Last season’s Questions of the Week.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They showed up in courtesy vans and their own automobiles, in groups and on their own.
Rookies reported to Detroit Lions training camp on Tuesday to begin their first forays into a true NFL season. For some, it is their one chance to make the squad. For others, it is an opportunity to move up the depth chart and possibly steal a starting position.
They will be the youngest players in camp and likely among the most nervous at first, which led to the obvious first Question of the Week for the 2014 season.
Rookies, what are you most nervous about entering training camp?
Receiver TJ Jones: Probably that first big hit. They always talk about it’s faster, they are faster, bigger, stronger in the NFL, which they are, so, really taking that first blindside or not really seeing someone coming and they take you out. Getting that first one out of the way.
Guard Bryce Quigley: It’s a brand new experience for me, so I’m not sure what to expect. I’m just really excited to be here.
offensive lineman Travis Swanson: It’s kind of hard to pinpoint. I think I was most nervous when I first came in here after the draft. You don’t know what to expect. Now, you kind of do, so It’s kind of hard to pinpoint what you’re most nervous about.
Quarterback James Franklin: Honestly just getting the play calls down. I feel confident knowing the plays and being able to execute them. It’s just being able to remember to tell everyone else in the huddle what they need to do.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Bryce Quigley took a chance and even though he placed a potential NFL future at risk, it was a decision he had to make. A decision he doesn't regret.
In the final game of his 2013 regular season at San Diego State, Quigley suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. Practicality would have said to have surgery to repair his foot immediately and forgo his bowl game. Except Quigley went against proper convention. He instead chose to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Buffalo before having his foot repaired in January.
He said the potential damage to his NFL future was on his mind, but he figured he would have to have surgery either way so he decided to play.
"Our last regular season game, we didn't end it very well," Quigley said. "College, you're with those guys for four years so I was with the seniors for four years because I didn't redshirt and I just didn't want to go out on that note. I wanted to finish off the season the right way with all the guys I've been with together for a long time."
Fully recovered from the injury -- he expects to be able to practice fully once training camp starts Monday -- the undrafted free agent is focusing on a position switch for the second time. He started college as a tight end. Two years in, he moved to offensive tackle.
Now he's headed even further inside the line as he is trying to make the Detroit Lions as an offensive guard. He'll be competing with Rodney Austin, Garrett Reynolds and others to back up starters Rob Sims and Larry Warford. He signed with Detroit after another workout with the New York Giants, but said the Giants chose to go with a more veteran player.
"It's not too much different from tackle," Quigley said. "They work together. There's some slight differences but I'm still learning as an offensive lineman as a whole so, keep learning."
And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
- Eric Ebron's goal -- Do Not Let Michigan Down. Ebron explains his pass-catcher label. TJ Jones' shoulder is not at 100 percent yet. The Detroit positional previews continue with linebackers. The Lions live chat returned Tuesday and you can see that again here.
- Another reminder to come hang out with me on Facebook now as well -- we can talk in more than 140 characters.
- Titus Young's arrest report shows he punched out his (now former) lawyer, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Football is life for TJ Jones, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
- Ebron adds a different dimension to tight ends, writes Kyle Meinke of MLive.
- Colleague Kevin Seifert thinks attention paid to Tony Dungy's opinion on Michael Sam is wasted breath.
- If you like movies, this piece in Esquire from Garin Pirnia about the year 1999 and what could have happened next is pretty interesting.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Eric Ebron understands there is a level of pressure there now, a level of expectation heaped upon him from the moment the Detroit Lions selected him with the No. 10 pick in May’s NFL draft.
He didn’t necessarily ask for it or expect it, but he appears to be embracing it at least. The extremely confident tight end has no other choice, really. He is going to be looked at differently than the rest of his class. He is going to be called on more.
And if he wants to end up being the NFL’s top rookie when this season comes to a close, he knows he has to produce on a major level -- a level befitting the pick the Lions used on him. His goals, though, go a little bit deeper.
Ebron’s goals encompass the entire state he now resides in.
“That’s really what I don’t, that’s sort of like my goals. Don’t let Michigan down. Don’t let the team down.”
Ebron knows Detroit’s offensive success this season is going to be somewhat tied to his ability to pick up the offense, to catch passes with regularity and to develop a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
He also knows his room for making mistakes -- like he did from time to time during spring workouts -- will diminish with every practice leading up to the regular season. He needs to transition his mentality from making mistakes and learning from them to no longer making those errors at all.
He isn’t concerned about his physical condition with any of that. It is all about his mental status.
“I’ve never really worried about my body physically,” Ebron said. “Mentally, it is what it is. It’s the NFL, it’s my first year. I’m going to have migraines. I have Advil sitting in my desk in the tight end room ready to chew on. I’m ready.”
