Saturday, July 24, 2010

Off Goes the Training Wheels

Here at NextGen Sports, it is not our primary job to report on just the NFL. We leave the the world of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees to the ESPN family of networks, among other broadcasting giants. So, we decided to blend College Football and the NFL in our Training Camp Preview.

This week, we’ll focus on the NFC North, starting from the worst team and ending with the division champions. Today, we’ll have the Lions, followed by the Bears, Packers and finally, the Vikings.

Player Watch-
One of the main attractions of training camp is that the players from fans' favorite college teams try to play their way into the big-time. As they attempt to play their way towards NFL stardom, we look at who could be on the rise under coach Jim Schwartz.
Suh disrupting a Chase Daniel pass.
Ndamukong Suh – An obvious choice. Detroit received a gift at second overall, after Sam Bradford went to the Rams. Last season at Nebraska, Suh’s play was off the charts. Honestly,dominance does not even apply because the 6 foot 4 inch 307 pound defensive tackle eclipsed the word completely. He will start alongside veteran Corey Williams, anchoring a much improved defense. Of course, Suh (right) has to be a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
Jahvid Best – The speedster was Detroit’s second first round selection, and he should replace injured starter from last season, Kevin Smith. The former California Golden Bear star running back possesses breakaway speed and above average elusiveness. Best looks to start the entire 2010 season, complementing emerging quarterback Matthew Stafford, but be wary of Best’s injury-filled past. Around the league, NFL executives wonder if he can stay healthy for 16 games.

Marquee Matchups
Outside linebacker – Ernie Sims was traded to Philadelphia, and the Lions need a viable option opposite Julian Peterson. The likely candidate for the job is Zack Follett, the second year linebacker from California. Last season, he impressed coaches with his tenacious play, moving from the practice squad to an important part of the special teams unit. If Follett falters, expect Jordon Dizon, one of the longest tenured Lions, to start.
Cornerback – The Lions front office revamped a unit that was picked apart often last season. Detroit traded for Chris Houston, a three year starter in Atlanta, and they signed former Rams starting cornerback Jonathan Wade via free agency. Jim Schwartz likes Houston’s ability to play man coverage, but he thought Wade was the best cornerback in offseason workouts. Look for third round pick Amari Spievey to possibly steal a starting cornerback spot from Houston or Wade, come mid-season. The Iowa product is too talented to be left on the bench, except for passing situations only. Veteran Dre’ Bly was signed in the offseason, as well. He has clearly lost a step, but Bly’s ball skills are unmatched. He should an excellent fourth cornerback.
Strong Safety ­–Obviously, Louis Delmas will anchor the secondary at free safety, but the Lions lack a strong safety to bolster the run defense along with cover tight ends. Last year’s starter Ko Simpson is not an option. He suffered a knee injury early in November of 2009, and ensuing microfracture surgery will severely limit him early on. Therefore, Detroit looks to one of two veterans safeties, Jonathan Hefney or C.C. Brown. Neither exhibits the ability to excel in all the responsibilities of the position, but unless the Lions acquire another safety, Hefney or Brown will have to start the season.

Individual Spotlight
Campbell looks to make his way onto the Lions roster, in 2010
Caleb Campbell ­– Initially selected in the 7th round last season, Campell was not allowed to sign his three year contract with the Lions. The Army product was forced into service duty, which was part of a military rule, and he was not allowed to play professional football in 2009. Yet, the rule was later suspended, allowing Campbell to become an unrestricted free agent before the 2010 season. The Lions immediately signed the young linebacker to a one year deal.

Although he won’t play on defense this upcoming year, Campbell looks to mirror the path of Zack Follett. I expect Campbell to contribute on the practice squad and later on the scout team for Detroit. The following season, however, should be more interesting. Granted, Campbell impresses coaches coupled with the Lions shaky linebacking core, he could really contribute down the road. Remember, Julian Peterson is nearing the end of his NFL career, after over a decade of professional football. It would be quite a spectacle to see Campbell as his replacement.

-Daniel Radov


  1. great article. even though the lions don't get a lot of respect around the league, they might have as much young talent as anyone. i especially love louis delmas and think he could be a future pro bowler. jahvid best and kevin smith will be a formidable 1-2 bunch at running back in the future at well, once smith comes back from surgery. smith fits the nfl game better then best though, and i think he will get more carries down the line. still though, even with all the young talent the lions have failed to draft a left tackle in the past two years. they have nobody to protect matthew stafford! that's why i think even though they might take baby steps to becoming better, they won't challenge the packers, vikings, or bears until they shore up their offensive line.

  2. the lack of the offensive line worries me. That's been the problem for years. While they have all these great young players, they need to upgrade the offensive line. Otherwise we're just looking at another Matt Millen era. Solid skill players, but no time to get them the ball.