The Lions wrapped up the offseason training program with a mandatory minicamp this week. It was a good opportunity for rookies, new faces and veterans to get quality work in before the summer break.
Rookie offensive lineman Taylor Decker continued to play left tackle during open practices all week, but head coach Jim Caldwell isn't making any position commitments this early in the year.
"He's playing more left tackle than anything else at this point," Caldwell said Thursday. "So, you know, pads go on when we come back, alright? So, we'll see what's happening."
The learning curve for rookies is always steeper, something that's not lost on quarterback Jake Rudock.
"It's a very natural thing to say, 'why can't I get this?' but then you start to get it and it's helpful to have experienced that not long ago," he said of how his experience as a graduate transfer at Michigan is helping him now.
Second-year running back Zach Zenner is just a year removed from a rookie season that was cut short by injury. Zenner appreciates the comfort-level that comes with a season under his belt.
"Just the familiarity with how everything in the NFL works," Zenner said. "When you come in as a rookie everything is new. Not just the offense. Not just what your assignments are or the speed of the game. But where are you staying? Your teammates and everyone is new.
"When you come back for the second year you kind of know a little bit more how things work and it's more comfortable."
Zenner is fighting for a roster spot in a crowded running back lineup. Ameer Abdullah, who is currently sitting out while he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, is expected to be ready to go for training camp. And veteran Theo Riddick, who has been primarily used as a receiver out of the backfield, could see more action in the run game this year.
"Yeah, I believe he will (be a bigger factor in the run game)," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said last week. "We're still kind of ironing that out and getting all our reps out here and kind of letting it shake out how it shakes out, but I think Theo can be a really successful runner.
"Obviously, all you guys know it, he caught the ball really well last year, was really successful for us in the pass game. We've got to find a better way to let him be successful in the run game. I think he's doing a really good job learning and executing and getting better out here. I see him making strides in the run game."
In order for the run game to take a step forward this year, the offensive line will have to improve as well. It's a pivotal year for that position group, especially with all the new talent brought in from the draft and free agent market.
"It motivates everybody," center Travis Swanson said. "This is a business that they're trying to constantly find guys to get better. That's the entire group -- every position."
Re-live all the action of minicamp with the following:
The offseason roster shuffle continued this week as the Lions made several transactions.
On Tuesday, the Lions signed defensive back Keith Lewis and wide receiver Andre Roberts. The team also waived wide receiver Austin Willis and placed wide receiver Corey Washington on Reserve/Injured.
Tight end Orson Charles earned himself a roster spot Thursday after a minicamp tryout. Charles was a fourth-round pick in the 2012 Draft and has career totals of nine receptions for 109 yards, in addition to two kickoff returns for 17 yards.
To make room for Charles on the roster, the team waved defensive lineman James DeLoach.
LIONS TO ADD CHEERLEADERS
The Lions announced Monday that cheerleaders will debut this upcoming season.
"The Ford Family is unwavering in their commitment to improving the Detroit Lions fan experience on and off the field," said team president Rod Wood said in a press release. "After thorough consideration and receiving input from our fans through season ticket member surveys and focus groups, we believe that this is an opportunity to elevate our game day entertainment."
The addition of cheerleaders is just another indication that the Lions are making changes in how they operate in the relationship with their fans.
Read Mike O'Hara's full column on what it means for the organization here.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY ITEMS:
- Watch Tori Petry's sitdown with general manager Bob Quinn to recap the offseason and discuss the progress he has seen players make over the past few months.
- View behind-the-scenes photos from Lions Media Day 2016.
- Lions alum Robert Porcher visited practice Tuesday and talked about how he liked what he saw from defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
- Veteran receivers Andre Caldwell and Andre Roberts are looking for a career revival with the Lions.
- Tight end Cole Wick's progress has been remarkable, considering his college background.
- It's not just the new players who are bringing fresh legs and renewed optimism for the 2016 season to the Detroit Lions' defense.
- Linebacker Kyle Van Noy says the reason for his recent improvement is simple: He's healthy.