Lions Training Camp Battles: Veterans and Rookies Headed for Big Showdowns

Jonah Jackson

Getty Jonah Jackson playing for Ohio State.

The Detroit Lions are heading toward another training camp, and while 2020 will look much different on the field, the football will be the same.

As part of that, there are some huge training camp battles the Lions will be watching play out that could help determine the success of the team at various spots across the roster. Not just limited to the defense, the team’s offense figures to see tons of competition as well once things get going on the field during camp.

How will it play out at the different spots when things get going? Here’s a look at some of the best battles to watch this year.

Quintez Cephus vs. Veteran Wideouts

Detroit has plenty of depth across the roster at the wideout position and that might be the most improved spot of all on the roster in terms of playmakers. On the bottom, something has got to give. A battle for the No. 5 wideout spot could be interesting as it relates to the team’s rookie Cephus and others such as Marvin Hall, Geremy Davis and Victor Boldin. It seemed Geronimo Allison would be a part of this mix until he opted out of the season. The top of Detroit’s wideout group gets headlines for good reason, but the bottom might be sneaky good with Cephus, Hall, and a veteran in Davis who can catch passes. With Chris Lacy and Travis Fulgham now gone, Cephus has seemingly edged out his first wave of competition but there is more to come for a guy who could be in the mix to do big things and get his share of snaps.

Logan Stenberg and Jonah Jackson vs. Veteran Guards

Detroit drafted Jackson and Stenberg near each other this past year, and that should give them a chance to completely transform their offensive line on both guard spots. The jobs won’t be handed to the rookies, though, with names such as Kenny Wiggins, Josh Garnett, Russell Bodine, Joe Dahl and Oday Aboushi having something to say about matters. It can be expected that the rookies will play a big role this season, but whether they are trusted enough to start is another story. A good camp could go a long way toward determining what happens on that front, making the guard spot the one to watch along the line with center and both tackle spots seemingly sewn up.

Jeff Okudah vs. The Field at Cornerback

Most expect veteran free agent addition Desmond Trufant to start opposite Okudah this year, and all this offseason, the youngster has been receiving tons of hype as one of the next potential greats at cornerback. Will he show the ability to lock down and frustrate Detroit’s great wideouts in practice, or will a veteran player step up and take the starting reigns over early on? Amani Oruwariye, Darryl Roberts, Mike Ford and Tony McRae will all be in the mix to try and steal snaps from Okudah. The Lions will test the mettle of the rookie right off the bat and it will be fascinating to see how he responds and if he can lock down the starting job and maintain his hold on it. Starting in the NFL can be a tough ballgame for a rookie (just ask Darius Slay), so Okudah will be one to watch in camp to see if the job is a bit too big for him early on, or if it fits him. Theoretically, the No. 3 pick in the draft shouldn’t need much of a learning curve on paper, but that’s why they play games on grass.

Detroit’s Rebuilt Safety Position

There isn’t one specific battle player to player to watch here, as everything will be interesting. The Lions have a player that could be a rising star in Tracy Walker set to take over, while they will also work key veteran Duron Harmon into the mix. Will Harris is looking for bigger things in his sophomore season in the league, and the Lions also added Jayron Kearse to the mix this offseason. That’s a lot of depth and a lot of different parts to evaluate. Some want to see the Lions add another safety to the mix. It might not be needed because there is plenty here on the roster at this point already, making safety a very formidable spot in the secondary to watch. Harmon is a veteran player who might be one of the best additions to the Detroit locker room, and it will be fun to watch him take command of this young and talented group and push them for greatness.

D’Andre Swift vs. Kerryon Johnson

Ever since Swift entered the mix in the draft, this battle has felt like it had the makings of a showdown. Johnson has been entrenched as the starter but has battled untimely injuries. Swift comes in with a major chip on his shoulder following slipping in the draft, so it will be important to see how the pair motivate and push each other as a pair of gritty SEC runners. The Lions will likely try to balance things out at running back, but whomever gets more carries could be viewed as a potential lock to steal some action from the other. If Johnson and Swift motivate each other, this will only make the Lions better, so this battle should be ultra fun.

Arryn Siposs vs. Jack Fox

Punter and kicker were both once a pair of given for the Lions’ roster, and while Matt Prater is still entrenched kicking field goals, the punting will change hands in 2020 following the departure of Sam Martin. Fox, a holdover from the roster earlier this offseason and Siposs, a UDFA signing from Auburn, will be the main combatants. The last time the Lions tried to hand the rookie a major specialist job, things didn’t work out. Nate Freese is now an infamous name in the Motor City as a result. Can Siposs or Fox lock down the punting job no questions asked, or will the team need to look for a veteran to come in and get the job done? This might be a minor battle for some, but it’s major for a team that needs a steady leg booming the ball this season and helping with field position for a defense that could need help.

Lions vs. The NFL’s Opt Out

In this new world, many NFL teams are struggling with players opting out of the 2020 NFL season due to health concerns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Certainly, nobody can or should blame any Lions players or other league players for deciding it’s not in their best interests to play this year. The big question is how this will impact rosters moving forward and what will teams have to do if depth is decimated. Detroit’s division has already been hit hard, and it will be interesting to see if the Lions manage to keep all their players in the program or if some decide it is in their best health interests to hold back. This is a battle every team will be facing, and it will be fascinating to watch how the Lions deal with and attempt to weather this unheard of storm in 2020.

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