COMMENTARY | With the Detroit Lions' minicamp completed, we can start working our way towards training camp. However, the doldrums of the actual offseason are staring us in the face. Therefore, it's time we determine what we should all be worrying about as we soldier on.
Can Riley Reiff Handle the Left Side?
He gave up three quarterback hurries and one hit (although no sacks), and he wasn't lined up across from the eventual Defensive Player of the Year. While J.J. Watt's presence on the opposite end of the line meant Reiff didn't receive much help, Reiff still allowed Antonio Smith to have his second-best game of the season (seven quarterback hurries).
Reports from minicamp, according to Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press (linked above), have been positive. But it's rare for a coach not to exude confidence a month before training camp. That's not how you deal with a team that struggled the prior season if you want the public to keep buying tickets. Let's see how things look when Jared Allen is breathing down his neck in September.
Will Louis Delmas Ever Return to the Field?
Lions fans are only now beginning to release the agony of Jahvid Best's unfortunate demise. It wasn't that long ago that we were still wondering if he would get a chance to emerge from the hazy uncertainty. So forgive the Detroit faithful if the thought of losing another cornerstone player scares the ever-living Don Carey (Delmas' replacement) out of them.
That's why the news of Delmas' lingering knee issues is so concerning. There are more talented players on the defense, but Delmas is largely regarded as the emotional leader. His energetic presence creates a charged atmosphere, although this writer remains skeptical since there is no true quantifiable measure for "energy."
Delmas didn't participate in any of the OTAs or minicamp practices, leaving us to speculate that the knee isn't coming along as hoped. His shortness in dealing with the media creates an impression that he's frustrated by the whole situation, which further confirms the lack of progress. It's way too early to sound the alarm bells, but there's an unrest starting to rise in Detroit concerning the returning safety.
Will There Be An Outside Pass Rush This Year?
If Delmas does make it back, then the Lions are going to have a good secondary. For the first time since Dick "Night Train" Lane was patrolling the defensive backfield, the defense will be helped by an influx of talent and health. When's the last time you read that statement?
But that won't give this team a ferocious defense. That responsibility will fall on the front line, or, more specifically, the defensive ends. A good secondary can only hold out for so long if there isn't any pressure. But a quarterback who isn't given much time can be forced into bad throws, and that's when the defensive backs can shine.
The interior of the defensive line will be among the league's best, but there is only so much pressure that can be created by defensive tackles if there isn't any fear of the guys on the outside. That means Detroit will have to rely on Jason Jones and Ezekiel Ansah.
While the potential is there, those two accomplishing the task is far from a certainty. Jones has never had more than five sacks in a season, while Ansah hasn't even played five seasons of football. He's an incredibly gifted athlete who is, according to Anwar S. Richardson of mlive.com, learning the defense at an impressive rate. But that's a far cry from competing against NFL-caliber offensive tackles with pads on.
All of these concerns could end up being nothing more than imprudent worries. However, at this point, there isn't anything else to rely on.
Brandon Alisoglu is a Michigan native and has been covering the Detroit Lions for two years. He has been published at Yahoo!, Bleacher Report, CNN and other websites. He also co-hosts a podcast called Detroit Radio Central with Nick Kostora that can be found on ITunes, and he can be reached on Twitter (@BrandonAlisoglu).
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