Five things to watch in Lions minicamp

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Ameer Abdullah

The Lions are holding their mandatory minicamp starting Tuesday this week, the final portion of the offseason program before players can enjoy pre-training camp vacation.

Over the next three days, the team won’t be in pads, so the evaluation process still won’t match training camp. But, coach Jim Caldwell said the practices still give the team a chance to scout its roster.

“We know what we’re dealing with before (the players) get here, but what does indeed happen is them in comparison to the guys that are peers,” Caldwell said of evaluating players in the offseason. “Sometimes that changes the picture just a little bit. Sometimes it’s even well above how you evaluated, and sometimes you say he’s just not quite where he should be. I think those are the times, depending on the situation, sometimes there’s a bit of a shuffling at those positons.”

The Lions could still look to add players to the 90-man roster between now and the start of camp this summer, so players will have to perform well this week, even if there are limitations on what they can do.

Here are five things to watch during minicamp:

Runner runner

Ameer Abdullah likely will be the Lions’ top option for carries this season, but because he’ll be sidelined this week as he continues recovering from shoulder surgery, the team will have to feed other backs. In organized team activities, Zach Zenner looked like the best and most decisive runner, but Steven Ridley missed two of the three weeks of OTAs. If Ridley’s back, it should be easier to see how he compares to Zenner as those two are likely competing for a similar role. Of course, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Theo Riddick could be more involved as a runner, so improvement from him would be a good sign. George Winn and rookie Dwayne Washington will get lots of touches this week, too.

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Left, right, left, right

Although Riley Reiff has worked exclusively at right tackle so far in the offseason, the team has not publicly committed to a position change for the most veteran of their likely starting offensive linemen. So far, rookie Taylor Decker has been working at left tackle with Reiff on the right side, and surely, whether the Lions keep the status quo or flip the tackles, there will be some reaction. Of course, without pads on, it’s tough to get a full evaluation of either player. Ultimately, the Lions already know what Reiff can do at left tackle, so don’t be surprised if he stays on the right side this week.

Van Noy’s improvement

Kyle Van Noy playing well could improve the defense significantly in 2016. Because of his ability as a pass rusher, he’d not only add some punch to the linebacker corps, but would also help a team with questionable depth at defensive end. So far, Van Noy has operated as the top strong-side linebacker this offseason. He’ll have to show his improvement in real games, obviously, but being in the right place this week would be a good start.

Andre Roberts

Wide receiver options

The Lions have swapped out a few faces in the wide receiver room over the past week, and Andre Roberts is a fascinating addition to the mix. His numbers have been steadily decreasing, much like Jeremy Kerley’s, in recent years, but he still has the speed and return skills to help. Really, behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, every receiver role is open, so Roberts, Kerley, TJ Jones and others must shine this week.

Roll call

The Lions excused Stephen Tulloch from minicamp, giving him the chance to relax while they mysteriously keep him on the roster instead of fining him. But, will any of the other players skip the mandatory practices? Holdouts often aren’t public until they begin, and although it’d be a surprise, any unhappy player could show his frustration by not coming to Allen Park this week.