5 things to watch: Minicamp

Minicamp practice this week is open in its entirety to beat writers and media outlets, which means it will be our second look at where this Detroit Lions team stands as the calendar flips over to June and inches even closer to the start of training camp.

Here are five things to look out for in our second look at Matt Patricia’s football team:

**LEFT GUARD FOR RAGNOW?

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Detroit’s first-round pick spent the entirety of the first open OTA practice with the first-team offense at left guard, while veteran Graham Glasgow played center.

The Lions drafted Ragnow 20th overall with the expectation that he could play either guard or center, having experience at both in college at Arkansas.

Detroit’s previous No. 1 picks, Taylor Decker and Jarrad Davis, were Day 1 starters at the positions they settled into as rookies and still play now. That’s certainly not a formula set in stone, but Ragnow lining up at guard once again could mean the Lions are leaning that way, or at least getting a very thorough look at him in that spot.

ANSAH HEALTH & PARTICIPATION

The uber-talented defensive end was dressed for the first open OTA practice, but didn’t do much in the way of participation.

Ansah, who led the Lions with 12 sacks last year, despite dealing with an assortment of injuries, is expected to be a major piece upfront for the Lions on defense, playing 2018 on the team’s franchise tag.

The long-term health and well-being of Detroit’s best pass rusher is priority No. 1, obviously, but spring reps can be important reps, especially during the install of a new defense. Mental reps just aren’t the same as lining up and running through it.

RETURN THREAT

As a rookie in 2015, Ameer Abdullah was one of the best kickoff return men in the league. He averaged 29.1 yards per return that season and amassed over 1,000 kickoff-return yards (1,077).

As his role in the offense running the football grew in 2016, he was taken off special teams. Last season, when his role carrying the ball diminished some late in the year, he was used once again on special teams and returned eight kicks for a 22.4 average.

Abdullah was working as both a kickoff and punt returner during the first open OTA practice. Could Abdullah return to playing a bigger role on special teams in 2018?

“Yes,” special teams coordinator Joe Marciano said last week when asked that question.

TIGHT END COMPETITION

One of the bright spots in the first open OTA was the play of the tight end group. Those guys made a number of nice plays during both team and indivual drills, led by Michael Roberts and Luke Willson.

Tight end was one of the few positions entering the spring that seemed to be a very open competition for both playing time and roster spots with a number of veteran players in the mix.

By all accounts, it's a good working room with a bunch of vets that are pushing each other to be better. There's a nice collection of athletes at the position that feel like people are sleeping their abilities.

It will be interesting to see how the reps are distributed, and if that group can continue making plays.

**EVOLVING DEFENSE

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The buzzword all offseason when talking about the new Lions' defense has been 'multiple.' After getting our first look at it during the previous open OTA, that word certainly applies. The Lions ran three-man fronts, four-man fronts, moved their linebackers around, and were quite multiple with the personnel in their sub packages.

One position group that looked rather sharp during the day was the veteran linebacking corps, led by second-year middle linebacker Jarrad Davis and free-agent acquisition Devon Kennard. In this defense, that group has to be versatile and know what they're doing.

Linebackers coach Al Golden described the linebackers in this defense last week as the conduit between the defensive line and secondary. Watching their body language pre-snap and how quickly they’re flying to the football are two ways in which we can tell how quickly that group is picking up this new system.

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