Five things to watch as Detroit Lions open minicamp
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions open their three-day minicamp on Tuesday. Here are five things we'll be monitoring.
Will stars show?
We're about to learn how serious cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Damon Harrison are in pursuit of new contracts. The difference between this three-day minicamp and the offseason activities that have preceded it is that minicamp is mandatory.
Sure, there are a handful of players around the league who have skipped minicamps in recent years, but it comes with a hefty fine. The escalating penalties add up to a nearly $90,000 deduction from the paycheck. But given Slay and Harrison have stayed away to this point, despite $250,000 workout bonuses attached to each of their deals, another $90,000 might not be enough to motivate a change in plans.
Over the weekend, Harrison promised to explain his actions "in due time," including the events that led to him being traded to the Detroit last season. Meanwhile, Slay has tweeted about or retweeted others suggesting his salary isn't in line with his performance.
Both players have two years remaining on their current deals.
Backup QB race
With Matthew Stafford firmly entrenched as the the starter, the backup quarterback competition doesn't carry the intrigue it did a decade ago. Still, the Lions have good battle brewing between Tom Savage and Connor Cook.
Savage has flashed impressive arm strength during the early stages of the offseason program, effortlessly zipping the ball to his targets 20 or more yards downfield. Cook, the former Michigan State standout, also has a strong arm.
With both passers able to make all the throws, the best way for one of the challengers to distance themselves from the other is by showing a rapid understanding of the team's new offensive system and by throwing with greater accuracy than previously exhibited earlier in their careers.
Changes at O-line
After making some early changes to the starting offensive line grouping, the Lions told us they're planning on experimenting with a number of different combinations to determine the best possible unit.
Yet through six offseason practices, the starting five has been consistent with Frank Ragnow moving to center, Graham Glasgow shifting to right guard and Kenny Wiggins flipping to left guard.
Will the Lions shake it up for minicamp or continue to work that trio in the same spots, further solidifying the idea that it will be the starting lineup come September?
A chance to shine
The Lions have been playing it cautiously with several players coming off late-season injuries and offseason surgeries. That's created some opportunities for younger players to make an early impression.
That's especially true at wide receiver, where starters Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are both being held out of team segments. Of course that benefits a veteran like Danny Amendola, who is attempting to quickly build chemistry with Stafford, but it's also giving added reps to guys like Chris Lacy and Brandon Powell, as they look to make early inroads for a roster spot.
Detroit showed it's still open to making an upgrade at the position, exploring the possibility of signing Jermaine Kearse last week. A strong minicamp by one or two of the young receivers on the roster might temporarily quell the team's interest in bolstering the corps.
Life is tough for a rookie in the NFL. They're being asked to make a physical adjustment to bigger, stronger and faster competition, all while making the mental adjustment of learning a new playbook, and in many instances, new techniques for playing their position.
The Lions will be looking for early contributions from several of their draft picks, namely tight end T.J. Hockenson, linebacker Jahlani Tavai and safety Will Harris. Will those three and the other first-year players on the roster be able to keep pace as the coaching staff continues to aggressively push forward with the schematic install?