Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 6/10/13
The Detroit Lions begin a three-day mini-camp Tuesday morning, the final phase of their off-season workout program before they break for the summer. They'll still be in shorts - no contact drills - but unlike their recent OTA (Organized Training Activity) workouts, these practices are mandatory. Call it a glorified OTA. While the final evaluations won't start until they hit the field in late July for the full training camp and preseason games, here are 10 stories to follow between now and the season opener Sept. 8 against Minnesota: 1. RIGHT GUARD A revamped offensive line could be the make-or-break key to the season. One of the vacancies is to replace Stephen Peterman. The Lions have created quite a logjam of potential replacements. They drafted Larry Warford (Kentucky) in the third round. They recently signed veteran free agents Leroy Harris (Tennessee Titans) and Jake Scott (Philadelphia Eagles). Returning back-ups Bill Nagy and Rodney Austin, neither of whom was active for a game last season, are also contenders. 2. RIGHT TACKLE Assuming Riley Reiff, last year's first-round pick, takes over at left tackle, the opening on the other side of the line should come down to Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard. Fox's first three years were injury plagued. Hilliard made four starts in 2010 and one in 2011. 3. RETURN SPECIALIST The Lions need someone to replace Stefan Logan on kick and punt returns. Recently acquired Micheal Spurlock, who had a punt and kick return for touchdowns last season with San Diego, likely has become the favorite. Other possibilities include running back Joique Bell (replaced Logan on kick returns for final game of 2012), receiver Mike Thomas (replaced Logan on punt returns for final game of 2012) and receiver Patrick Edwards (spent season on practice squad as a undrafted rookie). 4. KICKER AND PUNTER Jason Hanson retired and Nick Harris wasn't re-signed. The probable replacements are kicker David Akers, who is rehabbing a groin injury that required surgery last season and another procedure in February, and punter Sam Martin, a fifth-round draft pick out of Appalachian State. 5. NO. 2 CORNERBACK Bill Bentley won the starting job as a rookie in training camp last year but then missed most of the season because of shoulder surgery. Jonte Green, a sixth-round pick, emerged as the team's surprise rookie last year. Chris Greenwood, another 2012 draft pick, missed all of his first year because of abdominal surgery. Those three youngsters also will be pushed by eight-year veteran Ron Bartell, who started the season finale. 6. OUTSIDE LINEBACKER The defense has to replace Justin Durant, a free agent who wasn't re-signed and ended up with Dallas. Ashlee Palmer, a special-teams standout, appears to be the top candidate, but 2012 draft picks Travis Lewis and Tahir Whitehead will get an opportunity to prove themselves. 7. LOUIS DELMAS' HEALTH Delmas, hampered by knee injuries the last two years, apparently has been in Florida rehabbing rather than attending the OTAs the last couple weeks. This mini-camp will be the first time he's required to make an appearance. He'll certainly be limited, if he does anything at all with the team, during the three practices. The most important thing is for Delmas, the defense's emotional leader at free safety, to get healthy for the start of the season. 8. FOURTH RECEIVER Nate Burleson, coming off a broken leg, looks like he's going to be ready to provide a good complement again to Calvin Johnson. Ryan Broyles also will have a spot whenever he's recovered from knee surgery. The question is who fills Titus Young's role. There are a handful of candidates on the roster, including sixth-round draft pick Corey Fuller, but the one who has emerged during off-season workouts is Edwards, who had a standout career at the University of Houston. 9. ZIGGY'S DEVELOPMENT First-round pick Ziggy Ansah has inherited the crucial pass-rush role at right defensive end. With his lack of football experience, the Lions need to make sure he stays on a fast track in learning the scheme and improving techniques. There's really no solid Plan B for a pass rusher at this point if Ansah turns out to be a rookie flop. 10. NO. 3 QUARTERBACK Kellen Moore, who filled the role last year but was inactive for all 16 games, has his share of critics because of his weak passing arm. Moore should get pushed by Thaddeus Lewis, who started a game last season for Cleveland and was claimed off waivers last month by Detroit.
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