Lions believe more competition means improvement

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
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Anthony Zettel (69)

Allen Park — Many of the decisions the Lions made in last week’s draft proved general manager Bob Quinn wants more competition at several positions.

From drafting three offensive linemen to adding a long snapper, the Lions ensured with their 10 picks multiple starting jobs will be hotly contested this offseason, and the team hopes increased competition in practice will lead to better performance in games.

“One of the things that’s extremely important to us, I think your best teams are developed when you have a lot of competition at each and every position,” coach Jim Caldwell said Friday, answering a question about why the team drafted long snapper Jimmy Landes of Baylor in the sixth round.

Ultimately, if a 12-year veteran like Don Muhlbach, who’s still playing well, can be replaced, other Lions players will realize their job might not be secure either.

The Lions are holding their three-day rookie minicamp this weekend. The practices will include the draft picks, 12 undrafted rookies, tryout players and a few non-rookies with minimal experience.

Caldwell appropriately noted none of the players would win jobs for the season during this weekend’s practices and the coaches and scouts try to avoid making snap judgments with the players competing in shorts.

“You’ve got to be patient with the evaluation process as well to make certain that we get things right,” he said.

Caldwell said there were some areas the Lions obviously bolstered, noting the addition of the offensive linemen — tackle Taylor Decker, center Graham Glasgow and guard/tackle Joe Dahl. With those three players in the mix, it’s going to be hard for any fringe offensive lineman to make the roster. Decker and Glasgow could end up starting, too.

Beyond that position, second-round defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson will surely be in the rotation at his position, and fourth-round safety Miles Killebrew will be among the group competing to start at strong safety. Landes will go head to head against Muhlbach for the long snapper job.

“Every guy that we drafted, there was a place for him, there’s a need, so I think that kind of speaks for itself in that regard,” he said.

Caldwell said the goal with draft picks is to improve competition, add depth and hopefully have some starters. The Lions appear to have accomplished the first two steps, and time will tell how successful they were at finding starters.

While the draft picks will have the best chance to contribute, the Lions hope some of their undrafted rookie signings can make an impact, too.

The tryout players also have a chance to earn a contract this weekend.

“You’re going to have some guys that help you in a number of different ways that maybe you didn’t anticipate,” Caldwell said.

Nobody knows how much any of the rookies will contribute in 2016, but once the veterans arrive for organized team activities in two weeks, they should be ready to compete.

“We’ll see how the competition goes in terms of what it does from that point on, but we do think there’s some really fine football players within that group,” Caldwell said.

Twitter: @jkatzenstein

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