The Detroit Lions finished training camp last week and are now settling into a regular practice routine. Detroit’s regular season begins in less than three weeks from today with some Monday Night Football against the New York Giants.
With a large part of last year’s core returning, a lot was set in stone for Detroit entering training camp. But as always, a few surprise players stood out, creating a little buzz in the process.
These “winners” of training camp stand out because their performance far exceeds what was expected of them coming into the season. Let’s see who that was for the Lions:
1. Theo Riddick
What can be said about the Theo Riddick hype movement that already hasn’t been said. The running back has had quite the impressive offseason and the buzz surrounding him started months ago.
Hype means nothing, but Riddick followed up his remarkable spring with an equally impressive summer. The earliest reports out of camp confirmed that he is every bit as good as he’s talked up to be.
Riddick is a nice little weapon out of the backfield that figures to carve out a significant role in Joe Lombardi’s Saints-like offense. His versatility, embodied by two seasons at RB and two season at WR at Notre Dame, will be the reason why.
There are so many different ways the Lions can utilize his talents. I think he is going to be a serious pass-catching threat in this offense.
Take the screen pass he caught in Detroit’s second preseason game against Oakland. He displayed excellent field vision and made four or five defenders miss on his way to a 36-yard gain.
It’s these kinds of plays that have people hyping him up in the first place. He looks ready to breakout for Detroit in 2014.
2. Jerome Couplin
Rookie safety Jerome Couplin has people wondering how the heck he went undrafted in May. The hard-hitting William & Mary product was somebody the Lions brought in for a pre-draft, but they still didn’t feel he was worth a draft pick.
Couplin stands 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with an enormous 81-inch wingspan. He also ran a 4.5 second 40-yard dash at his pro day, while registering a 41-inch vertical jump.
Couplin is such a physical specimen that his William & Mary teammates gave him the nickname “Osprey”; a double entendre for both the bird of prey and its large wingspan, and the military aircraft with its vertical takeoff ability.
He has all the measurables needed to find a place in the NFL, but you still need to know how to play football. Couplin has shown solid coverage instincts in camp, and has only improved as the practices went on.
He stood out to coaches and players with a noteworthy performance in Detroit’s first preseason game. The safety sparked the Lions’ backup defensive unit with a couple of big hits. The following week, he worked with the second team throughout most of practice.
His impressive training camp might have earned him a spot on the 53-man roster, but performing well in the remaining preseason contests won’t hurt.
3. Larry Webster
Detroit chose defensive end Larry Webster in the fourth round of this year’s draft because of the speed he brings off the edge, something the Lions didn’t have enough of last season. Webster has done nothing this training camp and preseason but put that speed on display.
In his preseason debut, Webster had 3 tackles, including one for a loss, and one huge quarterback hit on none other than Johnny Manziel. He followed that up by hitting Oakland QB Derek Carr so hard that he suffered a concussion in Detroit’s second preseason game.
He’s also showed impressive power during practice, using his strength to run over offensive linemen.
The Webster selection was criticized by many because of his inexperience and the fact that he attended Division II Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He was a four-year basketball player before switching over to football for only two seasons, so spending a fourth-round pick on him sounded a bit crazy.
But the Lions took a chance on Webster because of his athleticism and speed; he ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any defensive end not named Jadeveon Clowney at the combine.
Thinking they were taking on a development project, Detroit may have instead found a game-ready talent to give Jason Jones or Ezekiel Ansah a breather. With plenty of room to grow, Webster could develop into one of the biggest steals of the draft.