Going into training camp, the starting right tackle job will belong to Kelly Butler, last year's sixth-round draft pick who has yet to play a down. The Lions signed restricted free agent Kyle Kosier, but would prefer to use him as a backup because he can play both guard and tackle positions. Butler is getting the edge over Victor Rogers because he's more physical and has a mean streak that line coach Pat Morris loves. Rogers is a more polished pass blocker but the Lions believe Butler has much more upside. Butler was expected to be drafted on the first day, but some off-field problems made him slide. The Lions investigated him thoroughly and believe his involvement in a fight was an isolated incident and, so far, Butler has been a model player. If Butler can't get it done on the field during camp, the Lions aren't concerned because they still have Rogers and the option of signing a veteran free agent as a one-year fill-in. . . .
New receivers coach Fred Graves has already gotten the attention of his players. He will toss around some compliment to his receivers, but he prefers to throw bricks at them. Literally. Graves uses the brick approach to help his players concentrate. Receiver Roy Williams said the gimmick works; dropping a brick on your foot or letting it slip through your hands and hit your stomach has more repercussions than simply dropping a ball. The Lions had 54 dropped passes last year but most of those came from players who are no longer on the roster.
SCOUTING REPORT: Lost in the excitement of the drafting of receiver Mike Williams was the pre-draft signing of veteran free agent Kevin Johnson, who finally fills the need of an experienced player at that position. Johnson will give the Lions something previous veterans like Shawn Jefferson and Tai Streets could not: production. Even with three top 10 draft picks in front of him, Johnson will get a decent amount of playing time because he knows how to get open and has excellent hands. Johnson is a very good route runner and is already setting a high standard during off-season workouts.
INSIDE DISH: A $3 million roster bonus will be paid soon to Joey Harrington, who is scheduled to make $5 million more in salary this season. The Lions, though, are making no effort to restructure the deal to ease the cap strain because they don't want to push any money into further seasons. The reason is simple: the Lions aren't absolutely sure that Harrington will be around next season (when he's scheduled to earn another $5 million in salary). If Harrington plays at a high level this season, then talk about a contract extension won't be out of the question. If Harrington falters, the Lions will likely cut ties because they won't pay $5 million for a backup.
CORNERBACKS ANALYSIS: GRADE: B There is good depth here, but starters Dre Bly and Fernando Bryant have to bounce back from subpar seasons.