For the first time all week, the Detroit Lions opened up their OTA practices to the media. The local beat was on site for the entirety of Thursday’s practice, giving the media their first look at the Matt Patricia-led Lions with full participation and without many practice limitations (though they’re still playing without pads).
Here’s a recap of the biggest points as pointed out by the local media. To read more on Thursday’s practice, check out the following recaps:
- MLive’s Kyle Meinke: “Notes and observations from Detroit Lions OTAs”
- Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett: “Detroit Lions’ new defense as versatile as advertised at OTAs”
- The Athletic’s Chris Burke: “Lions OTA observations: Frank Ragnow’s role, sorting the RBs and filling in for Glover Quin”
- DetroitLions.com: TIM AND MIKE: OTA Week 1 observations
All Lions were present at Thursday’s practice, except for veteran safety Glover Quin. Quin missed earlier offseason workouts as he attended to family obligations.
While everyone else was present, not everyone was actively participating:
Glover Quin only player not at voluntary Lions OTA on Thursday. Ezekiel Ansah was there but didn't do much — same with TJ Jones. OL Joe Dahl and S Tavon Wilson both had red no-contact jerseys. Also, LB Nick Bellore did a lot of work on offense.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) May 24, 2018
It’s not all that surprising to see Tavon Wilson and TJ Jones in limited participation. Both underwent surgery after suffering season-ending injuries in 2017.
However, there’s obviously a level of concern to be had about Ezekiel Ansah participating in a very limited fashion. Ansah has struggled with injuries over the past two years, and has consistently missed offseason workouts throughout his professional career. Ansah did have a “clean-out procedure” on his knee earlier this year, so this is likely precautionary, but it’s something keep an eye on.
Quandre Diggs: Still a safety
We already noted that Miles Killebrew got a lot of looks at safety because of Quin and Wilson’s limitations, but what Dave Birkett points out is that Quandre Diggs, who transitioned to safety in the middle of the 2017 season, received “exclusive” reps at safety on Thursday.
All that could obviously change when Quin and Wilson are back in full, but for now, it looks like the Diggs safety experiment last season may no longer be just an experiment.
Running back depth chart
No official depth chart has been created, and things are obviously subject to change very quickly, but it appears the Lions’ two newest additions to the backfield are already getting reps before Detroit’s veteran running backs.
The top two running backs were definitely LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson. No doubt about it. One or the other led every drill/7 on 7/team session that I saw.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) May 24, 2018
The Lions are wasting no time in getting second-round pick Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount accustomed to their new offense. That may spell trouble for guys like Ameer Abdullah, who is in the final year of his rookie deal and looking to prove he can cut it in the NFL.
Interesting note about Abdullah: The Lions are trying him out as a punt returner. Abdullah has returned kickoffs for the Lions in the past, but has not been on punt return duties before. That job obviously belongs to All-Pro Jamal Agnew, but the more Abdullah can prove his worth, the more likely it is he sticks around in 2018.
Frank Ragnow Watch
Despite Matt Patricia’s insistence that Ragnow’s position has yet to be determined, the first-round pick continued his recent trend of playing at left guard exclusively on Thursday.
Frank Ragnow worked exclusively at left guard with the first team. Graham Glasgow was the center.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) May 24, 2018
Throughout this week, via highlights and photos from the official team website, we have only seen Ragnow playing with the first-team offense at left guard during OTAs. He played some center at rookie minicamp, but that seems to have stopped with the entire team now in attendance.
As for fifth-round pick Tyrell Crosby? Burke notes that he is staying at his college position: offensive tackle. “If Tyrell Crosby is going to compete at guard, as was the theory when he was drafted, the Lions aren’t showing their hand here,” Burke wrote. “He’s taking all of his reps at left tackle with the third O-line. (Brian Mihalik is second up at left tackle.)”
Defensive scheme notes
While we’re far from learning much about Patricia’s scheme change on defense, a few beat writers picked up on some key differences already.
My first reaction to Thursday’s practice is that we’ll see a lot of three-linemen looks this year, with Devon Kennard as a stand-up rusher off the edge. Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones would be the early favorites for nickel linebacker reps in that look, though any of those linebackers can blitz or drop into coverage.
In regards to Kennard, Tim Twentyman points out that he “played almost exclusively on the line of scrimmage.”
And Burke notes that he thinks the linebackers are going to be super aggressive under Patricia. “Evident from this drill — and of no real surprise — is that the Lions look like they’ll be aggressive asking their linebackers to attack the quarterback,” Burke writes.
Practice differences under Patricia
One neat addition to practice was the use of video screens to analyze plays from a different perspective.
It’s unclear whether this was something Patricia pushed for specifically this year, or if it was just something that was in the works. Either way, it’s a first-time thing for the Lions.
Birkett has more notes on how Patricia managed the practice differently than his predecessor Jim Caldwell:
“There wasn’t much standing around. Three full lines, for instance, worked on technique at the same time, whereas under Caldwell the second-team line typically repped after the first-team unit.”
Then, of course, there’s the all important music choices, which were drastically different than that of the Caldwell era:
The playlist at practice: Lots of Metallica, with some Pantera and Bush sprinkled in. Angsty High School Kyle was very impressed.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) May 24, 2018
The Lions are only allowed three OTA practices a week, so that concludes the first set of OTAs for the offseason. The Lions will be back at it again next week on May 30 and 31.