Allen Park didn’t get any cooler on Tuesday afternoon as the Lions put on pads for the first time in training camp. Fans and media got their first chance to see what the roster looks like behind pads, and as a result, linemen finally had a chance to prove themselves, especially in individual drills.
Noticeably absent from participating was right guard T.J. Lang, their free agent acquisition from the Packers this offseason. Lang didn’t participate in team drills on Monday, and with the pads making their first appearance on Tuesday, the Lions decided to hold back the veteran guard who is making his way back from hip surgery he underwent in January. Alongside Taylor Decker, the two linemen traveled from starion to station together during the day.
Also, a few Lions missed practice after suffering injuries earlier in camp, including Tavon Wilson, Cornelius Washington, and Eric Ebron. During individual drills, Ebron could be seen off to the side, walking through the motions and casually mimicking the footwork and hand movements of the rest of the tight ends.
It was the same group taking reps on punt return at the beginning of practice—Jace Billingsley, Jamal Agnew, Keshawn Martin, Jared Abbrederis and TJ Jones—except for Golden Tate, who didn’t receive any punts on Tuesday.
Making the way around the field, the receivers ran simple routes as Kenny Golladay’s eye-opening size and length was only outdone by Darren Fells, easily the biggest player the Lions have at a skill position.
Matthew Stafford’s touch on deep throws looks to be something CGI’d from a James Cameron film. He hooked up with a few receivers downfield on Tuesday so seamlessly that guys like Marvin Jones didn’t experience the slightest change in their stride.
Anthony Zettel, the second-year player from Penn State, really impressed during drills with the offensive line. Lined up against a tight end and a pulling tackle, Zettel made short work of a couple of the Lions tight ends, wasting no time to take advantage of the first day in pads. Also, Kerry Hyder had a great rep against tight end Cole Wick, firing out of his stance and almost pushing Wick back into tackle Cornelius Lucas.
After having a couple of rough days to start camp, Abbrederis had a solid day at the office on Tuesday, making a few nice catches and beating Quandre Diggs real, real badly on a slant route. The amount of separation he created left the nickel cornerback so far behind that he couldn’t catch him on his way to the goal line.
Teez Tabor was very physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage on Tuesday, but not to his advantage. In his first rep against fellow rookie Kenny Golladay, he jammed the receiver at the line, stuck with him on his comeback route, but was bit too early, leading to the sideline official to toss a flag. His next rep against TJ Jones was much of the same: a lot of hands, but even more arms as he was corralling the receiver before the ball reached Jones’ hands. Marvin Jones looked to be motioning towards Tabor to not let his arms get around so much and to keep them inside.
Speaking of Tabor, his tough day in individual drills spilled over into team drills. Lined up against TJ Jones, Tabor slipped in coverage on an out route as Stafford delivered the ball between the one and three on Jones’ practice jersey. Tabor popped up and showed his frustration with himself, smacking his hands together and shaking his head.
The Lions’ first-team offense looked a bit different on Tuesday with Greg Robinson an active participant in team drills after taking that portion of practice off on Monday. Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio split time at left tackle with the first-team offense. The rest of the Lions offensive line looked similar to previous days: Graham Glasgow at left guard, Travis Swanson at center, Laken Tomlinson situated at right guard and Rick Wagner at right tackle.
As for the defense, Anthony Zettel was in to spell the injured Cornelius Washington, who was replacing the PUP-placed Ezekiel Ansah. Next to him was A’Shawn Robinson, Haloti Ngata and Kerry Hyder Jr. opposite of Zettel.
Injuries are starting to mount for the defensive line, which means opportunities are presenting themselves for a lot of players on the roster, especially those second-year players from the 2016 draft class—Bob Quinn’s first in Detroit.
Miles Killebrew replaced Tavon Wilson at safety, while the usual suspects manned their posts in Detroit’s secondary—Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson starting at corner, and Quin playing opposite of Killebrew. The Lions defensive middle saw Brandon Copeland, Jarrad Davis, and Tahir Whitehead line up from left to right across from the offense.
Speaking of opportunities, Pat O’Connor looked eager to put on the pads today and showed a lot of toughness during practice. During team drills, O’Connor blew right by recently-signed Nick Becton, and would have stopped running back Mike James for a loss had it been an actual game.
Whether it was the heat or just a Tuesday afternoon, the crowd size seemed small at practice today. From attending camp a couple of times last year, where the bleachers seemed jam-packed with fans, the numbers seem to have dwindled. Part of that could be due to the VIP area, which is enclosed and keeps plenty of fans in the shade, a place where half of my body will be wishing it could have been by tomorrow. Come out to practice and see Darren Fells in person, he’s the biggest human you’ll ever see until you catch Storm Norton and his bodacious blonde flow.
Martha Ford was back in her blue Ford Mustang, braving the heat and watching from the sidelines during team drills. At one point, I wanted to know if Casey Redfern—the punter keeping the returners busy and Sam Martin resting—was saying anything to her, and that’s a sentence you’ll never see anywhere else.
More NFL Network people were in attendance today as Tom Pelissero stopped by to check out Lions’ training camp. He was the one who reported the "substantial gap" between Stafford and the Lions in contract negotiations.