Lions will have competition for several jobs
Competition breeds success, and based on the first few months of Bob Quinn’s tenure, the new general manager wants the Lions to practice the old adage.
We won’t know for some time whether or not the Lions added enough talent this offseason to be in contention in 2016 and beyond, but there was a clear effort from Quinn to make several positions competitive.
Heck, the Lions even drafted a long snapper, grabbing Baylor’s Jimmy Landes in the sixth round. If long snapper Don Muhlbach, who’s been with the team for 12 years, isn’t secure, then most players should now realize their replacement could arrive soon, too.
“It means Don’s going to have someone to compete with this year,” Quinn said bluntly of what Landes’ selection means for the veteran.
Here are some of the competitions for starting jobs that should be leading stories in training camp: Left tackle, right tackle, center, defensive tackle, strong-side linebacker, strong safety, backup quarterback and long snapper.
Last year, the biggest question marks going into camp were left guard and long snapper. Sure, there were battles for other spots, but now, fewer players have a firm grasp on a starting job.
More competition for starting jobs ought to lead to better practices. If the competitions are close, it will lead to improved depth. And improved depth was one of Quinn’s top goals when he arrived in Detroit.
“Really felt, at the end of the day, when we finished picking that we improved the football team, improved the depth of the team and improved the competition of the team and that was our goal going into it,” Quinn said after the conclusion of the draft Saturday.
Versatility is something that’s often overstated in the NFL. Typically, most players fit best at one position and using them elsewhere can be a detriment. But, among the 10 draft picks were a guy who’s played both tackle spots (Taylor Decker), a guy who’s played center and both guard spots (Graham Glasgow), another who’s played left tackle and left guard (Joe Dahl), a linebacker who’s played all three spots (Atwione Williams) and a defensive lineman with experience inside and outside (Anthony Zettel).
“As we know, we can only dress 46 players, so every roster spot that we bring to the game is vitally important,” Quinn said. “So, if a guy can play more than one spot, it adds to his value.”
For years, the Lions have tried to improve their offensive line with one pick each draft, but Quinn went overboard this year, picking three offensive linemen among the first five picks. Decker, Glasgow and Dahl won’t automatically start, but even if they make the team as backups, it’s a sign that Quinn upgraded a group whose starters struggled and backups mostly didn’t belong on the field.
Quinn also wisely stuck to what he said before the draft about not being afraid to add to a position already addressed in free agency. With defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson in the second round, it’s clear that someone from the presumed tackle rotation — Stefan Charles or Gabe Wright, most likely — won’t be making the team. That cutthroat mentality is something the Lions should’ve been doing long ago because now a player like Wright, a fourth-round pick last year, knows he has an extremely short window to impress.
The same can be said of any safety the Lions added this offseason because the strong safety spot is wide open. Veterans Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson will get the first shot, but fourth-rounder Miles Killebrew can earn the job with a good camp.
Who will be playing several spots is uncertain right now. And that should end up being a good thing.