ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions return to Allen Park on Monday to start their offseason training program. The team announced all players except James Ihedigbo showed up for the first day of voluntary workouts.
While the media won't get much of a glimpse of anything until rookie minicamp begins next month, there are some things to keep an eye on as the Lions shuffle in to start the 2015 offseason.
1. What's the mood without Ndamukong Suh: Yeah, he's been gone for over a month now, but for the majority of the players, this will be the first time they'll be in a Detroit locker room without Suh's nameplate in it, or at least the knowledge he'll be walking through the door at some point. It might not make much of a difference on offense, but Suh's departure will still have a major effect on the defense. Suh, whether he was at the workouts or not, was a tone-setter because you knew he would show up in better shape than anyone else and would be durable and ready to go. Those responsibilities likely fall on Glover Quin, Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy now. One defensive name is notably missing from that list, though.
2. When will Ihedigbo show up: Unlike Suh last season, this is clearly a contract issue. If Ihedigbo were to receive a new deal, then there's a good chance he'd be in Michigan very soon after that. This shouldn't be a big deal, though, because the early workouts are voluntary and there has been no indication Ihedigbo will be absent when workouts become mandatory. Plus, he has worked out with his safety-mate, Quin, throughout the offseason so there is still that camaraderie and understanding there.
3. How has Eric Ebron progressed: While Matthew Stafford and the offensive line will receive a lot of the attention, one of the hidden keys to the Lions' season will be based on how much more the 2014 first-round pick can do. After being someone Detroit hoped would be its No. 3 receiver last season -- that didn't materialize so much -- the Lions appear to be banking on it more this season. Coach Jim Caldwell has said he believes Ebron has had a good offseason to date. Now he'll have a chance to start proving it in an offense that should be able to use his skills.
4. What Rodney Austin looks like: The Lions have kept him on both the practice squad and 53-man roster for the past three seasons, and this season is likely his breakthrough-or-go-home year. Until the Lions actually sign or draft a left guard, he could be the makeshift starter there as well. Detroit has always liked his strength, and toward the end of the 2014-15 season he appeared to understand how critical this offseason would be for him. It'll be interesting to see what he comes back looking like, because there is an opportunity there. I don't expect him to start for the Lions in 2015 -- so don't misread that -- but there is a potential opening for a backup lineman, and Austin should be in the mix for that spot.
5. Don't expect to hear anything about positions for a couple weeks. The Lions can't work with the position coaches until Phase 2 of the offseason program, so for the next two weeks it's all about the strength program and working with trainers. For some players this is more important than others, but the Lions will at least get some idea of who took the offseason seriously. Plus, the roster will have more shape by then with the addition of the 2015 rookie class (at least the drafted ones).