The Detroit Lions were back at it again on Tuesday afternoon with a really nice turnout from the fans and another beautiful day. I was fortunate enough to meet our beloved fellow POD commenter Schnard, as well as SideLion Report's Mike Payton (@SLR_Mike) and had a great time.
The practice itself seemed a lot calmer than previous sessions. They only last a little under two hours, and we were about 40 minutes in without any real contact or serious drills. One of the first drills I saw was with the kickoff team, which appeared to be working on different alignments and getting skinny around blockers during kick coverage.
I couldn't put a name on which coach led these drills, but I know for a fact that it wasn't special teams coordinator Joe Marciano. Regardless, the coach was really impressed with a certain move Eric Ebron displayed during the kick-coverage drills. I found that pretty interesting because we hadn't seen a whole lot of special teams work from Ebron as a rookie.
Other than that, the practice consisted mostly of running drills, 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s from my vantage point, so I'll approach the rest of these observations by offense/defense.
It's already been said by many, so I hate to beat a dead horse here, but if Matthew Stafford goes down the Lions won't win a single game. Kellen Moore has had a better camp than Dan Orlovsky overall, but did not have a very good day on Tuesday. When your receiver has to slow down and wait for a pass to get there on an intermediate route, it says a lot about your arm strength.
Stafford had yet another great day and barely threw any incompletions to my knowledge. Granted, a lot of these completions were checkdowns, but it's still nice to see some crisp passes come out of his hand. Instead of throwing most of his passes to Calvin Johnson (like in previous practices), he did a great job of getting everyone else involved in team drills.
Ameer Abdullah had arguably his best day of training camp on Tuesday and drew a lot of "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd almost every time he touched the ball. One thing I cannot stress enough is how much better Abdullah is at catching the ball than Reggie Bush ever was. I don't think I've seen him drop a single pass yet. We'll see what happens during some actual preseason action. There was a specific play where Abdullah caught a short pass from Stafford during a red-zone drill and completely faked DeAndre Levy out before proceeding to dive into the end zone for a touchdown.
I thought Theo Riddick had a pretty decent day as well and looked great running routes during 7-on-7s. The battle between Zach Zenner and George Winn is going to come down to the wire, but I'd still give the edge to Winn right now. Zenner had one of his better performances on Tuesday and even got some looks as a return specialist. I'm not sure how serious the Lions are about having him compete as a returner, but it doesn't hurt to keep an eye out for that.
TJ Jones got some work in with Stafford and the ones on Tuesday, and I wouldn't be surprised if he receives some quick reps early in their preseason opener against the New York Jets on Thursday. The most notable observation for the wide receivers was definitely seeing Ryan Broyles sitting practice out for the second straight day (although he believes that he'll play on Thursday).
Joseph Fauria also sat out from practice a day after telling reporters he didn't want to be labeled as "injury prone" anymore. Hopefully it's just something precautionary and not something he tweaked. If he's able to stay healthy, the top three tight ends are locked in with Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew and Fauria. Everyone else is merely a camp body.
Corey Robinson continued to struggle and was flagged for another false start after getting called for a few on Monday. He also had a rough go in 1-on-1 drills.
Corey Robinson getting chewed up by Devin Taylor for the third straight time in one-on-ones. Phil Hunt got him too— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) August 11, 2015
Despite listing Cornelius Lucas as the starting right tackle heading into Thursday's game, Michael Williams took over at RT with the first-team offense on Tuesday. It appears that the Lions are trying to get all of their tackles accustomed to both sides, unless you're Riley Reiff of course.
Travis Swanson had a rough day with Moore under center and had two fumbled snaps. I was unsure who to place the blame on, so we'll just put both of them at fault. Swanson also reportedly struggled in 1-on-1 drills facing off against Caraun Reid and Tyrunn Walker. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing to hear for Lions fans.
Speaking of the DTs, this was the most I've been impressed with Walker. Reid seems to be the quicker of the two, but Walker looks very thick and powerful. I think both are going to be given plenty of snaps this year.
If Detroit's defense wants to remain in the top 10, it's really going to need at least a couple of guys to step things up. If I had to pick right now, those guys are Reid and Devin Taylor. I've really been impressed with Taylor all throughout camp. I don't think he's going to put up double-digit sacks, but if he can just try and repeat what George Johnson did for the Lions a year ago, then I think they're in pretty good shape.
I've already talked a ton about how great the linebackers look, so I'll try to keep it short this time. One guy I haven't talked a whole lot about is Stephen Tulloch. A year ago, Tulloch was on pace to have a spectacular season before going down with a freak injury. I have to say, he looks even healthier now than he did before the injury last year, and he's been around the ball at all times during running drills. I wouldn't be surprised if he led the NFL in tackles this year.
I don't remember seeing a lot from Darius Slay on Tuesday, but Rashean Mathis had a pretty solid day considering he had to line up across from Megatron on several snaps. Nevin Lawson also had a strong showing in the slot and made a couple of nice pass deflections. If I was a betting man, put me down for Lawson as your starting nickelback heading into the regular season.
It's been a lot harder for me to judge the safeties than any other position. Obviously you have Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo as your starters. Isa Abdul-Quddus is your immediate backup/special teams ace, but other than that, it's pretty much all up in the air for me. If I had to guess who the fourth safety was going to be, I'd probably tell you Don Carey because of his experience on special teams.
Taylor Mays is a guy I just cannot see making the roster. His size and athleticism are out of this world, but his instincts are terrible. Brian Suite looks noticeably better in coverage, and although the ball wasn't thrown his way, he caught my eye when he made a nice read and quickly closed the gap on a slant route from Andrew Peacock.
Play of the Day
During red-zone drills, Mathis was matched up against Megatron in a couple of goal-line situations. The crowd went nuts after Megatron juggled the ball on a fade route, but Mathis did a phenomenal job doing whatever he could to break up the pass, which was ultimately ruled incomplete.
My honorable mention goes to Kellen Moore, who threw a beautiful spiral to Corey Fuller in the back of the end zone during a red-zone drill. It was easily the best throw I've seen him make in camp this year.
That's all I have for Tuesday. I'll try to make it to Saturday's practice as well. Follow me on Twitter at @alex_reno for live updates, and feel free to ask any questions or tell me who you'd like me to focus on next time.