Training camp begins in full for the Detroit Lions on Saturday with their first full-squad practice coming on Sunday. There are a lot of storylines to watch develop as the Lions begin preparations for the 2017 season, but here are some of the big ones:
1. Finding a replacement left tackle
We should get an update on the long-term prognosis of Taylor Decker and his injured right shoulder when head coach Jim Caldwell addresses the media on Saturday.
Decker will begin training camp on the PUP list with the hope he is back sooner rather than later. But, if Decker has to miss time in the regular season, a replacement will have to emerge during camp.
Greg Robinson, a former No. 2 overall pick, who the Lions traded for back in June, seems like a logical candidate, especially because Cyrus Kouandjio (NFI) and Corey Robinson (PUP) will start camp on the sidelines. Cornelius Lucas, Tony Hills and Storm Norton are also in the competition.
2. Will Matthew Stafford sign a contract extension?
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is entering the final year of a three-year extension he signed back in 2013 when he had two years remaining on his rookie deal. Stafford said back in April he'd like to re-sign with Detroit, but was leaving all of the business side of the things up to his agent (Tom Condon) and the team.
"If that stuff's going to get done, it's going to get done," Stafford said. "If it's not, it's not. I can't really worry about it too much. That's why I have an agent. That's why you hire one and let him deal with that kind of stuff.
"For me it's just going about my business. I'm under contract for another year and I'll be here trying to lead this team and be as good as we can be."
Last year, Darius Slay signed a contract extension in late July. Theo Riddick and Sam Martin followed suit in early September.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn seemed optimistic a deal could be brokered when speaking with SiriusXM Radio earlier this summer.
"Always have positive thinking," Quinn said, via MLive.com. "But I've said this a bunch of times. It takes two sides to do a deal and I feel confident that we'll get something done."
3. Getting rookies up to speed
Head coach Jim Caldwell has a system in place where rookies hear and learn the scheme at least six times before they actually play in a game. Rookie minicamp, football school, OTAs, minicamp and again in the week leading up to training camp when the rookies report a week earlier than the veterans. The sixth time is in camp itself.
Jarrad Davis, the Lions' first-round pick in this year's draft, is expected to start at the MIKE linebacker spot right away. Other rookies like cornerback Teez Tabor, receiver Kenny Golladay, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, tight end Michael Roberts and others are trying to slot themselves into roles in camp.
The faster a rookie picks up the scheme and begins playing fast without overthinking usually determines how much playing time they can carve out for themselves early on.
4. Sam Martin injury
The Lions released the news Tuesday that punter Sam Martin would begin training camp on the NFI (Active/Non-Football Injury) list after suffering an ankle injury earlier this month away from the Lions practice facility.
The release only stated that Martin would "miss time during the preseason."
Martin is coming off another terrific season in which he finished the regular season with a 44.2 net punting average as he re-set the Lions record for net punting average. It was the third-best single season total in NFL history, and made Martin an alternate to the Pro Bowl.
His injury and recovery will have to be monitored during camp. He is a real weapon for this football team.
It will also be interesting to see who the Lions tap to be the holder on field goals until Martin returns. Will Matt Prater handle all the kickoff duties, or will someone take on some of that role as well?
Kasey Redfern is expected to handle the punting duties until Martin returns.
5. Ziggy Ansah and the return of Detroit's pass rush
Detroit's inability to form a consistent pass rush last season was part of the reason opposing quarterbacks completed 72.7 percent of their passes against the Lions and had a combined passer rating of 106.5. Detroit's 26 sacks were the second fewest in the league last year.
After recording 14.5 sacks and earning his first invite to the Pro Bowl in 2015, Ansah had just two sacks a year ago as he dealt with an assortment of nagging injuries, the worst of which was a high ankle sprain suffered the second week of the regular season.
The Lions are counting on Ansah to get back to his 2015 level of production. If he does, Detroit's pass rush should be vastly improved.
"I'm really focused this year," Ansah said back in May. "I'm excited for what we have coming up. It's definitely going to be better than last year."