ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After two weeks of missing a bunch of starters and even more potential contributors, the Detroit Lions finally started to get some big-time players back Thursday during the final OTA of the offseason.
Next week’s three-day mandatory minicamp will close the offseason workouts.
The Lions saw the return of Eric Ebron, the debut of running back Dwayne Washington and the continued absence of starting safety Glover Quin for what coach Jim Caldwell deemed “personal issues.” Oh, and linebacker Stephen Tulloch was in the state of Michigan at a book signing, but the linebacker was not at practice as his contract situation continues to figure itself out.
But what stood out on a day that felt more like spring than early summer? Here’s what we saw.
1. Eric Ebron: The tight end looks to be in pretty good shape and made a couple of nice plays during his first open-to-the-media practice. Ebron knows he’s going to be counted on more this year after the retirement of Calvin Johnson and that he has to continue to handle things better. He feels like he’s a good fit in coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s scheme and he’s trying to become more of a leader. It’s tough to gauge without pads and from one open practice, but the chance for improvement is there and it’s obvious.
2. Cole Wick is starting to stand out: The undrafted free agent from Incarnate Word is putting himself in position to make a real run at a roster spot. While Ebron returned this week, Brandon Pettigrew remains out and with Tim Wright on injured reserve, there’s an opportunity for Wick to make the roster. He would essentially have to beat out veteran Matthew Mulligan for the job and Detroit is giving him a chance to do it. Wick has been a rarity among undrafted free agents -- and even rookies in general -- other than Taylor Decker and A’Shawn Robinson in that he’s received somewhat consistent work with the No. 1 offense. He’ll be a name to watch in August.
3. Dwayne Washington debuts: The seventh-round pick from Washington finally made his open-to-the-media OTA debut on Thursday after having to miss the first couple of weeks of OTAs because Washington was still in school. He showed bursts of speed throughout practice but also struggled at times. He appeared to fumble once, although the play was partially blocked from the media. There are areas where you could see why the Lions like him, though, and it is tough to get a gauge without pads. Caldwell called him “promising.”
4. Taylor Decker remains at left tackle: Cooter wouldn’t say too much as to why the Lions went with Decker over Riley Reiff or others at left tackle throughout the OTA period, yet Decker was out there as the team’s left tackle again with Reiff on the right side. “It’s just an indication of how we chose to use the reps early,” Cooter said. But Cooter also knows consistency and chemistry on the offensive line is a key thing, so the Lions wouldn’t be lining Decker up next to Laken Tomlinson and Reiff next to Larry Warford if that wasn’t a strong possibility to happen this fall. Cooter said right now the Lions are “trying to figure out what our best five’s going to be.” The five so far have been Decker (LT), Tomlinson (LG), Travis Swanson (C), Warford (RG), Reiff (RT).
5. Why the Lions didn’t practice Wednesday: Detroit was initially supposed to have its open OTA on Wednesday, but changed it to Thursday somewhat at the last minute. Some teams take an OTA off for another team-bonding activity like paintballing or, like the Packers did this week, bowling. Detroit didn’t seem to do anything like that. Instead, Caldwell wanted to give his players a day of rest from on-field work. “We changed it a little bit because of the fact that we wanted to emphasize a little bit more just in terms of recovery and those kinds of things,” Caldwell said. “We think we’ve been getting real good, solid work. So we took a day with a little different slant to it.”