The Lions are seven practices into training camp with a trip to Pittsburgh on the schedule next week. The team is starting to find its identify on both sides of the ball, and certain units are emerging as strengths.
Going into camp, all eyes were on the wide receivers. How would they handle the loss of Calvin Johnson? And as expected, his replacement isn't going to come from one player alone. The bottom line for this group of receivers is that when quarterback Matthew Stafford throws the football, they'll catch it.
"That's the name of the game," Golden Tate said at the start of training camp. "If you're a receiver, you've got to catch it.
"We've got a quarterback who can sling it. Anything in our area code, we want to catch."
Tate, along with Marvin Jones Jr and Anquan Boldin, make up a trio of veteran receivers with a knack for making plays. Jones in particular has shown in camp that he can be a deep threat for the Lions.
"It's just focus," Jones said. "When the ball's in the air, I don't really care who is on me and stuff like that. It's just focus. It's just me and the ball no matter how many (defenders are there)."
On defense, it's the defensive line that's really stood out so far. That unit dominated in padded practices. Having defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker healthy has definitely helped.
"It was kind of a different sweetness for me, because Oct. 5, I was out of pads," Walker said of the first padded practice.
"Oct. 5 I got hurt. So just me coming back out here and putting these pads on, it was great."
After getting off to a rough start last season, the offensive line picked up their play the second half after Ron Prince took over as the position coach. Now, Prince and the offensive line are trying to pick up where they left off last year.
"We have given every single player an area of primacy right now," Prince said. "A thing he has to improve on in the next four days before we go play against Pittsburgh.
"So every guy has a list of things. This is essential. This is urgent. It's immediate. It's right now. And then here's some long-term things that you need to start to gain ground on perfecting."
There are still multiple positions up for grabs along the line. Incumbent starter Travis Swanson has a leg up on the center competition, but Gabe Ikard and rookie Graham Glasgow are very much in the mix.
"I feel all three players are going to get better and I think whoever emerges out of it is going to have their game at a higher level than maybe anyone anticipated," Prince said.
The left tackle position seems to be a little more settled with rookie Taylor Decker taking all of the first-team reps. Nothing is set in stone, but if Decker can adjust to the speed at the NFL level, it appears to be his job to lose.
"It kind of like the old saying, 'iron sharpens iron,'" Decker said. "A lot of good players out there and a lot of good people to compete against and get better against and test yourself against."
RUN GAME ON THE RISE
Much like the offensive line, the running backs are also trying to build on some late season improvements from last year. According to Ameer Abdullah, the next step for the run game is more consistency.
"I take it personal," he said. "Running the ball well is what we need to do to be a great team. You see every great team that is successful, who makes playoff runs, is a good running team as well as a good passing team. We got better last year, but we have to be consistent."
The team added running back Stevan Ridley in free agency this year, and he brings a different dimension to the offense as a between-the-tackles guy.
"I love to run the football," Ridley said. "I really do. I say that all the time. If you want to turn around and hand the ball to somebody, I'm not afraid to get downhill and get the tough yards. That's what I like to do. That's where I make my living – wearing on the defense for four quarters.
"I'm not the fastest. If I get past 40 or 50 yards, the odds aren't in my favor. But the first 20, I'm pretty tough to deal with."
Running back Theo Riddick, who has primarily been used in the passing game, could also see more action as a rusher this year. It's an increased role he embraces.
"A lot of film study," Riddick said of working to get better. "And being consciences of detail. That goes a long way. I'm just ready when my number is called and whatever happens, happens."
If you missed any of the practice action this week, we've got you covered:
Day 2: Photos | Highlights | Observations
Day 3: Photos | Highlights | Observations
Day 4: Photos | Highlights | Observations
Day 5: Photos | Highlights | Observations
Day 6: Photos | Highlights | Observations
Day 7: Photos | Highlights | Observations
Each day of training camp, Tim Twentyman tracks the performance of one player in a feature called Camp Spotlight.
Check out this week's spotlights below, and tweet @ttwentyman with who you'd like to see next.
- Cornerback Nevin Lawson
- Tackle Taylor Decker
- Safety Rafael Bush
- Wide receiver Anquan Boldin
- Linebacker Kyle Van Noy
- Running back Stevan Ridley
The Lions got two of their players back on the field this week. Tackle Corey Robinson (PUP) and safety Don Carey (NFI) both returned to action.
The team also added linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo Friday. Ariguzo spent last season on Reserve/Injured with the San Diego Chargers.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY ITEMS:
- Watch Lions players guess which of their teammates were the highest rated in this year's Madden 2017 video game.
- Which new faces will make the most impact? Tim Twentyman tackles that question and more in his latest 10 Questions column.
- Mike O'Hara gives one man's opinion of the top 12 nicknames in Lions history – and where they came from or why they fit.
- Tahir Whitehead knows the historical significance of playing middle linebacker in the NFC North, and the responsibilities and demands that go with it.
- Johnson Bademosi wanted an opportunity to get more playing time on defense, and the Lions presented him with that opportunity.
- Go behind this scenes with this exclusive preview of the four-part series "Inside the Den" Detroit Lions 2016 training camp.