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The Detroit Lions experimenting with a lot of returners at OTAs

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are done having open organized team activities (OTAs) and all that remain are three days of mandatory minicamp next week.

After watching three practices, here are some thoughts and observations following Wednesday’s OTAs.

1. The return game continues to be interesting: The Lions worked on some punt returns at the start of practice and, once again, Jeremy Ross was not out there the entire drill. He spent the first part of the special-teams session working as a gunner before moving back to returner for the second part of the session. The Lions are clearly trying to work him at all potential slots, but this also gives some of his competitors a chance. TJ Jones, Ameer Abdullah and Lance Moore all took a bunch of punt return reps and eventually Ross and Golden Tate worked in as well. Those are probably the five players, possibly joined by Quandre Diggs, who will be the main competitors during training camp.

2. Dan Orlovsky was the No. 2 on Wednesday: As mentioned over and over the past three weeks, the backup quarterback competition is going to be pretty fluid for a while. After Kellen Moore took No. 2 reps for the first two sessions, Orlovsky was the second quarterback during each drill Wednesday. Neither Orlovsky nor Moore received a ton of passing work, though, as the Lions were very situational during practice. Orlovsky went 4-of-4 passing and Moore was 5-of-5 on the day. Starting quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 4 of 6 passes during team sessions and fourth-string quarterback Anthony Boone completed the only pass he threw.

3. Alex Carter made some plays: He was finally able to join the Lions after wrapping up classes at Stanford last week and he did fine in his first open session of the year, including making an interception during receiver-versus-defensive back drills. He has pretty good feet and decent speed, although that was somewhat tough to gauge from one practice. What stood out was how he worked, though. He continuously asked Rashean Mathis questions and then spent time working with coaches after practice to make up for lost-on-the-field time physically.

4. Diggs had a bit of a rough day: The rookie once again got first-team reps as a nickelback, but there were points where he looked very much like a player a month into his NFL career Wednesday. He got burned for long touchdown passes in one-on-ones at least twice as he acclimates himself to the NFL. Vet Josh Wilson, one of the guys he is competing with for the nickel slot, had a good pass breakup on TJ Jones. In some good news for Diggs, though, both he and Carter ran as the second-team outside cornerbacks during some drills so they are starting to get some real looks. At the nickel spot, I didn’t see Bill Bentley or Nevin Lawson do any work during team drills, so the Lions are still far from full competition strength there.

5. Darius Slay looked fine but others didn’t do much: The cornerback was back at practice Wednesday with what appeared to be slightly less cumbersome wraps on his hands. He participated fully and doesn’t seem to have any ill effects from his self-inflicted hand injury that kept him out last week. DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch continued to stay out of team drills, as did Jason Jones. Joseph Fauria barely practiced at all. Joique Bell and LaAdrian Waddle attended practice but did not participate.