When Lions training camp gets into gear on Sunday, it’s the start of an interesting stretch.
Like every year, there are positions — starters and backups — that will be determined in camp and through the four preseason games.
And, of course, several are vying to grab one of the 53 roster spots.
Who will excel? Who will suffer an injury? Whose game will drop off?
Here are 10 players (five defensive, five on offense) to watch who are not rookies:
— Safety Miles Killebrew took total advantage of his playing time as a rookie last season. He was clutch in third-down packages. Look for defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to find more ways to get him on the field. He was a standout in the spring.
— Kerry Hyder certainly was not expected to lead the defense with eight sacks last season. Hyder could earn a starting defensive end spot with a good showing in camp. He’s not resting on his laurels, he knows the eight sacks mean nothing at this point.
— Ziggy Ansah, unlike Hyder, was expected to follow up his 14.5-sack 2015 season with as many or more in 2016. He finished with just two. Ansah wasn’t fully healthy to start the season and never really caught up. There is no reason to think he can’t return to Pro Bowl form.
— Antoine Williams worked his way onto the field as a rookie last year too, starting three games. He has a good shot to earn the starting role at strongside linebacker. A good camp and preseason will cement that.
— Tahir Whitehead has lost the starting middle linebacker role to first-round pick Jarrad Davis. Whitehead has been trained at every linebacker spot. So he will be able to handle a move to the weak side.
— Ameer Abdullah looked solid in the spring OTAs after he missed the final 14 games in the 2016 season with an ankle injury that required surgery. Other than Matthew Stafford, Abdullah may have the most important role on the offense which struggled in the run game again in 2016.
— Theo Riddick should be fine but we will see. He missed the offseason workouts after surgery on both wrists. He was still wearing a brace on his right hand in June. He’s ready to go and, like Abdullah, the offense needs him.
— Jace Billingsley hasn’t taken a snap in a regular season game, but he was impressive in the preseason games as an undrafted rookie last year. He stayed around on the practice squad until he was promoted to the 53-man roster with two games remaining. He’ll likely be in a battle for one of the final two wide receiver spots.
— Joe Dahl can play any position along the offensive line. The Lions had so much faith in him that they gave him a look at left tackle after Taylor Decker injured his shoulder in June. Two veteran tackles were then signed giving Dahl a chance to go back to guard where he is more familiar. He could be in a battle for the starting left guard spot.
— Laken Tomlinson lost his starting spot to Graham Glasgow after five games in 2016. The 2015 first-round pick needs to step up. It seems unlikely that he would not make the 53-man roster but there is a chance that he could be traded. General manager Bob Quinn didn’t draft him so there would be no egg on his face if he let a first-round guy go.