ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The Detroit Lions have one week of practice -- three days, really -- left before they scatter across the globe until training camp starts later this summer.
With that in mind, here are some things I’ll watch for in the next three days as the Lions get going with mandatory minicamp.
1.Tahir Whitehead: The veteran linebacker has not practiced during the voluntary OTA periods -- including not being present during the past two open-to-the-media OTA sessions -- and the Detroit Free Press has reported he’s been dealing with a knee injury. But it’ll be something to watch if he’s in attendance this week or if the Lions excuse him. Coach Jim Caldwell made it sound like he’s in the plans for 2017 -- likely as the WILL linebacker next to rookie Jarrad Davis -- but pay attention to see if he's in attendance this week.
2.The left tackle situation: It’s going to be tough to really gauge anything until training camp, but let's see if a leader emerges as the replacement for the injured Taylor Decker. The rotation includes Cornelius Lucas, Joe Dahl and Tony Hills. Corey Robinson, who is also injured, will likely be part of this competition, and if he’s out there, that’ll be something to pay attention to, too, since he hasn’t been available during OTAs. But if one player is starting to take the majority of No. 1 reps, he might be the player to watch in training camp.
3.Depth at receiver: This has had a permanent spot here this spring and continues to be a tight competition between TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley, Jared Abbrederis, Ryan Spadola, Keshawn Martin, Dontez Ford and others. No one will win the No. 4 or No. 5 (if there is one) job now, but it could give the coaching staff a pecking order for the start of training camp. Jones, Billingsley, Martin and Abbrederis are also factors in the return competition, which could play into this, too. In particular, Abbrederis has had a strong spring.
4.Slot corner: So far, it’s been mostly Quandre Diggs with the No. 1 unit in the slot, but it’s going to be a competition to watch. The Lions drafted Jamal Agnew, signed D.J. Hayden, and depending on the progression of Teez Tabor, they could move Nevin Lawson (or Tabor) into the slot competition as well. It should be pretty intense throughout training camp, but at this point, it appears to be Diggs’job to lose.
5.Matthew Stafford: There’s always going to be attention on the quarterback, and this minicamp is no different. Stafford understands the offense well and appears to be getting comfortable with the new pieces around him. There have been some miscues -- a couple of interceptions last week in the open OTA -- but it’s still early. The most important thing for the Lions is making sure he’s getting enough reps to be comfortable and also avoiding injury. Everything else will get sorted in August, but there’s no reason to worry about Stafford. The biggest question is when he might sign a contract extension, not his play on the field.