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TWENTYMAN: 5 takeaways from minicamp

The Detroit Lions completed their mandatory three-day minicamp in Allen Park as the team got a lot of good work in with one more week of OTAs on the schedule for the youngsters on the roster before summer break.

Teams are limited in what they can do in minicamp with some of the rules on contact and intensity, but it's an important time of year for head coach Dan Campbell and his team to get the young players and the new guys up to speed so they can hit the ground running when training camp begins.

Here are five takeaways I had coming out of minicamp:

1. Much improved secondary

GM Brad Holmes went to work this offseason revamping the cornerback room and the very early returns look good for what the team hopes is a much-improved secondary.
The additions of Carlton Davis III, Amik Robertson, Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. completely retooled that room and early observations from minicamp were more hands on footballs and a much more difficult time for the offense to move the ball via the air from minicamps past.

Davis and Robertson got multiple hands on footballs and Arnold had a terrific interception off quarterback Jared Goff on the first day of minicamp Tuesday that ended a situational drill after one play.

When the pads come on in training camp and the physicality ramps up, we'll get a better idea of the gains Detroit's truly made in the back end of their defense, but so far it appears they've significantly improved that room and the competition there come camp should be fierce.

View photos from Day 2 of Detroit Lions minicamp on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 in Allen Park, Mich.

2. Competition at receiver will be fun to watch

Amon-Ra St. Brown has been his steady, playmaking self this spring and Jameson Williams had a good minicamp as he steps in the No. 2 receiver role. What will be great to watch in camp is how the pecking order at receiver falls into place from there.

Veteran Kalif Raymond has had a terrific spring and is a player who stood out to me in minicamp. He's a glue piece on the roster and he has earned the trust of Goff. Don't be surprised if he sees a significant uptick in targets and receptions this season.

After that, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green, Daurice Fountain, Maurice Alexander and others will be fighting for a couple spots. Green is one I'll have a close eye on come camp. The Lions loved his big-play ability coming out of North Carolina and now with a year under his belt and the entire route tree at his disposal he could be someone who makes big strides in his second season.

3. Roster is the best it's been in the Holmes-Campbell era

One thing that stood out to me watching minicamp is just how much improved this roster is vs. the first minicamp of the regime in 2021. It's really night and day, and that's a credit to both Holmes and Campbell for having an eye for talent and being able to develop it.

I couldn't help but think by end of training camp there are going to be some really good football players that aren't going to make this roster but are going to be able to help other teams across the league. The competition at cornerback, defensive line, wide receiver and running back will be fierce and there are going to be some good football players at those spots who don't make the initial 53-man roster.

4. Defensive line depth

It's hard to evaluate the offensive and defensive lines in unpadded OTA and minicamp practices, but with the limited contact the NFL allows at this time I sensed an uptick in the pressure Goff, Hendon Hooker and Nate Sudfeld experienced.

We obviously know what Aidan Hutchinson brings to the table and he looks to be in great shape heading into camp. Marcus Davenport hasn't been on the field this spring as he's rehabbing an injury, but he's got a track record of success in this league. Same goes for defensive lineman DJ Reader, who will impact everyone he plays with upfront. Alim McNeill is also poised for a huge year.

Josh Paschal has been disruptive this spring and the Lions expect him to take a big leap in production. James Houston is back healthy, and it was good to see him taking part in the spring. Can he replicate the success we saw at the end of his rookie season in 2022 after he missed almost all of last season with a broken ankle?

Levi Onwuzurike is finally past the back injury that cost him two years. He's gained 15 pounds and was called out by Campbell as a player who impressed this spring. Rookie Mekhi Wingo will be in the mix for a rotational role, and players like Chris Smith, Mathieu Betts and Mitchell Agude have made plays this spring too.

Much like we talked about at cornerback, there will be great competition up and down the defensive line and the Lions think that will make everyone better. That unit as a whole should be much more disruptive in 2024.

View behind-the-scenes photos from 2024 Detroit Lions media day on Monday, June 3, 2024.

5. Continuity makes a difference

I thought Campbell had a good line when he said because of the continuity in the coaching staff and the return of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, he felt like they were starting the offseason training program at level 401 vs. some other teams who might be starting at level 101.

Because of the improved personnel on defense, Glenn can be more diverse in his schemes and there's been a little bit of an adjustment there. The new kickoff rules will keep Fipp busy figuring out personnel and strategy with how he wants to attack that play. Offensively, Johnson will continue to evolve, but he returns the core of his attack and that has to be comforting. Campbell said there won't be much new install on that side of the ball come camp.

Just the way practice operated and the competition level we saw was indicative of a team that has a ton of continuity from the head coach to the coordinator to the assistants and down the line. It should really benefit Detroit and allow them to hit the ground running for the start of camp.

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