2012 training camp preview: Detroit Lions

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

More NFC North training camp previews: Bears | Packers | Vikings

Training camp goals

1. Improve the running game. They should know fairly early in camp whether running backs Jahvid Best (concussions) and Mikel Leshoure (Achilles) will be healthy enough to provide the one-two punch the Lions are hoping for. If not, Detroit has Kevin Smith and would probably have to make a move to add another veteran.
2. Settle the secondary. Two spots are secure – Chris Houston at left cornerback and Louis Delmas at one of the safety spots. The other two are wide open. Recently signed free agent Sean Jones will battle incumbent Amari Spievey and veteran Erik Coleman for the other safety spot. That should be one of the best battles of camp. At right corner, Aaron Berry will face a stiff challenge from veteran Alphonso Smith and rookies Bill Bentley, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood.

Player to watch

All eyes will be on Jahvid Best. When he's available, he provides the offense with a multi-dimensional threat similar to what Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles gave the Saints the last few years – a big-play threat running and receiving out of the backfield.

[Related: Matthew Stafford can challenge Drew Brees' record contract]

But Best has had three concussions the last two seasons, two within three months last season. He took part in all the offseason conditioning work, but hasn't been cleared for contact. He is expected to take another series of concussions tests the week prior to training camp. 

Even if he is cleared, though, there is no way to predict what will happen the next time he takes a blow to the head. It will be interesting to see how the Lions walk that line between getting him ready for the season and protecting him against another head shot.

On the hot seat

It's time for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to identify himself as a football player. Is he the quarterback-destroying force he was during his rookie season in 2010 or is he the under-producing, hot-headed, personal foul machine from last season?

The Lions need him to be, and are paying him to be, the former. The success of Gunther Cunningham's defensive system is predicated on getting pressure from the front four. When Suh is blowing up the middle and drawing two and three blockers, the path is cleared for the ends to wreak havoc on quarterbacks and ball carriers.

When that doesn't happen, the secondary is exposed like it was at the end of last season when quarterbacks like Matt Flynn and Drew Brees shredded the Lions for 90 points in two games.

With Suh, Corey Williams, Nick Fairley and Sammie Hill, the Lions have as powerful a defensive tackle rotation as there is in the league. It's time for Suh to lead that charge.

Full Lions team report

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