The Detroit Lions have conducted two weeks of voluntary OTA practices at their Allen Park training facility so far this offseason. This week kicks off the three-day mandatory minicamp. The Lions will conduct another week of OTA practices next week, but those will mainly focus on the young players and any veterans who want to stick around.
Here are five things I'll be looking out for during minicamp this week:
1. INCREASED COMPETITION
OTA practice and the offseason minicamp aren't conducted in pads, so there are limits to the kind of contact we can see from players. The Lions have run a few competitive 7-on-7 periods in the first two open OTA practices, but will they ramp up the competition in minicamp to include some individual competitive periods?
Could we see some pass catcher vs. defender periods? Maybe some situational team periods? It could be good to get the competitive juices flowing for a few days before the players break for the summer.
View photos from the sixth day of OTAs on Friday, June 5th.
2. CORNERBACK ROTATION
Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Quinton Dunbar, Corn Elder, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Mike Ford. All six of those cornerbacks are currently learning a new scheme and freshening up on technique, but come training camp, those six players, plus a few others on the roster, will be fighting for three starting spots and playing time after that.
The cornerback position is expected to be one of the better competitions in training camp. Right now, Okudah has gotten the bulk of the first-team reps in OTAs, with Oruwariye and Dunbar splitting reps on the opposite side. What will the pairings look like in minicamp?
3. WIDE RECEIVER EMERGENCE
Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn was asked about the receiver position last week. He said there's a lot of opportunity in the revamped room because there's really no established player at the position yet.
Lynn knows veteran Tyrell Williams from their time together with the Los Angeles Chargers. Breshad Perriman's speed has already shown up in OTAs. Rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown has shown some versatility. Second-year receiver Quintez Cephus has been a volume pass catcher early in the offseason.
So far in the two open OTA practices, quarterback Jared Goff's two favorite targets have been tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift. Which receivers might start to emerge among the group? The competition at receiver is wide open, and it will be interesting to see who makes the biggest impression over the next three days to take momentum into the summer.
4. LINEBACKER PLAY
One of the biggest changes on defense under new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is the switch to a base 3-4. The previous regime valued size at the linebacker position, but Glenn and head coach Dan Campbell prefer speed. Campbell said last week he doesn't care if a linebacker is 220 pounds as long as he can run.
Jahlani Tavai has slimmed down 17 pounds and is moving better. Will Jamie Collins Sr. be in Allen Park this week after missing the first couple weeks of voluntary OTAs? If so, where will he fit into the mix? Where does rookie Derrick Barnes slot in? How will Glenn rotate between Romeo Okwara, Trey Flowers and Julian Okwara on the edge?
How well this linebacker group continues to gel and feel more comfortable with the defense will go a long way in determining how much better the Lions can be in 2021.
5. GOFF PROGRESSION
Quarterback Jared Goff was really sharp the last time we saw him on the field in last Thursday's open OTA practice. He was distributing the ball quickly and accurately to all three levels of the field.
Goff has a ton of experience, a winning pedigree and a chip on his shoulder. The Lions are hoping that's a combination that helps get him back to Pro Bowl form. Goff looks to be picking up Lynn's system really well. He's been moving guys around and getting players in place, and looks to really be on top of the offense. It will be fun to see how Goff and the offense look if the Lions decide to put some competitive team periods together this week.