The Detroit Lions open training camp on Aug. 3, and with it, the 2015 season will commence. In a change from most seasons, the Lions are coming off a playoff berth and one of the best seasons in franchise history.
Can the Lions repeat that? Each day from now until training camp, we will look at one position group to prepare for the 2015 season.
Position: Defensive tackle
Position status: A whole bunch of question marks
Position thoughts: The complete reconstruction of the Detroit defensive tackle position has been one of the biggest storylines for the Lions this offseason. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley and Andre Fluellen are gone -- three to the AFC East and Fairley to St. Louis. Replacing them are Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, Gabe Wright and the one holdover from last season, Caraun Reid.
It is tough to see how the 2015 foursome will be better than the 2014 group -- in large part because of Suh, the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL. Teams had to specifically plan to deal with Suh or he would spend the majority of the time in opposing backfields shutting down running backs and haranguing quarterbacks. So while the Lions brought in a player who understands Teryl Austin’s defensive scheme well in Ngata, don’t underestimate the importance of Suh’s departure to Miami.
All of the Detroit defensive tackles have some questions surrounding them. Ngata is 31 years old and is coming off a 2014 season that included a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Walker showed promise in New Orleans, but was primarily a rotational tackle and hasn’t had the experience in games with a large workload of snaps. Wright is a rookie. Reid played incredibly sparingly behind the four departed defensive tackles in Detroit last season.
So to say how this group will perform -- and how they’ll work with each other -- is tough to do right now.
What the Lions need to see in camp: It starts with figuring out who will play next to Ngata. The Pro Bowler is locked into a starting spot on the roster. Reid lined up next to him most often during the spring when Ngata was there, but he also had the most experience in the Detroit system. He looked like a transformed player, but that was also without pads. The Lions need to see similar progress when players start hitting to feel comfortable about Reid in the starting spot there.
Otherwise, it is between Walker and Wright – and it is a spot that will likely go to Walker. Detroit made Walker one of the team’s top free-agent signings this year and are hoping he can provide a good pass-rush option next to the run-dominant Ngata. This group is going to struggle to replicate the attention and production of Suh, but combined, the Lions need to see that they’ll be able to hold up against the run up the middle and get some pressure on quarterbacks during camp. That’s a start to keeping Detroit’s defense in the Top 10.
Who ends up on the roster: Ngata, Walker, Wright, Reid.