The Detroit Lions begin training camp this week, marking the official start of the first season for new general manager Brad Holmes and new head coach Dan Campbell. The team will go through a four-day acclimation period starting Wednesday, but the pads are expected to come on early next week, and then we're off and running.
There's been significant changes in Allen Park with the hiring of Holmes and Campbell, the trade that sent Matthew Stafford to LA for Jared Goff and draft picks, and the retooling of the roster that's turned over significantly from last season.
With the start of camp brings new hope that this year will be different from the last, and the groundwork for that starts on the field this week. There's a lot to take in at training camp, but here are five things I'll be watching out for early on in camp:
View photos of Detroit Lions players arriving for 2021 training camp.
1. Defensive changes
New defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn takes over a Lions' defense that set franchise records last season for most points and yards allowed in a single season. It will be no easy task for Glenn to turn things around right away, but the good thing is there's lot of room for improvement.
Glenn helped take New Orleans' secondary from one of the league's worst to one of its best as the defensive backs coach for the Saints the last five seasons. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact Glenn can have on players like Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Tracy Walker and Will Harris in Detroit's secondary early on.
Glenn is switching to a base 3-4 defense, though it should be noted that teams are in sub-package defense about 70 percent of the time these days. His defense is expected to be more aggressive than the previous regime. Detroit has a number of new pieces on that side of the ball they hope can make an immediate impact.
2. Goff impact
For the first time since training camp back in 2008, someone other than Stafford will be the quarterback of the Lions.
Goff, 26, is a two-time Pro Bowler who took the Rams to the Super Bowl just three seasons ago. He's spoken openly about how the trade has fueled him and left a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He's out to prove his doubters wrong. Holmes believes there's a lot of good football left in Goff.
Goff should have a good offensive line in front of him, a nice tandem in the backfield in D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, and a Pro Bowl tight end in T.J. Hockenson to throw to. The receiver corps is a bit of a question mark, but there's potential there, too.
This week we start to see what Anthony Lynn's offense will look like with Goff at the helm.
3. How good can this offensive line be?
The evaluation of the offensive line really begins when the pads come on next week and we can start to see how things develop in the run game and how much better this unit can be protecting the quarterback. Those first padded pass-rush drills between the offensive and defensive lines will be must-watch in camp.
The Lions believe they solidified their offensive line with the drafting of Penei Sewell No. 7 overall in this year's NFL Draft. He slots in at right tackle and joins Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai to form Detroit's expected starting five upfront. It's a talented group with terrific depth behind it, and is projected to be one of Detroit's real strengths this season if they stay healthy.
All eyes will be on Sewell when the pads come on and we get into some competitive periods. He was one of the best o-line draft prospects to come out in years, and the Lions were able to get him at No. 7. If he's as good as advertised, this unit could be special.
4. Who emerges at receiver?
Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are two veteran receivers signed this offseason to help fill the vacancies left by Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. leaving in free agency. Williams has been a 1,000-yard receiver in this league, and Perriman is coming off back-to-back 500-yard receiving seasons, but neither player has been a true No. 1 receiver for their team.
Quintez Cephus is back after a promising rookie campaign, and Detroit drafted Amon-Ra St. Brown out of USC in the fourth round of this year's draft. St. Brown has a chance to make an immediate impact in the slot.
Can Williams be a No. 1-type player? Can Perriman put it all together for a breakout season? How good can St. Brown be in Year 1? There are a lot of questions for the Lions wide receivers, and we should start to get some of the answers soon.
View photos of the Detroit Lions roster heading into 2021 training camp.
5. Campbell coaching style
Campbell is a former player, as are a number of the coaches on his staff, so there's been a little different tone to practice. Campbell won't ever ask a player to do something he wasn't asked to do himself. There's a respect factor that comes with that.
We saw a ton of competitive periods in OTAs and minicamp where players were pitted against one another and even coaches against coaches at times. It gets the competitive juices flowing a bit and breaks up the monotony of practice. Campbell said he wants competition to be involved in everything the players do while at work.
Campbell is high energy, and it will be interesting to see how that translates to the practice field in camp.