The Detroit Lions wrapped up their mandatory minicamp this week and now have just one week remaining of OTAs for the younger players on the roster before the summer break.
With minicamp now in the books, here are five of my biggest takeaways from the three days of practices, press conferences and player availability:
1. The wide receiver competition is going to be fun to watch
It's really night and day from where this receiver room was from both a talent and depth standpoint at this time last year to where they are now.
The additions of DJ Chark via free agency and Jameson Williams in the draft (No. 12 overall), coupled with the re-signing of Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond, and stud rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown prepping for a big second year, the Lions are in a nice spot with a good mix of veterans and youngsters with varying skill sets.
Third-year wide receiver Quintez Cephus, and Trinity Benson, who the team traded for at the end of training camp last year, are two guys who have made a number of plays in OTAs and minicamp the last couple of weeks. Cephus was having a great start to his second season last year before a collarbone injury ended his season after just four and a half games. He's a guy that's proven he can make plays in this league, and he's maybe six on the depth chart at receiver right now.
It will be really fun to watch Williams and how he fits into the mix when he's ready to return from an ACL injury, though head coach Dan Campbell said Thursday he doesn't expect Williams to be ready to practice at the start of training camp.
2. Goff's in a good place
Veteran quarterback Jared Goff reiterated Tuesday when speaking to reporters there's still a lot of work to be done to get this offense where it needs to be at the start of the regular season, but Goff looked to be in a really good place running the show this week.
"I just think where we are with our offense, and how far along we are in the spring as far as just getting stuff in being able to rep it and feeling comfortable with what we have so far is a lot further along than last year," Goff said. "It feels good."
Tempo was a big theme this week for the offense, and they looked really comfortable when they wanted to speed it up and slow it down. Goff has a nice rapport with a lot of his receivers, especially Chark, which Lions fans will love to hear.
New offensive coordinator Ben Johnson really allowed Goff to take some ownership of this offense, incorporating some things he did well when he was with the Rams and really valuing Goff's input. That can go a long way to making a veteran quarterback like Goff really feel like this is his offense too. The comfort level certainly looks to be there.
3. Defensive line looks better built to affect opposing quarterbacks
Let's start with the scheme change. The Lions have gone from a read and react 3-4 in base to a more even front attacking scheme. Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash described it as playing more on the heels of the offensive linemen and trying to be more in the opponent's backfield. That certainly seems to fit the personnel the Lions have upfront with Aidan Hutchinson, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, Josh Paschal and others.
With full disclosure that this week was unpadded and with limited contact, it was still easy to see how the scheme changes and the personnel groupings were able to affect the quarterbacks much more than I can remember in recent years.
Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, was a problem all week long, lining up both on the edge and the interior. He's got an advanced tool box of pass-rush moves and could make an immediate impact in Detroit.
Overall, this is expected to be a much more disruptive front, which it needs to be if the defense is going to take a much needed step forward.
View photos from Day 3 of Detroit Lions minicamp on Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Allen Park, Mich.
4. The competition for backup quarterback job might be closer than we think
David Blough and Tim Boyle alternated reps with the second-team offense this week and both players had their moments, though I thought Blough was a little bit better overall.
Boyle got an opportunity to start three games last season. The Lions lost all three, with Boyle throwing six interceptions vs. three touchdowns.
Blough started five games in 2019 for the Lions and was 0-5 with six interceptions vs. four touchdowns.
Boyle is the more athletic of the two. Blough has a Texas gunslinger mentality to his game, and isn't afraid to make any throw. Unless GM Brad Holmes brings in another quarterback to compete in camp, it will be interesting to see how the competition plays out to be Goff's backup.
"He earned that right to take reps with the second group and he showed up and made some plays" Campbell said of Blough's week of work in minicamp. "Yet we were still alternating them, and then you watch what Tim did (Wednesday) he rose to the challenge and he made his plays when they were to be made in crucial situations.
"So, listen – competition is great thing. I respect what both of them did this spring. That's what I love about both of them. I know they are going out there to compete against each other."
5. Tougher decisions looming
This roster is in a much better spot overall than it was at this time a year ago.
Wide receiver, cornerback, safety, linebacker, running back and backup spots along the offensive line will be hotly contested come training camp. There will be good players who can help other teams who won't make this initial 53-man roster. That hasn't always been the case here in recent years.