Strategy And Personnel

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TEAM NEEDS

Secondary: The Lions do not have a cornerback signed beyond next season and the lack of depth was exposed late last season after starter Chris Houston, nickel back Aaron Berry and free safety Louis Delmas were injured.

"We didn't finish well, particularly in the secondary," Schwartz said. "We gave up a lot of points and a lot of passing yards."

Schwartz reiterated what he said during Super Bowl week, that it was injuries and a lack of depth that torpedoed the defense in the second half of the season, not the schemes or the system.

"Go back to about Week 10, we lost Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young and Chris Houston and Louis Delmas and we had sort of a revolving door at nickel," he said. "We don't just have 11 players on defense, we like to rotate 15 or 16 guys through, and we had a significant portion of those guys out.

"When you look at where we are and the steps we need to take, our depth wasn't as good as it will be and that showed."

Offensive line: Starting left tackle Jeff Backus will be 35 and center Dominic Raiola 34. Backus is expected to sign back for at least one more season and Raiola is entering the final year of his contract. Right guard Stephen Peterman will be 30 next season.

Like it or not, the Lions have to start developing some young lineman. Corey Hilliard (27) is the top backup at tackle and Dylan Gandy (30) is the primary interior backup. Left tackle Jason Fox faces a make-or-break summer and training camp. He has shown that he's able to handle the position, now he has to prove he can be available and healthy to do so.

Running back: The Lions are optimistic that both Jahvid Best (concussion) and Mikel Leshoure (Achilles) will be ready to play, but there are no guarantees. Of the two, Leshoure seems more likely to be ready. Best still hasn't been cleared for contact.

"Both are progressing and we're getting good reports, but it's hard to project," Mayhew said. "We really want to make sure we focus on what's important and that's having them ready for the season. This is something we want to do, do it right and put it behind us. There is no rushing on either of those two."

The fact that Mayhew is interested in re-signing Kevin Smith is an indication that he wants to make sure he covers his bases at this position. Expect him to draft another running back, perhaps in the second or third round.

MEDICAL WATCH
No updates.

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