The Detroit Lions open 2020 NFL training camp on July 28 at their practice facility in Allen Park, Michigan. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:
If Matthew Stafford remains healthy -- and that's an if -- what is the ceiling for Detroit's offense?
If Stafford stays healthy, this group should be a top-10 unit in the NFL, if not better. Stafford meshed well early on with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's system, playing at a Pro Bowl level before a broken back sidelined him for the second half of the 2019 season. And let's be real -- Stafford is the key to all of this. Even though Detroit has a better backup situation than last season with Chase Daniel instead of the carousel of No. 2's, Stafford being out for a significant period of time would limit Detroit's success.
So working with the premise of a healthy Stafford, he has a talented receiver corps in budding star Kenny Golladay along with veterans Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. All played with Stafford for at least one season and there's a familiarity there. Detroit also has a diversified backfield with returners Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough and added D'Andre Swift in the second round of the draft. A potential J.D. McKissic replacement, Jason Huntley, was selected on Day 3 of the draft. If T.J. Hockenson, last year's first-round pick, is fully recovered from his ankle injury he is expected to take a big leap in Year 2.
The biggest question will remain on the offensive line. Detroit will have at least two, if not three, new starters beside center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker. There could be a learning curve at guard, especially if rookies Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg beat out a host of veterans led by incumbent left guard Joe Dahl. But if the line holds up, this group could be among the league's best and Stafford could push for his best statistical season since 2013, when he played in Scott Linehan's pass-heavy offense.
Will Jeff Okudah have an immediate impact in the secondary?
Should he? Yes. But it might not be as fast as one might expect with the No. 3 overall pick, who could be the most ready-made corner prospect since Jalen Ramsey. Yet without a spring to get acclimated and the unknowns of what, exactly, training camp and preseason will look like, he might not have the reps needed to pick up some of the nuance and speed in transitioning from college to the NFL.
It's reasonable to expect Okudah to have an impact at some point in the 2020 season, but this is a very strange year for rookies to come into the NFL. The traditional expectations should be discarded because that would be unfair to the rookies who have yet to even be at the team's facility.
If Okudah isn't quite ready Day 1, Amani Oruwariye showed promise in the second half of the season and could be a capable fill-in until Okudah picks up some of the things only experience can provide. Other than quarterback and tight end, corner might be the toughest transition position in the NFL. While Okudah has incredible talent, don't get frustrated if there is early inconsistency. That's just a player learning while also being placed in a position to play.
Matt Patricia needs to win this season to keep his job. What does that benchmark look like?
New Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said this is going to be "a weird year, for sure," and she's right. So many unknowns due to COVID-19 might muddy up the benchmarks for Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn to keep their jobs. Ford Hamp said "major improvement is the goal" for the Lions in 2020.
Ford Hamp was part of the decision-making process to retain Patricia and Quinn, so she understands what went into the reasoning to keep them around despite nine combined wins over the past two seasons.
"I do feel like that we've made some progress in the offseason," Ford Hamp said. "I have not seen any of the players because all the meetings have been virtual, and obviously, no one has been on the field yet. But on paper, I am very pleased with our draft and free agency. I know Coach Patricia is very pleased with the meetings he's had, and it looks like the group is very cohesive, and these difficult social justice conversations have actually helped to bond the team.
"So I'm just looking forward to seeing everybody in action. Yes, we plan and expect an improved team. I think we're going to get that."
How much improvement -- and what happens when the team gets on the field in regards to performance, to COVID-19 and to injuries -- could end up putting Ford Hamp in a situation to make her first big decision less than a year into her reign as owner.