While all the current buzz is surrounding the start of free agency and the NFL draft, the Lions could also improve their team from within via their second-year players.
General manager Bob Quinn's 2017 draft class had promising rookie campaigns, including first-round pick Jarrad Davis, who started 14 games at MIKE linebacker.
"Jarrad, going through last year's film, obviously was thrown into the fire pretty quick," head coach Matt Patricia said last week. "Had a lot of snaps out there as a young guy, which I've been through that before with a couple players, especially at the linebacker position in my history.
"That's an extremely difficult thing to do. When you're in the middle of the defense and you're trying to control and tie together both the front end and the back end, there's a lot of pressure in that situation. For him to go out obviously and do it at a high level like he did last year is a great sign."
Fellow linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin also showed promise as a rookie, and could improve in his second year if he continues to add weight and strength.
"I think this offseason is going to be really important for him in kind of developing his body," Quinn said of Reeves-Maybin. "He knows that. We've talked about that. And he's a really athletic guy that can play in sub-defenses, he can play in base defense, so he's a versatile guy."
Cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew could see increased roles on defense too, depending on what happens in free agency.
"I think there's probably a pretty good chance they are internal," Quinn said when asked if replacements for free agents in the secondary are possibly already on the roster. "We drafted those guys for a reason last year. When we evaluated them in the postseason process, we liked what they did in their roles."
It's not just all defense either, the Lions' offense could benefit if wide receiver Kenny Golladay continues to make plays and improve.
"Kenny had a solid rookie year, kind of missed some time in the middle of the season with the hamstring," Quinn said. "Kind of worked back, I think Kenny has a tremendous amount of upside.
"I think he needs to really have a great offseason this year to get his body to where it needs to be. He has great potential, and looking forward to working with him."
The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine officially wrapped up Monday with the defensive back workouts.
A record nine safeties ran a sub 4.5-second 40-yard dash, showing off the evolution of the position. Players like top safety prospect Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), who ran a 4.46, offer teams speed and versatility.
"I think it will show people I have the hips and feet of a corner, also the IQ and the tackling ability of a safety," Fitzpatrick said before workouts. "I think that's really important to show coaches who are out there doing my drills. Then I think going into the draft, they know I can play multiple positions at a high level. Not just playing there but also at a high level."
- O'Hara's what we learned from the Combine
- Twentyman's 10 prospects who impressed
- Best of workouts photos: Running backs | Defensive line | Offensive line | Linebackers
OTHER NOTEWORTHY ITEMS:
- The Lions announced Wednesday that they added Steve Gregory to the coaching staff as a defensive assistant.
- As it currently stands, the Lions will have six picks in the 2018 NFL Draft.
- Head coach Matt Patricia said analytics will play a part in his evaluation process, but it won't be the end-all, be-all.