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Detroit Lions Training Camp Primer – Sports Illustrated

The Detroit Lions begin training camp Wednesday, and the Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid is flowing.
It is optimism season, yet Detroit general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell appear to have their team on the right track. In saying that, it’s not difficult to improve on only a three-win season. 
Expectations obviously increase in the second year of a rebuild. No one is expecting a trip to the Super Bowl, but tangible improvements in play and in the win column are more than fair.
Here is a recap of the 2022 offseason, to get you up to speed on exactly where the Lions stand going into training camp.
Key Losses
Looking at the roster compared to last season, there weren’t many big changes in regards to players leaving. 
Of the free agents the Lions had this offseason, most were re-signed. Outside of last year’s midseason releases of some aging veterans, perhaps the unexpected retirement of defensive tackle John Penisini and the departure of still pending free-agent defensive tackle Nick Williams were the biggest losses.
Penisini only had a small role on the roster, though. Meanwhile, Williams started all 17 games, but didn’t particularly play all that well. It’s no big surprise that the Lions' front-office brass decided to let him walk.
Lastly, linebacker and core special teamer Jalen Reeves-Maybin also departed, after spending five years in Detroit. 
Playing as part of one of the Lions' weakest position groups, the linebacker started 11 games in 2021, after starting a total of three in his prior four seasons. Reeves-Maybin might have been a bit unheralded, yet he did provide some veteran leadership and stability to the group.
In the infancy stages of a rebuild, it’s a good sign to not have any major losses, as the roster continues to be improved.
Raj Mehta, USA TODAY Sports
Key Additions
On the opposite end of the spectrum, while the Lions didn’t lose many players, they also didn’t add all that many bodies via free agency, either — at least in terms of high-profile names. 
Holmes rewarded more than a few of his key contributors in 2021 with new contracts. Once again, Holmes decided to build more through the draft, rather than free agency, for the second straight year.
Just like in 2021, Holmes handed out plenty of one-year, prove-it type deals this offseason. 
The free agent receiving the most money was former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark. He provides a size/speed dynamic that the Lions were sorely lacking a season ago.
Secondly, it’s no secret that the Lions have had a need for a competent safety opposite of Tracy Walker. In one of the better bargain signings, Holmes was able to lure safety DeShon Elliott from the Baltimore Ravens. 
The biggest knock on Elliott is his availability, as he has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the course of his young career. However, when on the field, Elliott is a versatile individual.
At linebacker, the Lions replaced Reeves-Maybin with another similarly-styled player in Chris Board. Both excel on special teams but can start in a pinch. 
Kirthmon F. Dozier, USA TODAY NETWORK
In Board’s case, he may play more on defense this upcoming season than some initially anticipated. The return of former Lions first-round pick Jarrad Davis also gives the Lions some athleticism, and the team's expected scheme change could actually fit his strengths.
Rounding out the new faces, cornerback Mike Hughes will compete for a role at the cornerback position, and likely in the slot. 
Last year’s incumbent nickel corner A.J. Parker had his ups and downs. Unfortunately, he ended the year trending in the wrong direction. For an undrafted free agent, he exceeded expectations, but Hughes should give him a run for his money.
Round 1, Pick 2 — EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Round 1, Pick 12 — WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
Round 2, No. 46 overall — DL Josh Paschal, Kentucky
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SI All Lions projects the Detroit Lions' season-opening 53-man roster entering training camp.
Round 3, No. 97 overall — S Kerby Joseph, Illinois
Round 5, No. 177 overall — TE James Mitchell, Virginia Tech
Round 6, No. 188 overall — LB Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State
Round 6, No. 217 overall — LB James Houston, Jackson State
Round 7, No. 237 overall — CB Chase Lucas, Arizona State
Undrafted free agents
· WR Kalil Pimpleton, Central Michigan
· LT Obinna Eze, TCU
· DT Demetrius Taylor, Appalachian State
· RB Greg Bell, San Diego State
· WR Corey Sutton, Appalachian State
· TE Nolan Givan, Southeastern Louisiana
· WR Josh Johnson, Tulsa
· TE Derrick Deese Jr., San Jose State
· CB Cedric Boswell, Miami (Ohio)
· OL Zein Obeid, Ferris State
· OL Kevin Jarvis, Michigan State
Position Battles
Linebacker – The Lions re-signed Alex Anzalone, and it appears the coaching staff likes him more than most. It wasn’t exactly a great 2021, but the Lions don’t exactly have any clear-cut better options.
Second-year player Derrick Barnes displayed flashes, and will look to become a more consistent player. Nipping at his heels will be Board, and names like Davis, Malcolm Rodriguez, maybe James Houston and Shaun Dion Hamilton. 
Overall, the situation appears to be quantity over quality, unless some of the younger players can make some serious strides in the development department.
Wide receiver – With rookie Jameson Williams looking to return from his ACL injury at some point midseason, the position may not be as much of a battle as it could be during training camp. 
Still, that third spot behind Amon-Ra St. Brown and Chark will be up for grabs between Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus and possibly even dark-horse candidate Trinity Benson.
Defensive end – With the addition of rookie Aidan Hutchinson, the eventual return of Romeo Okwara (once cleared from his Achilles' injury), plus the presence of second-rounder Josh Paschal, the EDGE position will receive a serious boost in rushing the passer.
Additionally, Charles Harris revived his career in his first season with the Lions, and parlayed his impressive season into a two-year contract extension. 
Those four aforementioned individuals will likely see plenty of snaps. However, you can’t count out Julian Okwara, either — and to a lesser extent, Austin Bryant.
There will likely be plenty of rotation along the defensive line, though. Most of these defensive ends have the ability to move around the formation and to give opposing offenses different looks up front. They will all get their chance to get after the quarterback. It just remains to be seen who exactly will receive a majority of the playing time.


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