The Lions, lying in wait as the last team to begin training camp...
In almost every job before this one, the term Bubble Watch meant one thing -- the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments. It was a rite of every March, charting who was in, who was out and what games really mattered.
Now in the NFL, the Bubble Watch takes on an entirely different meaning. Roster spots are the prize now, and the reality of a man's livelihood and ability to pay the bills hangs with every rep, every practice and every injury.
Entering camp, a lot of back-end jobs on the Detroit Lions are up for grabs. Here are five guys to pay attention to for spots on the end of the roster.
Wide receiver Kris Durham: He appeared to be the last receiver kept by the Lions last season and turned into a starter by midseason after injuries. The signing of Golden Tate, re-signing of Kevin Ogletree, emergence of Jeremy Ross and drafting of Eric Ebron and TJ Jones once again leaves him fighting for a roster spot. His toughest competition will be Ogletree, who was signed midseason by Detroit and saw snaps behind Durham with the old regime. Unless injuries occur or another receiver surprises, it'll likely be Ogletree and Durham going after one slot.
Running back/fullback Montell Owens: The veteran reworked his deal and stayed with the Lions after a lost 2013 season due to injuries. Owens is an interesting case because he could theoretically play fullback or running back. If he is good enough to be one or both, he becomes a valuable roster asset along with a special teams standout who could bump Jed Collins or Mikel Leshoure from the roster. If he can't prove himself as a hybrid back, he might be out of a job.
Offensive guard Rodney Austin: A couple of weeks ago, Austin looked like he had the inside track to a roster spot as a swing center/guard with Travis Swanson, as the two would eventually replace Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims. Then the Lions signed veteran Garrett Reynolds, who was an NFL starter last season with Atlanta and was one of two Falcons' offensive linemen who played over 500 snaps to grade out positively according to Pro Football Focus. With the team invested in Swanson, Austin now has major competition for a roster spot.
Linebacker Travis Lewis: The Lions aren't dropping starters DeAndre Levy or Stephen Tulloch, and Kyle Van Noy is a valued rookie. Ashlee Palmer could end up beating out Van Noy initially for a starting spot, and Tahir Whitehead is a valuable special teams player. Depending on how many linebackers the Lions keep and their importance on special teams, Lewis could make the team or lose out to a cornerback, safety, receiver or perhaps a fellow linebacker such as Julian Stanford, who was signed after Lewis was suspended for four games to close out last season.
Safety DeJon Gomes: Much like Lewis, Gomes' roster spot might not be dependent as much on the other safeties as it is the special teams composition between corners, safeties, linebackers, receivers, and even running backs. Gomes is a good special teams player but might end up as the fifth safety behind starters Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo along with the versatile Don Carey and possibly Isa Abdul-Quddus. The competition for Gomes is likely Abdul-Quddus and then players such as Lewis and Stanford.
And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Golden Tate, Ezekiel Ansah and TJ Jones will start camp on the active PUP list. What Tate and Ansah's absence means for other players, including some of the ones mentioned above. A look at the Detroit cornerbacks entering training camp. This week's NFL Nation Buzz video focuses on Eric Ebron.
Camp starting means the return of Question of the Week -- focusing on the things rookies are most nervous about. Want to suggest a Question of the Week? Do it on my new public Facebook page (tell your friends).
Kyle Meinke from MLive wonders if Riddick is for real or another spring mirage.
A note without a link: Titus Young's latest court case for five charges of battery (one felony, four misdemeanor) was continued until Aug. 22 in Compton, California.
Jon Solomon from CBS Sports writes that college players want their NCAA Football video games back (Full disclosure: I miss the game, too).