ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions open training camp July 28 in Allen Park, Michigan, and like every team in the NFL, there are questions.
While we won't know the answers to whether the Lions will be contenders until the end of September at the earliest, the roster as it is constructed now could give clues. And that's how we'll view the Lions as we preview them by position for training camp, continuing today with the defensive line.
What the Lions have: Ezekiel Ansah (defensive end), Haloti Ngata (defensive tackle), A'Shawn Robinson (defensive tackle), Devin Taylor (defensive end), Brandon Copeland, Deonte Gibson, Wallace Gilberry, Louis Palmer, Anthony Zettel, Stefan Charles, Kerry Hyder, Caraun Reid, Khyri Thornton, Tyrunn Walker, Gabe Wright
What they might still need: The Lions remain somewhat thin at defensive end so it wouldn't be surprising to see Detroit investigate veteran options closer to the start of training camp.
Likely roster spots: 9-10
What to expect in camp: A lot of rotation, especially in the middle. The Lions are likely to get Ngata work in camp but figure to see a heavy rotation of everyone else as Detroit tries to sort out what it has there. Don't be surprised if you see Robinson win the starting job next to Ngata outright with Walker, Reid and maybe Wright comprising the rest of the rotation in the middle. At end, the starters are set and the depth, barring a signing, also seems to be somewhat locked in. The biggest question there will be what happens with Brandon Copeland, who is now playing end full time. He's a core special teams player and has positional versatility, so he could make the squad for the second straight season.
Reason to believe: If Ngata practices during camp and looks to continue the form he had at the end of last season, that's a good sign. If Ansah and Taylor are in the backfield a lot during camp, that's a really good sign for Detroit's defensive front -- and maybe not so much for a rebuilding offensive line. Detroit's depth on the defensive line comes with questions, but there is definite talent there. If the front four is dominant during camp, preseason games and particularly during the two days of joint practices against Pittsburgh, take that as a good sign the Lions might have a formidable defense this season.
Be concerned because: The Lions' running backs are cutting through the middle of the defensive line a bunch during training camp. The Lions get beaten badly during the joint practices against Pittsburgh. The Lions are extremely thin at defensive end, so if Ansah or Taylor suffer injuries, Detroit will be in big trouble. Ansah might be the most indispensable player Detroit has after Matthew Stafford.