Long days. Hot sun. Next week, the Detroit Lions rookies will begin the odyssey that is NFL training camp. It will be a challenge for all involved, but mostly the rookies are the ones struggling to adjust to a new schedule while also being forced to make a name for themselves.
Which Lions will be doing this in 2013? Today, we narrow things down to the five most important rookies to watch during camp.
1. Corey Fuller, WR. Considering they didn't add a bigger ticket option, the Lions are counting on Fuller to develop and show himself to be a quality running mate for Calvin Johnson. Fuller has been a quick study, but now, he has to show development on the field through drills. Offensively, the Lions need all hands on deck considering the uncertainty clouding their wide receiving core, and if Fuller can provide this, anything Detroit gets out of Ryan Broyles will be a bonus.
2. Ziggy Ansah, DE. Ansah's development is vital to the defense, but considering the team added veterans Jason Jones and Israel Idonije to smooth the transition, it's not as glaring as it seemed at the time of April's draft. Still, it will be interesting to watch how quickly Ansah picks up the Lions' defensive philosophies and gains an understanding of the NFL game. If he can show as well in the Wide-9 scheme as he did in the Senior Bowl, the Lions will be in great shape.
3. Darius Slay, CB. Quietly, Slay might be the most important rookie to the overall health of Detroit's football team. As previously written, if Slay steps up and assumes the second cornerback spot, the defensive backfield as a whole will benefit and be much healthier. How well he shows in the wake of April's meniscus tear will be important to watch. If Slay asserts himself, perhaps the revolving door will finally stop at the cornerback spot.
4. Sam Martin, P. It's odd that a punter would be listed (or even drafted) but the Lions' new boomer from Appalachian State makes this cut. For the past few years, Detroit has been in terrible need of better punting, and Martin could be the guy to deliver that. The Lions have been missing a major weapon to pin opposing offenses deep, and if Martin can beat out Blake Clinglan in camp and deliver booming kicks, it could be a big weapon for Detroit's defense.
5. Theo Riddick and Steven Miller, WR/RB/KR. A combination listing for both of the Lions' players who might find the field most as special teams difference makers. Riddick and Miller, both with explosive speed and shiftiness, could significantly upgrade the Lions' putrid return units who have suffered under Stefan Logan. Whomever emerges from this group, they will have likely earned it considering the intense competition that will exist.
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