NFC North offseason analysis: Detroit

A look at the player that stood out in the offseason, rookie impressions, lineup concerns, injury issues and contracts watches in Detroit.

OFFSEASON STANDOUT: Linebacker Zack Follett, a seventh-round pick last year, has been working with the first team since the trade that sent Ernie Sims to Philadelphia. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham wasn't a fan of Follett's at first last year, but Follett went from toiling on the practice squad to making an impact on special teams to contributing on defense. Now he has a shot to start. But the Lions still could make a move to fill that spot (Keith Bulluck?), and linebackers cannot be judged until the tackling starts.

LINEUP WATCH: The biggest uncertainty is in the secondary. Louis Delmas, a second-round pick last year, is a lock to start. He made big plays as a rookie and already has become the emotional leader of the defense. Chris Houston is slated to start at one corner. Jonathan Wade could start at the other. But Houston and Wade both have a lot to prove after being jettisoned by the Falcons and Rams, respectively, and rookie Amari Spievey is expected to compete. The other safety spot is wide open, with C.C. Brown, Marquand Manuel, Travis Hefney, Ko Simpson and Daniel Bullocks in the mix. Simpson and Bullocks are recovering from serious knee injuries.

ROOKIE IMPRESSIONS: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick in the draft, has been as advertised so far. He's in shape, intense and athletic, and he's already working with the first team. Best thought he was in the best shape of his life when he arrived but quickly found he needed to catch up to the vets. The Lions have thrown a lot at him, because they need him to contribute in so many ways on offense, but he has started to get his legs under him, get the offense down and show his trademark speed. Spievey, a third-round pick, has been hampered by tight hips.

INJURY WATCH: Tight end Brandon Pettigrew and running back Kevin Smith are returning from torn ACLs suffered the second half of last season. Both are progressing well, and the Lions hope both will be ready for the opener. Smith even took a few team reps in the first practice of the mandatory minicamp. The Lions have insurance, having added Scheffler and Best.

CONTRACT TO WATCH: Suh's agents, Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker, have a history of high-profile holdouts. The Lions also have another first-round pick to sign in Best. But Suh insists he will be in camp on time, and the Lions have a good track record of avoiding major contract squabbles with their top picks.

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