Lions’ Swanson getting firm grasp of what’s expected

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Travis Swanson had no interest in talking about himself or his performance after a Lions minicamp practice last week.

“I’m not going to talk about me, specifically,” the center said. “The group, I thought we should’ve definitely done better. There are obviously areas that we need to improve. I think we’ve addressed those areas in our meetings, out here on the field, but we’ve got a long ways to go still.”

In reality, Swanson doesn’t have to explain his situation because it’s clear. He’ll enter training camp as the favorite to start at center, but if he falters, third-round pick Graham Glasgow or Gabe Ikard will have a chance to take his job.

Swanson struggled last season, his first year as a full-time starter after being the top backup interior lineman as a rookie. But, his experience is a distinct advantage over his competitors — Ikard has appeared in four games his first two seasons, and Glasgow is a rookie.

Ikard has practiced with the second team and Glasgow with the third team while Swanson has been with the starters. But, Swanson is aware of the ramifications of a third-round selection at his position.

“It motivates everybody,” Swanson said. “This is a business that they’re trying to constantly find guys to get better in the entire group at every position.”

The Lions also drafted offensive tackle Taylor Decker in the first round, so outside guards Larry Warford and Laken Tomlinson, every linemen will be competing for playing time during camp.

Significant turnover, however, might not be the best thing for an offensive line. Even though some players struggled last year, part of the issue during the embarrassing first half came from a lack of chemistry.

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“I think chemistry takes a long time amongst a group,” Swanson said. “There’s no set time frame as to if a group hits this mark then this is the answer for the chemistry. It’s hard to put that time frame on.”

One piece of good news for Swanson is he recovered quickly from his January shoulder surgery and already was participating in team drills during the offseason program. In theory, he should still improve going into his third year, and being available the majority of the offseason should help refine his skills.

“You can see body position, bend the knees, head position, those kinds of things, but there’s no contact,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “So, it’s tough to judge that part of it, but I do see development. I do see growth in him, but it’s a real competitive situation. Ikard’s doing well, too.”

To keep a tighter grip on his starting job, Swanson said he spent part of the offseason training at his college, Arkansas. Beyond that, though, he didn’t provide much insight about himself.

“As a group whenever you go away, you’ve kind of got to reflect on your season, what you thought and just think about what you can do to help the group get better,” he said.

Twitter: @jkatzenstein