The Detroit Lions wrapped up their offseason training program, and the next time we see them on the field will be training camp later this summer.
After a strong finish to the 2022 season that fell just short of the playoffs, every returning member of the Lions roster is looking to make the changes necessary to get over the hump in 2023. There are also plenty of new faces looking to contribute to that goal, as GM Brad Holmes spent considerable resources this offseason adding to the roster via free agency & the draft.
So who stood out during offseason practices? I asked the Detroitlions.com crew, and here's what they had to say:
Tim Twentyman: Tight end Sam LaPorta
The transition to the NFL is tough for tight ends just for the sheer amount of information they need to know. We don't see rookie tight ends tear up the league very often, and there's a good reason for that.
LaPorta is picking things up rather quickly by all accounts and he's certainly been an impact player in the passing game through OTAs and minicamp. He's got a knack for getting open, is very good after the catch, and has soft hands. He'll make an early impact for Detroit, especially in the red zone.
Mike O'Hara: Safety Kerby Joseph
Joseph stood out playing safety for the Lions in his rookie season, and it was more of the same this year in the offseason.
In a secondary that has been reworked, Joseph fit in like a big piece of a puzzle. He was aggressive, animated and vocal, and he brought energy to every drill.
As a rookie, Joseph played all 17 games with 14 starts. He produced four interceptions and eight passes defended.
From what he showed in the offseason, he's ready to carry his share of the load.
PJ's Pick: Cornerback Cam Sutton
The Lions signed Sutton to a three-year deal in March, expecting him to bring a steady veteran presence to the secondary. With the offseason program completed, I think the front office may be even happier about that decision now than they were when Sutton's pen hit paper during free agency.
Not only did Sutton's play stand out - he routinely made high-effort plays on the ball to cause breakups during team periods - but his leadership on the field was impossible to miss. No. 1 was constantly communicating with the rest of the defense, making sure the unit was lined up and ready for whatever offensive coordinator Ben Johnson had coming.
Sutton has already proven to be a mentor to a young group of defensive backs, with his pre-snap and off-the-field contributions impressing just as much as his on-field talent.
View some of the best photos from Detroit Lions offseason workouts, OTAs and minicamp.
Editor's Pick: Defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson
With Gardner-Johnson, it's less about on-field performance (although he's made plenty of plays at practice) and more about the energy he brings to the secondary along with fellow newcomer Sutton. Both of those veteran players are tasked with helping turn the secondary around, and if what we've seen so far this spring is any indication, they're on the right track.
It's hard to judge performance in non-padded spring practices, but the coverage in the secondary has been stickier and the energy on the field is palpable. Gardner-Johnson is a big reason for that. If the good spring vibes lead to playmaking in the fall, watch out.