As part of getting ready, Ebron had to do one thing first -- clean out his locker. A Lions coach sent Ebron a picture of his mess of a stall asking if he could keep it neat. The reason for the mess? He was using it as storage.
A lot of storage.
“I had about, a smooth 35 pair of shoes. I had a couple systems for my house, by Sonos. They are some people I deal with, the speakers are incredible,” Ebron said. “I had some customized cleats for the season come through from Nike. The Ebrons ain’t dropped yet. Next year.
“That was it. Just shoes took up most of my locker. Now they in the back of my car.”
They were moved into the same car Ebron is leasing right now as he starts to find a way to navigate in his new world both as a Michigan resident and as an NFL first-round draft pick.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Jimmy Graham was going through his arbitration hearing with the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron was paying attention intently. He knew that eventually, he could be in a similar situation.
And after it was ruled that Graham was a tight end, not a wide receiver, Ebron changed his Twitter profile from tight end to "pass catcher for the Detroit Lions."
On the day he reported for his first NFL training camp, he explained the switch was not a political statement at all.
"I like it," Ebron said. "I'm just messing around. It's just funny."
He got the idea after he saw another tight end, Jordan Cameron, do something similar, and his agent had nothing to do with his Twitter profile switch.
Although Ebron was drafted as a player who could stretch the field for the Lions with rare tight end speed, he understands part of his role is to block. He said his position coach, Ron Prince, made sure of that.
Ebron has at least a few seasons before he can renegotiate his contract and would be a long way away from any sort of franchise tag situation, but the former North Carolina tight end knows the game is changing and more players like Graham could be coming.
"They still considering him a tight end and that's what we came to play," Ebron said. "But I believe it's evolving. That's really it. Everything evolves. The game evolves. Planet evolves. Things change.
"He's deserving of the money that he got and I thoroughly believe that through and through."
Bad enough to have surgery, leading to his rehabilitation with Brian Tovin of the Sports Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta during his off time away from the Lions. Jones said he isn't 100 percent yet because he has yet to block or hit defenders.
"I'm feeling real good," Jones said outside the Lions facility before reporting for camp. "There's obviously things I haven't done yet, certain tests I haven't run on my shoulder so that's things we'll go over with the training staff and they'll kind of make the decision what I should do moving forward."
Jones isn't concerned, though, about the injury keeping him out for a long period of time. He said he'll leave it to the doctors as to a timeframe for him to begin practicing, whether it is right away or down the road.
The 6-foot, 188-pound receiver wants to return to the field because he wants to try and use training camp to prove he can play multiple roles in the offense, both in the slot and on the outside. Jones had 181 catches for 2,429 yards and 19 touchdowns at Notre Dame.
"I understand coming in it's the easiest to learn one," Jones said. "You don't want to get too much on your plate at first, but at the same time now it's training camp and I would like to kind of test my limits and see how much I can take in."
Before he can compete with Kevin Ogletree and Kris Durham on the outside and Ryan Broyles and Jeremy Ross in the slot, he needs to be able to get on the field first.
When that happens, he's looking forward to being able to focus on football six days a week without the classes and other things associated with college.
"It's exciting. It's the next step. You dream about the days when you would get this opportunity," Jones said. "If it was seven days a week. If it was seven days a week, it's all we have now, there's no classes, there's no other distractions. Football is life if it wasn't before. It's definitely exciting and it's an opportunity."
Starter: WLB -- DeAndre Levy; MLB -- Stephen Tulloch; SLB -- Kyle Van Noy
Likely roster spots: 5-6.
What to expect in camp: Like a lot of the other positions on the roster, much of the competition during camp will be to spell the starters and win special teams spots. DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch are entrenched as starters and won’t be losing their jobs during camp barring injury.
The one starting spot somewhat up for grabs is the Sam linebacker, where rookie Kyle Van Noy is expected to win the job but will face a tough competition from veteran Ashlee Palmer, who had the job last season. Van Noy missed part of spring workouts because of injury, so the second-round pick might be a little bit behind when training camp opens next week. But he will be given every possible chance to win the job. If he does, it will be interesting to see if Palmer hangs on to a roster spot.
Tahir Whitehead might be close to a roster lock as well because of his special teams capability. He was a four-team player last season and was named the Lions’ special teams MVP. Considering the team retained John Bonamego and Evan Rothstein as the special teams coaches, this bodes well for Whitehead’s ability to remain on the roster.
The rest of the linebackers will potentially be competing for one roster spot, so it should be a pretty intense battle throughout camp. It will be primarily a special teams slot, and multiple guys -- including Stanford and Lewis -- have extensive experience there.
What Detroit needs to see: This starts with Van Noy. Much like Eric Ebron on offense, he needs to show Detroit he is ready to be a capable starter from the beginning of the season. Though he won’t be relied on quite as much as Ebron because the Lions will play a fair amount of nickel throughout the season, he needs to show he can handle a starter’s role after the team traded up in the second round to draft him.
