Their roster is strong but the Detroit Lions haven’t yet figured out the winning combination. Will the 2014 battles finally get them over the hump?
Tight End: Brandon Pettigrew vs. Joseph Fauria
There is no question regarding Detroit Lions 1st round pick Eric Ebron. He is going to see the field one way or another. So the question at hands is who will get that second tight end spot. For year Brandon Pettigrew has remained a steady if underachieving option for the team, putting up good-but-not-great numbers. He should be the immediate favorite, but by no means the only option. Second-year tight end Joseph Fauria might have something to say about it. The former undrafted free agent scored seven touchdowns in 2013 and really became a steady option late in the season. If he takes a step forward, Pettigrew may be in for a bigger dogfight than expected.
Slot WR: Ryan Broyles vs. T.J. Jones
The same goes for wide receiver Ryan Broyles. Relegated to the slot receiver role following the addition of Golden Tate in free agency, Broyles can feel confident about his chance to have a bigger impact but by no means secure. Detroit made sure of that when they added T.J. Jones out of Notre Dame in the 6th round of the draft. While not a premier athlete, the Irish product was lauded by scouts for his polished receiving ability. He is quick, strong, balanced and has an excellent pair of hands. He would make an excellent slot receiver and the perfect competition to bring the best out of Broyles.
Outside LB: Ashlee Palmer vs. Kyle Van Noy
Stephon Tulloch and DeAndre Levy are set in their starting positions at linebacker. That just leave one spot unaccounted for on the outside. Veteran Ashlee Palmer filled that role in 2013, starting 10 games and making 33 tackles. He’s never started a full season so it’s unclear if he’ll get that chance but Detroit Lions fans will likely be rooting against him. Much of the reason is the presence of 2nd round pick Kyle Van Noy. The BYU product was considered an unusual pick given his more natural fit in a 3-4 system, but his speed and athleticism were enough to sway the team to draft him. Adding his talent to the front seven would be ideal, but the kid will have to earn it.