Camp quick hitters
The loss of starting strong-side linebacker Boss Bailey for 2-3 months will create a huge void in Detroit's defense in several ways. Besides the fact that he's the Lions' best linebacker, their defense is based on speed and that and the pursuit to the ball carrier are his best attributes.
His backup, Donte' Curry, is no where near the player that Bailey is so their defense is going to take a major hit. Couple that with the loss of potential starting weak-side linebacker James Davis for several weeks, and the Detroit defense could really be in for a major drop-off. Fifth-round pick Alex Lewis will likely move up to the no.1 defense without Davis around. The only other option is to move rookie LB Teddy Lehman from the middle to the weak-side.
Battle at Receiver
The battle for the backup receiver jobs is heating up in Oxnard California.
One day it's Randal Williams who stands out, and Wednesday it was Zuriel Smith. Williams has the most experience with the club but has not been able to establish himself in their offense. Smith was drafted with the belief that he would be a standout special teams returner but he's getting a good chance to contribute in other areas.
Boldin's Absence is a Huge Issue
If it wasn't bad enough that the club lost RB Marcel Shipp most likely for half of the regular season, now they learned that they'll be without number-one wide receiver Anquan Boldin for much longer than first thought.
With Boldin out for at least two months and possibly much longer depending how his rehab goes, the passing game will go through first-round pick Larry Fitzgerald. The bigger issue now is who will step up and fill the other starting spot?
Second-year wide receiver Bryant Johnson had the boot removed from the foot which he suffered a stress fracture to in June. The hope is that Johnson will be able to practice within a few weeks and be able to play in week one of the regular season but that's far from a certainty. If Johnson's not ready, they could turn to oft-injured wide receiver Bryan Gilmore who has had a decent camp so far. However, he has complained of soreness in one of his knees and as past seasons have shown, he hardly can be counted on. Others vying for time are receivers Nate Poole and Kevin Kasper.
Starting quarterback Carson Palmer has shown steady improvement so far during camp. According to one NFL insider, his grasp of the offense "is like night and day over last season at any time." Palmer has shown the ability to get rid of the ball when he doesn't have an open receiver and he also has done a decent job of getting rid of the ball to avoid taking a sack. His biggest test yet will come this weekend when they travel to play the Buccaneers.
Third Running Back Battle Heats up
It was assumed that second-year pro Reno Mahe has already sewn up the number-three running back job. However, with NFL Europe standout Eric McCoo back from a knee injury, a solid pre-season game showing from McCoo on Friday could pull him even with Mahe.
This is an important training camp battle because head coach Andy Reid used three backs last year in a rotation all season.
Rookie Receiver Progressing
Second-round pick wide receiver Devery Henderson may have signed his contract later than the team would have liked, but he has shown practice observers that he's not that behind. In fact, Henderson has shown a better understanding of the offense than he had during mini-camp workouts and he has not dropped that many passes.
First-round pick wide receiver Michael Clayton has been progressing in the club's offense ever since he signed his contact. Although head coach Jon Gruden has been hard on him, Clayton has done a nice job of route running as well as using good technique when catching passes. Although he'll have an occasional lapse of concentration here and there, Clayton looks like a polished rookie so far. The big test will come in their first pre-season game against Cincinnati this weekend.
Faulk Healthy so far
One of the biggest surprises of camp so far is the health of starting running back Marshall Faulk. Although he hasn't been asked to practice twice a day, Faulk hasn't had any setbacks with his surgically repaired knees. Don't look for Faulk to see much playing time during the preseason games but he'll get enough work in during practices before the season starts to get properly ready for the season.
Rookie Receiver in the spotlight
Because of injuries to their top three receivers, undrafted rookie wide receiver Richard Smith could get his first start Friday night against the Giants. Smith has been one of the biggest surprises of camp so far for the team and has been very consistent. Smith has done a nice job of route running and he continually gets open.
Raiders-Gallery Running With Second Team
First-round pick offensive tackle Robert Gallery was thought to be a lock to start this season. However, he's been running behind veteran lineman Barry Sims so far in camp. Gallery needs to be better with his footwork and isn't nearly as polished with pass blocking as some thought he would be at this point. He'll eventually be their starting left tackle but he needs to improve in several areas.
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