At some point this season, Van Noy will end up as the starter there. His pass rush and coverage capabilities are too valuable for Detroit to keep him off the field, but the quicker the Lions see he can handle it consistently and without many mistakes, the faster he will supplant Palmer at the top of the depth chart. Ideally for Detroit, it happens by the middle of training camp.
Detroit knows what it has in Levy and Tulloch, although they wouldn’t mind if Levy completes his progression into one of the game’s top linebackers.
With reserves, if Whitehead can become a viable backup, that will give the Lions some flexibility because of his special teams capabilities. Entering his third season, he has to take that step now or be cast as a special teams player throughout his career. Lewis and Stanford are in similar positions. If they show they are able to be good in situations -- much like Rocky McIntosh was in short-yardage last season -- they have a chance to stick beyond special teams.
Justin Jackson is a player to pay attention to when it comes to a potential practice squad spot because of his athleticism, but he will have a rough road to a 53-man spot.
The tweets have been coming over the past 24 hours as the Detroit Lions rookies gather themselves into trains, planes and automobiles (OK, we don't know about the trains) to head to Allen Park, Michigan.
Football season has officially begun for them. They are due to report to the team facility Tuesday.
Among the rookies garnering the most attention over the next few weeks:
Tight end Eric Ebron, the first round selection, will be scrutinized a lot. His hands were a little bit suspect during the spring, something that had been a concern before the team even drafted him. He is expected to be a starter and unseat Joseph Fauria as the tight end that can stretch the field for Detroit. He's being looked at as an immediate difference-maker for the Lions and needs to show that from the get-go.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy is also expected to beat out veteran Ashlee Palmer and be a starter this fall. Unlike Ebron, Van Noy missed part of spring workouts. It'll be interesting to see if he still needs time to catch up following a spring where he wasn't able to do much at all. For rookies, every practice is going to matter.
Tackle Cornelius Lucas was given the most bonus money of any of the undrafted free agents and his size is being compared to last year's undrafted free agent tackle-turned-starter, LaAdrian Waddle. On a team in need of a fourth tackle, Lucas is going to get the first chance to win that job behind Riley Reiff, Waddle and Corey Hilliard.
Safety Jerome Couplin III didn't have the bonus money of Lucas and wasn't drafted like Ebron or Van Noy, but his nickname of "The Osprey" and his athletic ability has caught early notice from fans. He is still very raw, and if he makes the roster it'll likely be as a practice squad player. Unlike last year's sensation with a nickname -- Kickalicious -- Couplin has a chance to actually make the squad in some fashion.
Kicker Nate Freese was taken with a seventh-round pick and is in a competition with Giorgio Tavecchio for the role. If he wins the job, he makes the team. If he loses the job, he doesn't. His situation is extremely simple. While he might not receive the attention of other rookies this training camp, his job might end up more important than anyone other than Ebron during his rookie year.
And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
- The Lions are going to wear a patch honoring late owner William Clay Ford Sr. this fall. Our camp previews continue with a look at the defensive line. Colleague Ron Jaworski rates Matthew Stafford compared to other NFL quarterbacks.
- To help you out from now on, I have a public Facebook page where stories, videos and appearances will be linked and mentioned. Plus, you can converse with me more. So please, feel free to pop on over and like the page. Hopefully it will be a good resource for you, the reader.
- Rookie TJ Jones is not sure of his health status as training camp is close to opening writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- Joique Bell's sister received a kidney transplant, writes Josh Katzenstein in the Detroit News.
- Questions linger behind Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, writes Kyle Meinke from MLive.
- Former Lions linebacker and current Denver Broncos executive Matt Russell begins his work-release program, writes Mike Klis of the Denver Post.
- Absolutely loved this story from friend of the site Jamie Reidy over at The Good Men Project about a soccer game in Afghanistan that changed lives. It's long, but worth your time.
The Detroit Lions have found another way to honor their late owner, William Clay Ford Sr.
The team plans on wearing patches on its uniforms during the 2014 season with the letters "WCF" in white in the middle of the patch against a black football with one blue and one gray bar in the background.
Ford Sr. bought the Lions for $4.5 million on Nov. 22, 1963, and owned the team until his death on March 9. His wife, Martha, gained control of the team upon Ford Sr.'s death, although his son, William Clay "Bill" Ford Jr., remained the team's vice chairman.
Under Ford's ownership, the Lions won one playoff game in 50 years and had 14 winning seasons and 10 playoff appearances.
The Lions open their season on "Monday Night Football" against the New York Giants on Sept. 8 at Ford Field in Detroit.
