Wednesday, the Detroit Lions met up with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the practice field again in preparation for their preseason matchup on Friday. With nearly 180 players on the three different fields at one time, there was a lot going on. Here’s a quick recap of what the media saw from Wednesday’s practice.
Rafael Bush was back and impressive
Bush did not initially travel with the team to Pennsylvania because his wife was in labor. After traveling to Charlotte to witness the birth of his new daughter on Tuesday, Bush was back with the team on Wednesday. “A lot of teammates were like ‘Yo, you should have taken another day,’” Bush said to reporters after practice. “You know, it’s business. My wife understands.”
And Bush took care of business on Wednesday. As the leading candidate to take over the starting strong safety spot on the roster, Bush solidified his status against the Steelers. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press called Bush “the Lions’ best defensive back” on Wednesday. Bush reportedly picked off Ben Roethlisberger once and almost a nabbed a second interception later in the day.
TJ Jones was back in action
Although the Lions were without Darius Slay and lost Jon Bostic to a serious-looking injury, they got one guy back in return. TJ Jones, who was seen limping on Tuesday, was back on the practice field Wednesday. According to Mike Rothstein of ESPN, he “wasn’t spotted doing much at all.” The Lions may just be easing him into practice, so don’t be surprised if he sits out the first preseason game.
Darrin Walls continues to shine
With Slay out, it was Walls who had to step up to the plate, and by most reports, he did exactly that. Rothstein noted that Walls took the majority of the first-team reps, while Birkett saw Crezdon Butler get a fair share of snaps with the starters. However, both believed that Walls held his own in the starting position.
Walls has quietly had one of the most impressive training camps among the Lions’ secondary. This comes as great news for the Lions, who were perceived to have little-to-no depth beyond their starters. If Walls continues on this trajectory, he could return to his 2014 form, when he started 12 games for the Jets and grabbed two interceptions and had 12 passes defended.
Tight end update
It was no surprise seeing Eric Ebron on the sidelines again on Wednesday, but the two men who stepped up in his place appear to be proving their worth. The Cole Wick Hype Train continued chugging along on Wednesday, as the rookie tight end made a head-turning catch at camp:
Not that I want to fuel the Cole Wick hype train, but he just made a brilliant one-handed catch— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) August 10, 2016
Wick appears to be headed into the first preseason game as the Lions’ No. 1 tight end. As Mike O’Hara pointed out, Wick is not only being trusted to catch the ball, but he was with the No. 1 team in running drills, as well.
However, the best (healthy) blocking tight end on the roster is Matthew Mulligan, according to Birkett:
Matthew Mulligan is clearly the best blocker of the group. He locked up linebacker Steven Johnson in one rep and is strong as an ox.
Mulligan went undrafted in 2008, but has been an NFL journeyman since, landing on 11 different teams in just nine years. That experience gives him a huge edge over the other four healthy tight ends on the roster, three of which are undrafted rookies. At this point in time, Mulligan seems like the 1B to Wick’s 1A.