The third phase of the Detroit Lions offseason starts next week with the first three sessions of organized team activities.
While the players have been working out at the Lions facility for five weeks, they can step up the process during OTAs when they’re allowed to have seven-on-seven or nine-on-nine drills for the first time, although still no live contact is allowed.
They’ll have 10 days of OTAs over the next three weeks leading up to the mandatory three-day minicamp in mid-June.
Here are five veterans who need to impress in OTAs, minicamp and training camp:
Wide receiver Ryan Broyles didn’t see much action in the 2014 season with the new Jim Caldwell regime. The coaching staff didn’t seem to give him much of a chance despite good showings late in preseason games. A battle for jobs is shaping up at wide receiver. Broyles needs to prove he still has his explosion and speed following three major surgeries (two ACLs, one Achilles). This is his first Lions’ offseason where he is not coming off surgery.
LInebacker/pass rusher Kyle Van Noy was injured in the preseason and missed the first eight games of his rookie season in 2014. By the time he was well enough to play the defense was rolling and he wasn’t able to prove he deserved more playing time on defense. As a second-round pick much was expected. Van Noy needs to step up. It’s good he at least got a few snaps on defense (more on special teams), but now he has to show he can be a vital part of the defense.
Tight end Eric Ebron seemed lost in the Lions’ offense especially early last season. Maybe too much was expected of the first-round pick as a rookie. Matthew Stafford has plenty of weapons on offense Ebron needs to prove he is reliable, knows the offense and can be a go-to guy.
Cornerback Bill Bentley was injured in the opener in 2014 and missed the rest of the season. He had won the nickel role in training camp. Coming off ACL surgery, he will have to battle again. Now he’s got more competition. Nevin Lawson, who filled in after Bentley was injured for one game before he was knocked out for season with serious foot injury will be in the battle. So will Josh Wilson, a 30-year-old free agent, and rookie Quandre Diggs, a sixth-round pick out of Texas.
Wide receiver TJ Jones didn’t get a speck of playing time as a rookie due to a nerve injury as a result of offseason shoulder surgery. After Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, there will be plenty of wide receiver candidates for not-so-many roster spots. Jones, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2014, will need to show he belongs. Corey Fuller is close to a lock to make the 53-man roster. Last week the Lions signed veteran Lance Moore who knows the offense from his time with the Saints. Other wide receivers on the current roster include: Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross, veteran Greg Salas, Andrew Peacock (practice squad in 2014); and three undrafted rookies — Jared Haggins, Vernon Johnson and Erik Lora.