One area of their football team the Detroit Lions should feel pretty good about heading into Week 1 of the regular season is along the interior of the defensive line. It's a talented and deep group with some versatility among its ranks as well.
One of the biggest additions to that group this offseason was veteran Michael Brockers, who came over in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams. He's coming off a 51-tackle season with 5.0 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and five tackles for loss.
Brockers, 30, missed most of training camp with an undisclosed injury and has just recently returned to the practice field.
"I think we feel like he'll be ready Week 1," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of Brockers. "He is still improving, he is. It's just at a snail's pace right now. The fear is that if you put him in too early right now, do we take away everything that we've gotten, the gains that we have gotten by holding him (out)?
"I think that's the tough trick right now. I know this, if you said we had to play right now, he would go play. But yet, if we thought we could get him to that almost 100 percent range by holding him a little bit more, is it worth it? Well, knowing that we have a long season and he's played a lot of football, I just tend to be a little more conservative with him, that's all."
These next two weeks of practice leading into Detroit's matchup with San Francisco Week 1 next Sunday at Ford Field will be important for Brockers. He said it's important for him to ramp up his activities and feel reps and get himself back into the groove technique-wise.
"I didn't want to miss training camp, it was unfortunate, but for me, taking these practices and putting everything into them as far as teaching and learning and my technique and all that and just be ready for Game 1," Brockers said of the importance of the next two weeks.
The 49ers are obviously a familiar opponent to Brockers having played the first nine years of his career in Los Angeles in the NFC West. Brockers said he's already started watching tape on the 49ers' offense.
With veterans like Brockers upfront, along with rookies Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike, Brockers likes the mix they have along the interior of their line, and thinks the youngsters are really going to help them.
"Those two guys are coming along," Brockers said of Onwuzurike and McNeill, Detroit second and third-round picks, respectively. "Alim, he was a guy who right off the bat was working with the ones. So, that tells you about his talent and where he is. Same thing for Levi, he's coming along as well."
The Lions will need all hands on deck Week 1 against a San Francisco offense that likes to be physical, run the football and play with tempo. It will be a good test for Brockers and Co. upfront, and the first opportunity for those guys along Detroit's defensive interior to show just how deep and disruptive they can be.