Fresh off an 0-16 campaign, you have to hand it to the Detroit Lions for being able to keep this off-season interesting.
People are even paying attention to mini-camps.
After announcing the team's mandatory camp (something that would ordinarily fly under the radar), which will span three days beginning on Friday, the internet has again become rife with speculation and fluff reports. Everything from the Curious Case of Jeff Backus' Position to the impact Daunte Culpepper's progress can put on Detroit's draft plan has been analyzed, broken down, and predicted.
Or really, guessed.
In total, the Lions will conduct four practices this weekend. The workouts will be comparatively light to anything the team would do in training camp, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is still busy assembling and tweaking the playbook.
What does any of this mean? Really, like most mini-camps, it's much ado about nothing. Detroit isn't going to modify its draft plan based on this weekend. And if the coaching staff learns anything, it would only be an evaluation of depth and how that depth might be impacted by mid-to-late round draft choices.
Former Oakland receiver Ronald Curry was signed to provide depth at the receiver position.
AP Photo/M.J. Sanchez
For example, the Lions found themselves thin at receiver, and responded by claiming former Missouri standout and Kansas City's 2008 fourth-round pick William Franklin off waivers. They also announced the signing of veteran and former Oakland flanker Ronald Curry on Thursday.
Both players will compete for Detroit's No. 3 receiver position, behind the static duo of Calvin and Bryant Johnson.
They now enter the mini-camp with a solid core of receivers. So unless it's a late-round choice, the Lions probably won't spend a pick in next weekend's draft on the position. It will allow them to keep the focus on the defensive side of the football for the better part of the draft.
Under center, it's a different matter. And regardless of what has been written or assumed, we're told that the Lions are far from satisfied at quarterback.
While a free-agent signal caller could be brought in to compete (J.P. Losman, Brooks Bollinger, Charlie Frye, Gus Frerotte, and Rex Grossman head a very shallow list), the Lions are no longer interested in band-aid solutions. Although Culpepper has improved, at least aesthetically, the Lions coaching staff and front office both understand that the 32-year old, oft-injured gunslinger isn't a long-term solution.
Drew Stanton's athleticism is apparent, but his ability to stay healthy is not.
Third-year quarterback Drew Stanton, meanwhile, is an anomaly. Linehan and Stanton have historical ties, and while the former Michigan State standout's athleticism is intriguing, he is nonetheless injury prone and hasn't displayed enough keep the Lions content on draft day.
The coaching staff will also keep Jeff Backus at left tackle during the camp, which should surprise no one. While light discussions took place regarding whether Backus would slide over to the guard position, the Lions seem willing to keep the incumbent left tackle in place -- for now.
Daniel Loper, acquired in the off-season via free-agency, is expected to challenge Backus at the position. Loper was considered a key loss for Tennessee, which posted the league's best record a year ago. And for now, it seems the Lions don't feel spending a No. 1 pick -- and tying the accompanying contract -- on that same position is warranted.
Jeff Backus is an eight-year starter at LT for Detroit, but that could be interupted in 2009.
Regardless of how the mini-camp plays out, the consensus around the team remains that Matthew Stafford, the Georgia product and near-unanimous No. 1 overall pick, will be the team's selection.
We were told that while Stafford provides a marketing spark to a team desperate for any kind revival, the simple fact remains that they also need to groom a young quarterback.