Detroit Lions OTAs: Notable positional battles and more to watch

The Detroit Lions have officially begun their organized team activities, which is also the start of Phase Three of the offseason program. The first day of OTAs for the Lions was on Tuesday, although it wasn’t open to the media.

Phase Three of the offseason program lasts four weeks and the Lions will hold nine sessions of OTAs, where teams are permitted to hold 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills that more closely mirror regular practice. However, contact is prohibited.

Sandwiched in between OTAs is mandatory minicamp, which the Lions will hold for three days from June 4-6. As the name suggests, all players are required to be in the house for that part of the offseason program.

Just in case you forgot, here’s a look at the full schedule for OTAs: May 21-23, May 29-31, June 10-12

As we move into the next phase of the offseason, here’s a look at some positional battles to keep an eye on, as well as other important things to watch for.

Notable Lions positional battles

Backup Quarterback

Hendon Hooker will be embroiled in a backup battle with Nate Sudfeld. Jared Goff is firmly entrenched as the starter after signing a massive extension this offseason, but the Lions need a reliable backup who can keep them afloat just in case Goff goes down in season in which Detroit has Super Bowl aspirations.

We already know what Sudfeld is, but Hooker remains a mystery after not seeing the field at all in 2023 as he worked his way back from a torn ACL suffered during his final collegiate season. Hooker winning the battle and showing he can hang in this league would give the Lions some insurance and improve his trade value should Detroit ever consider moving him.

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No. 3 Wide Receiver

The Lions lost some of their depth after Josh Reynolds left in free agency. Kalif Raymond is currently the favorite for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, although he will have some competition from veteran Donovan Peoples-Jones. Tre’Quan Smith and Antoine Green are two more to keep an eye on here but are far less likely to win the job than DPJ and Raymond.

Linebacker

The Lions are absolutely stacked here, with Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes and Jack Campbell. Even Malcolm Rodriguez has shown some flashes over two seasons, although he’s unlikely to grab a starting role.

Anzalone is the only locked-in starter as of now, leaving the other role up to either Barnes or Campbell. Barnes answered the bell last year but Campbell now has more experience under his belt and will push for the job.

Both should see the field plenty, though, as they were separated by just 66 snaps last season, with Barnes seeing 705 and Campbell getting 639.

Cornerback

Veteran Carlton Davis has one of the boundary spots locked up, but who starts opposite him remains to be seen.

The Lions have no shortage of options. They have veterans Amik Robertson and Emmanuel Moseley (assuming he’s healthy enough to go), and 2024 draft picks Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr.

Arnold and Robertson should be viewed as the top-two favorites for the job, with Rakestraw and Moseley bringing up the rear, in that order. The Lions would love for Arnold to emerge, though, as he carries the highest ceiling by far of any of Detroit’s options for CB2 and has lockdown corner potential.

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Kicker

As the Lions have seen before, Michael Badgley is no sure thing, which is why they brought in competition in the form of undrafted free-agent signing, James Turner.

It may not be long before another entrant gets into the mix, though, as the Lions have reportedly expressed interest in UFL star and Michigan Panthers kicker, Jake Bates, who is in the midst of an incredible season. However, he can’t sign with an NFL team until the UFL season ends on June 16.

More to watch

Is Ennis Rakestraw a full go?

Rakestraw was limited during rookie minicamp, although he revealed that was out of precaution rather than necessity. The Missouri product said he’s fully healthy after undergoing core muscle surgery earlier this offseason.

How are the draft picks doing?

With the exception of Arnold and maybe Rakestraw, most of the 2024 draft class will simply be looking to earn the right to be the first man off the bench at their respective positions because of how deep Detroit’s roster is.

The players with the best chance to do that are defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo and guard Christian Mahogany. Giovanni Manu will need time to develop, and that’s especially true if the Lions intend on moving him to guard. Sione Vaki’s special teams prowess should land him a role there in Year 1, but he enters an absolutely loaded running backs room and will have a tough time seeing snaps.

Do any UDFAs stand out?

Teams that sign undrafted free agents have two goals: filling out the offseason roster and trying to find that diamond in the rough.

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It’s always interesting to see which UDFAs can stand out and earn a role on the 53-man roster. We recently named three UDFAs with the best chance to make the cut, which you can check out right here
.

Who doesn’t participate?

It’s far too early to get worked up about players who aren’t participating because of injury, but it’s always important to note, nonetheless. One player we’re keeping an eye on in particular is Brian Branch, who was spotted with a boot and scooter following the 2024 NFL Draft last month.

One player we know won’t be taking part is safety Kerby Joseph, who had hip surgery earlier this offseason. Joseph has said he will be cleared for training camp.

As far as players sitting out because of contract disputes, we don’t anticipate that happening, but never say never.

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