenberg fit into the mix? Detroit's offensive line is expected to be a real strength of theirs this season. We get our first look at all the moving parts on the field together this week.
4. SECOND-YEAR BOUNCE BACK
The Lions used the third overall pick on cornerback Jeff Okudah in 2020, and his rookie season was plagued by injuries and inconsistency. Okudah is healthy after undergoing core muscle surgery in December. He said this offseason he's already started to see the benefits in his game from working with the new coaching staff.
The Lions will be better on defense in 2021 if they can marry their rush and cover efforts. Okudah is expected to be a big part of the coverage side of things. Just how much has his game improved? Will he hit the ground running in OTAs and minicamp and use it as a springboard to a nice camp? There's a lot of expectations placed on Okudah, but none higher than the expectations he has for himself.
5. WIDE RECEIVER EMERGENCE
Hopefully we get fans in attendance for training camp in Allen Park later this summer. If we do, they might need a roster to identify the guys playing wide receiver, because it's a whole new group of pass catchers for the Lions heading into 2021. This is probably the position group with the most question marks under the leadership of new receivers coach Antwaan Randle El.
Where do Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, Quintez Cephus, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond and others fit into the mix? Who might emerge as an early favorite target of Goff's? Can the Lions find the same kind of production or even more from the position than they got from Kenny Golladay (New York Giants), Marvin Jones Jr. (Jacksonville) and Danny Amendola (free agent) the last couple seasons?
Who lines up where and how does Lynn feature the position in his scheme starting this week? All things to keep an eye on this week and in successive open practices heading into the summer.