DT Caraun Reid shapes up as possible Lions contributor

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Caraun Reid

Allen Park -- Lions coach Jim Caldwell said two players showed up at organized team activities this year looking different physically than in 2014 — tight end Eric Ebron and defensive tackle Caraun Reid.

As last year's first-round pick, Ebron's role is already defined, but Reid still has plenty of work to do to be more involved than he was as a rookie.

"He's trained really hard; he's in really good shape," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said of Reid. "He looks good right now. Obviously, we'll have to wait and see once we get the pads where we are, but I like what he's done so far."

A fifth-round pick last year, Reid appeared in the first 12 games as a backup before veteran Andre Fluellen effectively pushed him out of the rotation. Coming out of Princeton, the expectation was that Reid would need some time to adjust to the NFL.

Part of the transition Reid needed to make was adding strength, and he impressed teammates last year with his work ethic in the weight room. This year, he's listed at 306 pounds after being at 302 at the combine last year.

"I think he's done a tremendous job just in terms of his approach to it," Caldwell said. "He looks good, increased his strength, his lean muscle has gone up — the whole gamut. So, hopefully we'll see that translate when we get an opportunity to go out there and go after it."

With Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley gone, Reid is one of the defensive tackles that will have an opportunity to earn more playing time. Haloti Ngata is the most secure in his role and Tyrunn Walker will likely start, but Reid will have a chance to be a go-to off the bench, along with fourth-round pick Gabe Wright, Jermelle Cudjo and others.

'I like that guy'

Typically, Lions rookies don't receive many first-team snaps in organized team activities, even if they'll likely be starters by training camp.

Somehow, sixth-round pick Quandre Diggs found a way to crack the first unit during OTAs on Wednesday.

"I like that guy," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "He's scrappy, he's tough, he's got good ball skills, he's got good football sense that I've seen so far."

The 5-foot-9, 198-pound Diggs will be among the group of cornerbacks vying for time as the nickel cornerback in the Lions' defense this year, and even if he doesn't earn the job, playing there this early as a rookie is a sign of how much the coaches trust him.

Diggs' size and his 4.56-second 40-yard dash hurt his draft stock, but he was a good enough player to start all four years at Texas. Growing up as the younger brother of former NFL cornerback Quentin Jammer seems to have helped him become an instinctual player.

"We'll just see how once we get into pads, once we get into game situations, but I think he's got a great background," Austin said. "Obviously, he's got a great resource in his brother in terms of how this game is played and what you do, what do you need to do to be successful. So, it looks like he's used that, and really, I'm pleased with where he is right now."

The player covering the slot for the rest of OTAs and minicamp could change, but by training camp, that competition should be a bit clearer. For now, it will be one of the most hotly-contested jobs. Veteran Josh Wilson might be the favorite, but Bill Bentley and Nevin Lawson have experience in the defense. Diggs and third-round pick Alex Carter will have opportunities to play there, too.

"You can just tell that he has natural intensity, which is all good," Caldwell said of Diggs.

While size and speed are helpful, being intense and confident can be useful traits for a cornerback.

"He doesn't have the length, he doesn't have the height, but what he does have is a good understanding of football," Austin said. "He makes quick reactions and he has good eyes, good hands, good feet. That's what you need as a defensive back."

Extra point

The Lions shifted some coaching duties earlier this offseason as defensive line coach Jim Washburn took a leave for a medical issue. Caldwell said he hopes Washburn returns next week.