Position: Defensive line
Starter: Open end -- Ezekiel Ansah; Closed End – Jason Jones; Tackles -- Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley
Depth (in training camp): Ends -- Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp, Larry Webster, George Johnson, Kalonji Kashama. Tackles -- C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Andre Fluellen, Gregory Hickman, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Xavier Proctor.
Likely roster spots: Ends -- four; tackles -- four or five.
On the field, there will be a lot to expect. Figure Ansah to finally work his way into his starting defensive end spot after missing all of spring workouts as he recovered from shoulder surgery. The most interesting competition of the camp will be at closed defensive end, where Jones and Taylor will likely be fighting for a starting role.
The situation at tackle will be set, as Suh and Fairley will occupy starting spots and Mosley will be the team’s third tackle. Most of the main competition will be behind those three, as fifth-round pick Reid will compete with veterans and former practice squad players for spots on the 53-man roster.
At end, the top three players are set and Webster is the likely fourth option at end after the team used a fourth-round pick on the developmental project. Where it could become interesting is if the Lions’ defensive staff believes both Taylor and Jones have the capability to play inside as well as out and if Suh can start playing outside some as well as inside. If that flexibility exists -- and it very well could -- don’t be shocked if the Lions keep the best possible defensive line players instead of a certain amount of ends and tackles.
Having enough players who can be effective at both spots should open up the entire defense to more flexibility throughout the year.
What Detroit needs to see: This begins with Fairley. The defensive tackle showed a slimmed-down version of himself during offseason workouts, allowing him to both feel better about himself and also play better and longer at a smarter weight for him. He has been gone for six weeks, though, and he needs to show he is back in town in the same shape in which he left. If he does that, it is a good sign for the Lions.
The team also could use growth from the two rookies they drafted on the line -- Reid and Webster. Both are going to likely have roster spots -- Reid because of his special teams capabilities, and Webster due to where they drafted him -- so they have to be able to contribute in certain areas. Neither one was used much with the first two teams during spring workouts, but that needs to change in camp.
Detroit also needs to see a healthy Ansah. He battled various injuries throughout his rookie year, including a preseason concussion, and he has to be able to produce for Detroit to have the effectiveness it hopes to have on the defensive line. He is a major piece to any defensive success the team has this fall.
Jaworski, who ranked 32 quarterbacks, placed Stafford firmly in the middle at No. 16 -- and it has nothing to do with his talent. Jaworski lauds Stafford's arm, saying his physical skills belong in the top 10. But as many have pointed out -- including in this space -- his decisions and certain throws have always been his problem.
General manager Martin Mayhew fired Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan in part because of this, replacing them with an offensive-minded staff focused on quarterback development. The Lions' hope is Stafford has a strong enough season where he finally climbs into the top 10 on this list, since it was based on last season's production and throws.
Jaworski also took issue with Stafford's accuracy and reading of coverages, common concerns when it comes to the franchise quarterback in Detroit.
Stafford is not the lowest-rated quarterback in the NFC North. Not even close. To find out who is -- check out his rankings at this link .
The offseason is over and training camp is almost here. While many teams will begin training camp this week, the Detroit Lions will have their rookies report Tuesday with the veterans showing up on Sunday.
The first practice is a week from today when preparations for the 2014 season will begin. The Jim Caldwell era starts with the preseason opener against Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns and the regular-season opener on "Monday Night Football" against the New York Giants.
Yes, the same Giants that eliminated Detroit from the playoff race a season ago.
Throughout this week, we'll catch you up on players to pay attention to throughout training camp, issues that need to be resolved before the start of the season and some of the most critical position battles out there for the Lions.
But we'll start with a twirl around the Interwebs looking for Lions news:
- Positional previews leading into Detroit Lions training camp. A projected 53-man roster for the Lions. A series on the best games ever played for some of the Lions. A look at Detroit Lions history by the numbers. Former Lions running back Kevin Jones has taken up...sailing.
- Darren Keyton learned about life on the NFL's periphery from his father, writes Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Lions signed Reese Wiggins off waivers, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
- Justin Rogers from MLive looks at the backup interior line battles.
- Looking way ahead, but a guy worth paying attention to for the 2015 draft could be Alani Fua. Why Fua? Well, he's the next in the line of BYU pass-rushers (and the Lions have drafted Ezekiel Ansah and Kyle Van Noy, pass-rushers from BYU, in the past two drafts) according to Brandon Judd of the Deseret News.
- If you haven't read this yet, carve out some time in your Monday and check out this piece on Y.A. Tittle from colleague Seth Wickersham. One of the best stories I've read all year.
- Detroit Lions fans may not like the guy since he coached the rival Packers, but this is a fascinating profile of a coach in retirement -- Mike Holmgren -- by Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated.
- And last, one other name for the way, way, way future, but Matt Norlander from CBS Sports.com profiled Soso Jamabo, who could be a legitimate football and basketball Division I prospect.