This weekend marks the Lion’s first preseason game of the season, so that means that training camp is in full swing. On Sunday, both practices seemed to be more toned down, as the players were not in pads and the morning session was pretty abbreviated.
When analyzing the offense or defense, I wanted to try and avoid judging one or the other as a whole, and look more at individuals and whether or not they showed up. One guy who regularly showed up or was at least in a position to make a play was Randy Phillips. This guy has a ton of potential, as he was covering wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends and did a good job on all of them. He also showed flashes in run support, but with no tackles being made it’s difficult to judge how effective he will truly be. He wasn’t perfect, but for an undrafted free agent, he definitely fits the bill as possible diamond in the rough. Another guy everyone needs to get excited for right now is Tony Scheffler, if they haven’t already. As much as I love Brandon Pettigrew, Scheffler is either going to push him for the starting role or they will end up being in a split starter kind of position. Scheffler just dominated, catching everything thrown his way, including a slightly overthrown ball on a seam route for a solid 20-25 yard gain.
Speaking of Pettigrew, he appeared to have no lingering effects from his injury, except for the knee brace he wore. He also performed at a high level and looks like he can pick up right where he left off last year. Kevin Smith also looked to be past his ACL injury, as he outran Julian Peterson on a nice outside run and easily put weight on his knee. I would be completely surprised if either player was held out of the season opener, and if they are, it’s only because depth at their positions grants the coaching staff the ability to err on the side of caution.
During 7-on-7 drills, the offense ran a lot of short routes, either dumping the ball off to the flats or 5-10 yard throws to the middle. On the few times Stafford went deep, it was to Calvin Johnson, and it looked nothing short of perfect. The biggest concern I had was that the offense seemed to dominate the defense. The good news is it seemed like it was a lot of mental lapses (offsides, pass interferences from not playing the ball), so these are all things that can be fixed and has nothing to do with talent for the most part. The most interesting thing on defense was that Cliff Avril was standing up a lot in the rush linebacker spot on blitzes. This is the Lion’s attempt at getting the most talent on the field at once. If you move Avril to rush linebacker on obvious pass plays and then Kyle VandenBosch and Jason Hunter also adding to the pass rush on both ends.
The biggest issue is that the Lion’s pass defense looks extremely anemic and I feel our worst fears will be realized when we see opposing quarterbacks having career days against us. Our linebacker depth is weak, but depth and starters are an issue short of Louis Delmas. Julian Peterson and DeAndre Levy will be more than adequate starters and Zach Follett is the only possible weakness, although he will hopefully develop into a starter. I hate to break any bubbles, but Follett looks poor in pass defense and not too much better in run support, but did hit the right gaps at certain times. I worry that he is overly aggressive and will be Ernie Sims 2.0. A hard hitter who roams the field and is involved in plays, but that he will also blow coverage’s and hit holes on the wrong side of plays and over pursue plays.
New coach Danny Crossman and recently promoted Kris Kocurek should be more than adequate at their positions. Kris Kocurek is extremely intense when needed, but also gets cerebral and coaches’ guys up when needed. I also like seeing Danny Crossman getting very involved in coaching up players on special teams. In previous years practices, I remember wondering what Stan Kwan did, as he would just stand back and watch play after play and never said anything even when mistakes were made.
In non-football information, I gained a ton of respect for Louis Delmas, as he took the time (was even late for a meeting) to sign autographs and even pose for pictures. He even brought out beanies and gave them to some younger fans. Also, Tom Lewand came around and said hi to the fans and thanks for coming out. Classy move on his part. A guy I lost respect for was Chris Houston, as he tried to inflict harm on Eric Fowler, as he tried to rip off his helmet and punched him in the throat and raked at his face, and Dre Bly had to fall to the ground to tear him away.
Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure:
Check future fanposts for my position-by-position breakdown of the roster, as I didn’t want to have an information overload on this post. Thanks for patience, as I traveled to North Carolina upon leaving Allen Park, so I have not had much time for a write-up.