Players to watch entering training camp:
Running back Kevin Smith: The rookie has an opportunity to step in and make an immediate impact. The Lions plan to run the ball more now that Jim Colletto has replaced Mike Martz as offensive coordinator, and they don't have an established starter having released Kevin Jones. They traded up in the third round to make sure they nabbed Smith, who fits their zone running scheme and wanted to come to Detroit. One of Smith's college coaches used to coach under Colletto, and some of Smith's new NFL plays even have the same names of his college plays. Smith's competition is Tatum Bell, who was benched most of last season but was once productive in a zone scheme in Denver, as well as Brian Calhoun, Artose Pinner and Aveion Cason.
Defensive tackle Shaun Cody: He needs to have a big year to earn another contract next year -- and perhaps a big camp just to earn a roster spot this year. The Lions have a hole to fill at defensive tackle. They parted with Shaun Rogers in an offseason swap with the Cleveland Browns. The Lions would like Cody to fill at least part of that hole. He was a second-round pick in 2005. But while he has plugged his gaps against the run fairly well, he has not gotten upfield against the pass. He badly needs to learn to penetrate, get to the quarterback and produce more. He has only 1.5 sacks in three seasons -- none since his rookie year. Coach Rod Marinelli, a former defensive line coach, has been pushing Cody during the offseason.
Quarterback Drew Stanton: This is essentially Stanton's first NFL training camp, even though he was a second-round pick last year. Stanton had knee problems three days into camp last year and ended up going on injured reserve, ending his season almost before it began. The year was a waste. He was healthy enough to play early in the season, but he was not allowed to practice under NFL rules and he said former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who had changed his mechanics earlier, essentially ignored him. Stanton has gone back to his old mechanics for the most part now and has worked closely with new quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler. Still, he struggled in offseason workouts as he got back into the flow of football.
Positional battle: The Lions would love rookie Jordon Dizon to win the middle linebacker job, but first he needs to beat out veteran Paris Lenon. The Lions failed to upgrade the position with a veteran early in the offseason, trying to trade for Jonathan Vilma, looking into free agents Al Wilson and Dan Morgan. They wanted to take Tennessee's Jerod Mayo in the draft, but New England nabbed him first. So they settled for Dizon, a short-but-speedy tackling machine in college. Marinelli has said middle linebacker is a tough position for a rookie to play because of all the responsibility involved. How will Dizon do? If he wins the job, Lenon would likely move to the strong side. CAMP CALENDAR: Players report July 23. First practices are July 24. Notebook:
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
DRAFT CHOICES UNSIGNED