Camp notes: Gandy takes reps with first-team offense

BY foxsports • August 1, 2013

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – It’s been easy to dismiss Dylan Gandy as the potential new starter at right guard for the Detroit Lions.

Perhaps too easy?

This is an important spot to fill because the offense was hurt badly last season by too much pressure up the middle from opposing pass rushes, leading to the release of Stephen Peterman.

The Lions took an offensive guard, Larry Warford, in the third round of the NFL Draft and signed two free agents with considerable starting experience in Jake Scott (128 starts in career) and Leroy Harris (39 starts last three years).

But on Thursday - the third of only eight practices this training camp in full pads - there was Gandy taking reps with the first-team offense again.

It appears to be a wide-open, difficult-to-predict competition right now with as many as five contenders.

Gandy might still be in the underdog role, but he’s clearly one of those guys who just won’t go away.

“He’s had a good camp,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We’re not discounting anybody in there. We’re going to rotate all those guys through and see who plays the best. He’s definitely in that mix.”

Gandy, 31, is entering his eighth season in the NFL, his fifth in Detroit. He played in all 16 games last season on special teams, but a total of just one play on offense.

His versatility is a big reason he’s kept a job in the league this long. He was active for every game the last three years as a guard-center reserve.

“It seems like he’s just lingering around, holding on by a thread,” receiver Nate Burleson. “But, really, he’s an asset. He can be implemented just about anywhere. It’s like a great insurance policy. I appreciate that.”

Gandy was a fourth-round draft pick by Indianapolis in 2005 coming out of Texas Tech.
He started 11 games for the Colts in 2006. He also made five starts in 2009, his first year in Detroit.

“I got a decent amount of playing time earlier in my career, but it’s been a while,” Gandy said. “I’m excited for this opportunity just like the other guys are. We’re all fighting for it.

“I don’t feel like an underdog, I don’t feel like a top dog or a frontrunner, either. I feel like we’re all just out there competing.”

Realistically, this could be the final chance for him to win a starting job in the NFL.

Warford has gotten some first-team snaps over the last week. He's the future, but he’s still making the adjustment to pro football. Harris missed the first few days of camp while still recovering from knee surgery last November. Rodney Austin, who was on the practice squad last year, appears to be competing more for a back-up job.

For the most part, it’s been Gandy and Scott in there blocking for quarterback Matthew Stafford so far.

The four preseason games, beginning next week against the New York Jets, will be a little more revealing in terms of how the coaching staff plans to sort out the logjam.
Devin Taylor, a fourth-round draft pick out of South Carolina, has gotten overshadowed at defensive end because the Lions' first-round pick, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, plays the same position.

But with veterans Willie Young, Israel Idonije and Jason Jones all missing Thursday’s practice to rest ailments, Taylor got some first-team reps upfront and he made a favorable impression.

“All the attention goes to Ziggy, but Devin’s had an outstanding camp,” Schwartz said. “He’s got a long way to go, but it’s encouraging that he’s played his best in the full-padded practices.”

- Defensive end Ronnell Lewis practiced for the first time after being removed from the non-football illness list.

- Safety Ricardo Silva, who started six games last season, was released, along with defensive end Spencer Nealy.

To replace them on the 90-man camp roster, the club signed safety Trevor Coston (undrafted last year out of Maine) and defensive lineman Xavier Proctor (undrafted rookie out of North Carolina Central).

- Rookie cornerback Darius Slay, a second-round draft pick, left practice after rolling his ankle, but it wasn't believed to be serious, according to Schwartz.

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