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O'HARA: Looking ahead to OTAs

On the list of things to wonder about as the Detroit Lions start the OTA workouts, Jarrad Davis shifting to a higher gear is not one of them.

Anything that gets him closer to playing football at full speed appeals to Davis as he prepares for his second season as the starting middle linebacker.

Under rules governing offseason workouts, OTAs (organized team activities) are the third phase of the program. Practices can include everything up to 11-on-11 drills between offense and defense, but practices in pads with contact are not allowed.

Given that the start of the regular season is just under four months away, there are some issues to consider at this still-early stage of the offseason under new head coach Matt Patricia and his staff.

Among them are how players such as quarterback Matthew Stafford and others recover from the mental and physical grind of the previous season, the early depth chart at tight end and where some draft picks fit.

Jarrad Davis: If anything, his intensity level has to be ramped down, not ramped up. It isn't even at the level of training camp, but being on the field in the OTAs against a full offense is a step up.

"It gets the bullets flying," he said at the Taste of the Lions event last week. "It gets us out there, I'm itching to hit somebody again, but we're not going to get that opportunity. We're not going to have that opportunity.

"I'm going to have to wait a little longer."

Any increase in tempo is welcome, though.

"It's almost like another practice," Davis said. "There are a lot of rules and such that you can't do it like practice. But to have the opportunity to go out there and move around with your teammates and communicate and just talk about the game and be in that mode again – it's awesome. It's almost invaluable."

Tight ends: There's a sharp learning curve for the six players currently at the position on the offseason roster.

The unit's entire production as a member of the Detroit Lions is 15 games, three starts, four catches and 48 yards. All of that belongs to Michael Roberts, a fourth-round draft pick last year out of Toledo.

Roberts showed promise while slotted behind two veterans who have departed via free agency – Eric Ebron (Colts) and Darren Fells (Browns). Also on the roster last year was Hakeem Valles, a high-value prospect who played 11 games for the Cardinals in 2017 without catching a pass and was active with the Lions for one game last year after spending most of the year on the practice squad.

Two veterans signed as free agents – Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo – have five years of experience each. Also on the roster are undrafted rookie DeAndre Goolsby and Marcus Lucas, who has been with six previous teams since 2014 without making a regular-season roster.

Leadership will emerge in that group at some point as the pecking order shakes out.

"I think we're learning together," Willson said. "It's fun in that sense. Everything is new to a lot of us. I can tell them some stuff from being a little older. They can help me out."

Recovery time: Matthew Stafford took a pounding last season from being sacked a career-high 47 times, but he's not the only Lion who needs an offseason to heal. Not all bumps and bruises are listed on the weekly injury reports.

"Not only myself at the quarterback position, but all the other positions," Stafford said on WJR-760 AM Wednesday evening. "It takes some time. I'd be lying to you if I said I showed up every April and felt great again.

"It takes some time. It's months. But by the time September comes around, I'm always feeling good and ready to go."

Stafford said he's never had arm trouble.

"It's more the rest of the stuff," he said. "There are a lot of little nicks and what happens kind of behind the scenes but doesn't get talked about and needs to heal up, but my arm is ready to go."

Rookie watch list: Four things to look for – for now:

Does first-round draft pick Frank Ragnow line up at left guard or center, or both? It's probably both.

Does fourth-round pick Da'Shawn Hand line up at defensive tackle or end, or both? Probably both.

Does fifth-round pick Tyrell Crosby line up at offensive tackle or guard? Probably both.

How does seventh-round pick Nick Bawden look as a fullback catching passes out of the backfield? We have to wait until training camp to see him block.

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