It was yet another beautiful day for football during Friday's practice in Allen Park. I was fortunate to meet a few fellow Detroit Lions fans and writers, as I met up with Draft Breakdown's Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon), SideLion Report's Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) and the YouTube sensation Mr. Sandman (@Sandman7773). I'm going to switch things up this time around and separate my observations by offense and defense.
I settled in toward the back end zone where I was up close and personal with Sam Martin, Matt Prater and Don Muhlbach during position drills. On the far side of the field I caught a few glimpses of wide receivers and defensive backs going at it 1-on-1, and there were a few notable plays. Andrew Peacock did a perfect job of selling a curl route and separated himself from Quandre Diggs by a good 4 yards, despite the aggressive coverage. Jarred Haggins also made a beautiful catch on a go route against good coverage over Nevin Lawson in 1-on-1s.
Can we just stop for a moment and appreciate how unbelievable Calvin Johnson is at his craft? I mean the guy absolutely gives his full effort during every practice and pulls off so many eye-opening grabs for the fans. Judging from Nate Burleson's recent comments, I'd have to say that it's clear that Megatron is out to prove that he's the best receiver in the NFL once again.
Vernon Johnson had a great practice this past Wednesday night and continued to impress on Friday. TJ Jones is another guy who's really impressed me so far. I wasn't able to see any return drills, but he had easily the catch of the day after making a beautiful adjustment to the ball and grabbing it over two defenders on a pass thrown by Kellen Moore.
Corey Fuller has had a great camp so far, but Friday was a day to forget for him. He had at least a couple of bad drops from my vantage point, and also made a poor adjustment on a poorly thrown ball from Dan Orlovsky that he couldn't bring in. His worst drop probably happened right in front of me when the offense was doing 7-on-7 drills in the back end zone.
Despite throwing a couple of INTs, Moore had a better practice than Orlovsky for the second straight day, and I'm starting to think that the Lions are much better off with him as the backup than Orlovsky. It's early, but I haven't seen anything promising from Orlovsky. We know who he is at this point. Early on in 11-on-11 drills, Moore looked comfortable in the pocket and did a nice job of checking through his progressions before dumping it off to Greg Salas on a curl route. He struggled a bit during two-minute drills, however, and was picked off on a couple of throws by Nate Ness and Josh Wilson
Matthew Stafford is having a really good camp, you guys. In 7-on-7s, Brandon Pettigrew had a defender draped all over him, and Stafford still found the tiniest of windows to fit the ball into the hands of Pettigrew, who managed to secure it for a TD. He wasn't as fortunate during two-minute drills and had two throws that were almost intercepted, but the entire offense sucked during this portion of practice and couldn't score a single point against the defense on six different drives.
Joseph Fauria sat out once again, but wow is he tall. I mean I knew he was tall... but seeing him in person is a whole different story. David Ausberry is another guy who was unable to practice on Friday. Everyone's favorite topic of discussion, Eric Ebron, had a somewhat up-and-down day and you could hear the groans as he dropped a catchable ball early. He did bounce back with a sideline grab and a back-shoulder grab on two of the next few plays. Pettigrew's TD catch from Stafford was easily the highlight of his day. I don't recall seeing him doing anything else that was significant.
Manny Ramirez and Michael Williams both worked with the first-team offense for most of the day. I have to say that I've been pretty impressed with Williams' transition to playing offensive tackle. He worked a lot with the second-team offense on Wednesday and held his ground for the most part on Friday, other than getting beat by Ezekiel Ansah (which is a completely unfair matchup for him).
Corey Robinson has been getting a lot of looks with the second- and third-team offense at right tackle, but also got some snaps at left tackle, which I found interesting. He had a rough time going up against Devin Taylor, but held up fine the rest of the way. Xavier Proctor is probably having the worst camp on the O-line, because every time I see him in at RT with the third-team offense he's getting beat. Corey Wootton had his number on Wednesday, and Phillip Hunt beat him pretty badly on Friday.
Phillip Hunt with a sack, Reid facilitated it with a great spin— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) August 7, 2015
I was pretty impressed with Laken Tomlinson working as the second-team left guard as well. It's pretty clear that he's a strong dude and can wipe you out in the run game.
The defense looked a lot better on Friday as a whole and was able to get more penetration than Wednesday's practice. A few guys I was impressed with on Friday were Wootton, Taylor, Caraun Reid, Hunt and Darryl Tapp. Jermelle Cudjo also made a nice play on a stunt and probably would have gotten the sack, but that was about all I saw from him.
I think Wootton has a pretty good shot at making the team and could be this year's George Johnson if he continues to impress. He's a guy who I'll be sure to look out for during the preseason.
Larry Webster is a guy who has received a lot of praise from the Lions' coaching staff, but I'm still waiting to see it. I was able to see him beat Cornelius Lucas around the edge on one play, but other than that, he's been nearly invisible.
This linebacker corps is great and I can promise you that they are going to be one of the best units in the league this year, barring any injuries. Kyle Van Noy seems to be coming along nicely, but the SAM spot is Tahir Whitehead's to lose. I have to say having Van Noy as your backup is a nice problem to have. Stephen Tulloch continues to look as healthy as he's ever been.
The defensive backs had much better luck against the pass on Friday. Wilson and Ness had a couple of interceptions on Moore, while James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin had near-interceptions on Stafford in two-minute drills. I was really impressed with Diggs' physicality in coverage and drills as well.
Watching Darius Slay and Calvin Johnson go back and forth was such a treat. Obviously Megatron is going to win most of the battles, but just seeing Slay get amped up after a single incompletion is pretty awesome to me. I love his confidence and enthusiasm, and he moves so well compared to the other CBs.
That's about all I have for Friday, but I'll be back at it on Saturday. 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 during Saturday's scrimmage.