Detroit Lions OTAs will feel a bit different in 2023. For the first time in a long time, Detroit comes into voluntary workouts pre-June with expectations. Dan Campbell has changed the organizational culture one bitten kneecap at a time. There is an almost high-school football feeling to the team. It’s an oddly “pure” feeling for an NFL team.
Nevertheless, the Lions are not perfect. Questions still surround the roster, and after a few years of building the trenches and drafting well, the Lions changed up their strategy, and not everyone was happy about it.
2023 Detroit Lions OTAs Preview
The most significant question surrounding the roster has to continue to be the secondary. Emmanuel Moseley is coming off an ACL tear, and Tracy Walker is rehabilitating a torn Achilles and may not be ready. But the Lions drafted guys to produce immediately, and the pressure will be on that group to perform.
Lions Secondary Taking Shape?
Walker’s recovery seems incredible. The veteran safety suffered a torn Achilles in Week 3, and he was seen on the field with his teammates at the start of May. However, being on the field and being the same player on the field are separate conversations, and history tells us the latter could be difficult to accomplish for Walker.
Meanwhile, Moseley said that he was about five months out back in March.
“I would definitely say it’s going well,” Moseley said to the media of his injury recovery. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work. I’m about five months out now. We got a lot of time in between training camp, so I am going to continue to do that, and then when it’s time for me to get out there and go, I’ll go.”
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When training camp rolls around, Moseley will be nine months separated from the injury, which is seemingly beginning to become a longer timetable for many ACL returns. But again, there’s no guarantee that he’s the same guy when he comes back.
Detroit’s additions of Cameron Sutton, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Brian Branch should help quell concerns. However, only one of them is an outside cornerback.
The defense will undoubtedly try to win through versatility. Most of the secondary defenders have spent time at safety and cornerback in their careers. Walker and second-year man Kerby Joseph will likely patrol the back end early, so where does that leave rookie Branch, with CGJ likely holding down the overhang/slot role in their base defense?
Is there a chance that Ifeatu Melifonwu can win back some favor on the roster at CB with some of the questions on the outside?
Can Lions Rookies Make a Splash?
After signing David Montgomery in free agency and already having D’Andre Swift on the roster at the time, it was a bit surprising to see the Lions select Jahmyr Gibbs No. 12 overall in the draft. Like Swift, Gibbs is a big-play threat, which gives the Lions a nice complement to the less-explosive Montgomery. Gibbs’ explosiveness should be on full display in the light and no-contact drills associated with OTAs.
Jack Campbell was another low-positional-value selection, but CBs were taken with each of the previous two picks, and Detroit likely didn’t love their options. Campbell is the kind of freak athlete the Lions have struggled to find at the linebacker spot over the past decade or so. But his first-round selection will undoubtedly create lofty expectations.
Sam LaPorta was another high selection, and at a position that historically takes time to develop properly at the NFL level. Look no further than T.J. Hockenson, who the Lions just traded away last trade deadline. However, it arguably fits the team’s most significant need in the draft.
Branch is the big one. Can he crack the lineup somehow? Where will he play? He’s not necessarily the sort of athlete that usually finds success covering receivers around the line of scrimmage, but he played almost exclusively in the slot at Alabama.
All Ears Are on Dan Campbell
He’s the best quote in the NFL at the moment. The former NFL tight end — unsurprisingly, if you know literally anything about the position — sounds like he’s about to cut a WWE promo any second.
But the difference between Dan Campbell and other coaches that have been quotable and a bit silly is that there’s a sincerity he possesses that doesn’t often exist in the coaching ecosystem.
He got emotional and cried after a close loss to the Vikings in his first season as a head coach. The coach’s emotions showed once again when he was asked a question about the Lions in 2022 during an episode of Hard Knocks.
“When you see your players give all that they have, and you lose that way, it’s tough,” he said. “You know, you don’t want that for them.”
There is a long list of memorable quotes from Campbell. And with likely even more microphones and cameras around, he’ll likely add a few more memorable moments to the list.