Allen Park — Voluntary workouts are a relative term in the NFL. While players aren’t required to attend much of the offseason program, only a handful on each team have the clout to mitigate the risk of losing playing time when skipping out on the workouts, practices and classroom sessions during the spring.
So when the Detroit Lions move into the mandatory phase of their program this week, a three-day minicamp where attendance is required, things won’t look too much different.
The Lions have had nearly perfect attendance through the early portion of offseason. The notable exceptions were defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who missed the phase-one workouts in April while tending to a family matter back in his native Ghana. He returned and signed his franchise tender less than two weeks later. Veteran safety Glover Quin also has been absent while dealing with family obligations in Houston.
That puts Quin slightly behind the rest of the defense, as the unit already has begun the install of its new scheme, as well as the verbiage that comes along with that, but having played a number of roles in multiple systems during his nine-year career should allow Quin to catch up quickly.
The three-day minicamp runs from Tuesday to Thursday and will be fully open to the media. Here are five players we will be watching during the week:
Defensive end Kerry Hyder
Ansah was a limited participant during an open OTA practice two weeks ago, affording additional opportunities for Hyder to work with the first-team defense. Coming off an Achilles injury that robbed him of the chance to build on his breakout campaign the year before, Hyder’s schematic flexibility make him a good fit for the multiple front the Lions are installing. If he can regain the explosiveness he showed after converting to defensive end in 2016, combined with his well-known relentless motor, it would be a significant boost to the team’s recently anemic pass rush.
Running back Kerryon Johnson
Unlike first-round pick Frank Ragnow, who has slid right into a starting spot along the offensive line, Johnson will have to work his way up the depth chart as a rookie. In the early practices, veteran free agent LeGarrette Blount has been handling much of the work with the top offense. Johnson will be battling with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick for the remainder of the playing-time pie. Johnson’s strengths are his vision and burst, so it’s a matter of getting a feel for how his blocks are setting up and hitting the hole with even more quickness and decisiveness than he did playing against formidable SEC competition.
Safety Miles Killebrew
Killebrew has the look and skill set of a player who could thrive as a chess piece in coach Matt Patricia’s secondary. But after losing playing time in the second half of last season, Killebrew will have to rediscover what made him such an effective third-down stopper to start his career. In the practice open to the media a couple of weeks ago, he had multiple coverage lapses against the team’s tight ends. If those continue, the path to playing time will narrow.
Wide receiver Kenny Golladay
Outside of a hamstring injury that cost him more than a month of his rookie season, Golladay had a strong debut in 2017, averaging 17.0 yards per catch, fifth-best among receivers with at least 25 receptions. It’s not uncommon for players to make a significant jump in their second season, and with Golden Tate on track to be a free agent at season’s end, the Lions need Golladay to be an even bigger part of the offense this year.
Safety Glover Quin
Quin celebrated his 32nd birthday in January, but showed no signs of slowing down in 2017, delivering one of the best all-around performances of his career with 84 tackles, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. He’s always been the type to practice like he plays, but it’s possible the Lions ease him into things this week as he gets up to speed.