ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions wrapped up their first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday afternoon.
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford was on hand -- and she spoke for the first time -- and all but two players were in attendance. Here are a few things that stood out after the first of three minicamp days.
1. For at least a day, Eric Ebron is coming along: Since Ebron was drafted by the Lions in the first round last year, one of the biggest criticisms about the North Carolina product has been his struggles with his hands. While Golden Tate said Ebron had a good week last week, Ebron showed that in practice Tuesday. He caught every ball I saw thrown to him, including a couple of tough catches over the middle in traffic from Matthew Stafford. While this is without pads, without hitting and, in some cases, without a full team on the field, this is definitely progress for Ebron. Detroit is counting on him to be the team's top pass-catching tight end in the fall.
2. Punt returner continues to be a large group: The Lions seem to have their group of competitors for punt return at this point. During multiple punt return periods, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Ameer Abdullah, Golden Tate and Lance Moore all took reps back there. In that quintet, Tate is by far the most explosive and Moore would seem like the player least likely to stick around as a returner considering his age compared to the other candidates. The question for Detroit at this point might be whether or not it is worth risking Tate on punt returns when he is such a valuable receiver at a position where there is not much depth. While there isn't hitting involved here, Tate just appears on a different level than the rest of the candidates.
3. Not much first team work for Laken Tomlinson: This continues to surprise me, especially if the Lions believe Tomlinson to be their starting left guard this year. During multiple first-team periods, it was Manny Ramirez lining up at left guard between center Travis Swanson and left tackle Riley Reiff. Considering how important chemistry is on the offensive line, that the Lions won't take every rep possible to have Tomlinson gain comfort with Reiff and Swanson -- or Ramirez, if he were to be the team's starting center -- doesn't make a ton of sense to me. This will be something to watch over the last two days of minicamp and the start of training camp. As far as center goes, Swanson worked with Matthew Stafford during individual snapping drills, so that might give an indication the team views him as the No. 1 center for now.
4. Dan Orlovsky the No. 2 again: After two weeks of Kellen Moore taking No. 2 reps in open organized team activities, the final open OTA practice and first day of minicamp had Orlovsky taking snaps directly after Stafford. This will clearly be a competition that goes into training camp -- perhaps deep into camp -- but I still think if Detroit had to pick a No. 2 quarterback today it would be Orlovsky because of his regular-season game experience. As far as numbers Tuesday, here is my unofficial count: Stafford was 14-of-16, Orlovsky was 8-of-8 and Moore was 6-of-6. New quarterback Garrett Gilbert, at least from what I watched, did not attempt a pass.
5. This week is an opportunity for Michael Williams: With LaAdrian Waddle and Cornelius Lucas both sitting out this week due to injury, Detroit's first team right tackle is converted tight end Michael Williams. A season ago, Williams was still learning the nuance of the position. As of now, he's the team's fourth tackle. Consider the past two seasons, the fourth tackle out of training camp ended starting games for Detroit (Waddle in 2013 and Lucas in 2014). Williams has put on weight and understands the position better, but he also would have given up at least one Stafford sack Tuesday. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said after practice he is now a guy “that's in the thick of it all” after being on the periphery last season. Williams has a real chance to make the roster, but he is going to have to make some improvement before Detroit really trusts him in a game setting. He's getting there, though.