Lions Training Camp: Unit-By-Unit Preview

A quick (but detailed) glimpse of each unit as the Detroit Lions launch training camp in Allen Park, Michigan.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Jon Kitna. Backups -- Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton.

Kitna enters camp as the starter and is expected to keep the job. The Lions are giving the QB more control at the line of scrimmage, and Kitna has experience. Orlovsky and Stanton have little to no experience, on the other hand, and need to gain some during camp and the exhibition season. Orlovsky hasn't thrown a pass in a real game since his rookie season in 2005, and he missed much of the preseason last year because of injury. Stanton missed all of his rookie season last year after suffering a knee injury three days into training camp.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Tatum Bell. Backups -- Kevin Smith, Brian Calhoun, Artose Pinner, Aveion Cason, FB Jon Bradley, FB Jerome Felton.

Bell enters camp as the presumptive starter, even though he was benched most of last season, because he has success in a zone scheme in Denver. This should be an intriguing battle, though. Smith and Calhoun both ran in zone schemes in college. Smith is a rookie; Calhoun is essentially a rookie, too, having missed much of the past two seasons because of a knee injury. Pinner and Cason both fit the scheme as well. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jim Colletto uses his fullback. Remember running backs coach Sam Gash was a fullback.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Dan Campbell. Backups -- Michael Gaines, Casey Fitzsimmons, Sean McHugh, John Owens.

Campbell is coming back from another elbow surgery. He has a cadaver's Achilles tendon holding things together. If healthy, he can be a force as a blocker and pass-catcher. Gaines left Buffalo as a free agent saying he wants to be the man. He is known as a blocker but wants to show he is an all-around tight end. Fitzsimmons doesn't block well but can catch the ball and has value on special teams. McHugh needs to find a niche after playing a fullback role in Mike Martz's offense.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson. Backups -- Shaun McDonald, Mike Furrey, Kenneth Moore, Brandon Middleton, Devale Ellis, Reggie Ball, Ronald Bellamy, John Standeford.

The Lions want to be more balanced, but that doesn't mean they don't want to throw the ball frequently. They hope a stronger running game will set up the deep passing game for big outside targets Williams and Johnson. McDonald and Furrey won't catch the same number of balls that they did in Martz's offense, when they led the team in receptions, but they will still have a role. Moore might be primarily a return man. The question will be if the Lions keep only five receivers.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Jeff Backus, LG Edwin Mulitalo, C Dominic Raiola, RG Stephen Peterman, RT George Foster. Backups -- RT Gosder Cherilus, T Jonathan Scott, G Frank Davis, G Manny Ramirez, G Corey Hulsey, T Jon Dunn, T Chris Patrick, G Matt Butler, G Carroll Madison.

Backus, Mulitalo and Raiola are entrenched. There should be competition at right guard between Peterman, a scrappy competitor, and Davis and Ramirez, two strong young interior linemen. Foster was a disaster last season at right tackle. The Lions hope he will be better in a simpler system than Mike Martz's. He played in a zone running scheme before in Denver. He enters camp as the starter, but Cherilus is expected to take over the job at some point. Cherilus, the 17th overall pick this year, is a tough run blocker with a mean streak. He needs to work on his pass protection.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Jared DeVries, UT Cory Redding, NT Chuck Darby, RE Dewayne White. Backups -- E Cliff Avril, E Ikaika Alama-Francis, E Corey Smith, T Shaun Cody, T Andre Fluellen, T Langston Moore, T Landon Cohen, E Claude Harriott, E Victor DeGrate, E Rudolph Hardie.

The departure of Shaun Rogers leaves a huge hole in the middle of the defensive line, which Rod Marinelli has said must drive the franchise. Darby is a veteran who has played in this system before under Marinelli in Tampa Bay. Fluellen also has potential as a rookie. The Lions still lack an elite pass rusher. White is solid on the right end, but he would ideally play left end. The Lions hope Avril can step up as a rookie and use his speed off the edge. Alama-Francis (pictured left) and Cody, recent second-round picks who have not produced much, need to take a step forward.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Ernie Sims, MLB Paris Lenon, SLB Alex Lewis. Backups -- Jordon Dizon, Buster Davis, Gilbert Gardner, Alfred Fincher, Anthony Cannon, Tyrone Pruitt.

Sims is set on the weak side. The other two spots are up for grabs. The Lions would like Dizon to develop quickly as a rookie, allowing veteran Lenon to move to the strong side. Davis is an intriguing prospect, a third-round pick last year who was quickly cut by Arizona. Gardner and Fincher provide some veteran depth.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- RCB Leigh Bodden, SS Dwight Smith, FS Gerald Alexander, LCB Brian Kelly. Backups -- S Kalvin Pearson, S Daniel Bullocks, CB Keith Smith, CB Stanley Wilson, CB Travis Fisher, CB LaMarcus Hicks, CB Ramzee Robinson, CB Dovonte Edwards, CB Stephen Howell, S Greg Blue.

The Lions overhauled their secondary this offseason. They could have four new starters potentially, if Pearson or Bullocks, who missed last season with a torn ACL, beats out Alexander. Dwight Smith, Kelly and Pearson all played in Tampa Bay and have knowledge of the Tampa-2, which the Lions hope will help immediately and also rub off on the others. The Lions still have high hopes for Smith and Wilson. Fisher enters as the starting nickel back, but Pearson will compete there as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Jason Hanson, P Nick Harris, LS Don Muhlbach, K/P Paul Ernster.

Hanson, Harris and Muhlbach are a solid trio. The question marks in camp will surround the return game and coverage units. Moore was drafted with his return skills in mind. Others will get a shot to win a job. The coverage units should be improved by the additions to the defense. Pearson is expected to be a leader on special teams.


Lions Report Top Stories