ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The Detroit Lions completed their second week of full-team organized team activities on Thursday before another weekend vacation.
By now, the Lions have begun settling in with what they have. While a number of players missed the first open-to-the-media OTA, including Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Ameer Abdullah, there are still things to be gleaned and players to watch -- particularly if top-flight players sit out Thursday’s practice.
Players to keep an eye on this week include a couple of rookies.
1. A'Shawn Robinson: The defensive tackle out of Alabama got some first-team reps last week, in part due to Caraun Reid and Tyrunn Walker sitting out team drills. Still, the second-round pick has made an early impression -- and not just due to his facial hair. Haloti Ngata, the team’s most veteran defensive tackle, said Robinson was “awesome,” noting he’s already picking up portions of Detroit’s playbook. If he continues at this pace, Robinson should be at least a contributor, if not more, this fall.
“He’s freakin’ big and strong, and he’s going to be a great student of the game,” Ngata said. “He pays attention and just always corrects what he needs to correct.”
2. Taylor Decker: That the rookie lined up at left tackle last Thursday was a pretty big surprise -- and an early sign he could end up at the position earlier than anticipated. While the Lions have been big on mixing up personnel during previous springs, pay attention to where Decker is lined up again Thursday. If he is once again at left tackle, that will offer a significant indication as to what the Lions might be thinking for the fall. Of course, there’s also a chance Decker isn’t with the first team at all, particularly if Michael Ola is back practicing this week. But Decker is officially a player to pay attention to during the rest of the offseason workouts.
3. Austin Willis: Looking for a roster long shot? Willis might be it. He caught almost everything thrown his way during last week’s open OTA and did some work as a returner as well. The 24-year-old from Emporia State has a long way to go to make the roster and would likely have to beat out one or two established players to do so. But he has the slot capabilities Detroit will be looking for, and he was Bob Quinn’s first signing as a general manager when Quinn inked Willis to a futures deal. During a time when a lot of starters are going to get some rest, Willis has a chance to make an early impression.
4. Stevan Ridley: Like linemen, it’s tough to tell too much about running backs during the offseason workout period since there is no hitting -- meaning Ridley can’t get the chance to break tackles. Running plays are also not as helpful during OTAs because of the lack of pads. But with Abdullah likely out for the rest of offseason workouts, Ridley has a chance to solidify his role if he looks healthy. I’ll be looking at how he runs and cuts, along with the proper reading of holes. If that goes well, it could be a bounce-back season for the former 1,000-yard rusher.
5. Cole Wick: With the Lions cutting Tim Wright and Brandon Pettigrew still on the mend, there is a lot of room for a tight end to make an impression -- particularly if Ebron sits out as well. Matthew Mulligan is a veteran option who might have the edge on the No. 3 tight end spot right now, but Wick is a player to watch as well. That Mulligan has no guarantees in his contract could benefit Wick, too, since there would be no monetary incentive to keep Mulligan if Wick outplays him. The undrafted free agent out of Incarnate Word has the type of size that would be intriguing to the Lions at 6-foot-7. Wick never put up huge numbers at Incarnate Word, but his frame could make him a developmental tight end worth keeping an eye on. A good few weeks could give him a decent shot of holding on to some roster spot (practice squad or 53-man) come training camp.