The Detroit Lions kicked off training camp on Friday morning to a good crowd of reportedly 1,500 season-ticket holders. Things got off to a modest start on an chilly, overcast morning, but by the end of practice, the crowd was energized and the sun even made a late appearance.
Here are my camp observations from Day 1.
Cornelius Washington, Ezekiel Ansah and Devon Kennard were all sidelined due to various issues. Head coach Matt Patricia did not expand on what issues were ailing them prior to practice.
Washington spent much of practice sprinting on the sidelines, so he may not be far off from returning. I didn’t see much of Kennard all day, and Ansah was reportedly working on some physical drills in the way back of the field (I didn’t personally see them:)
Breaking: Ziggy Ansah is swinging a sledge hammer at Lions training camp. Adjust your fantasy lineups accordingly.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) July 27, 2018
The pads for Lions practice don’t come on until Sunday, so there isn’t much to say about the play of the offensive or defensive lines. There were no surprises among the starting offensive line, and here’s what Detroit’s first-string defensive front looked like for most of the day:
Kerry Hyder - A’Shawn Robinson - Sylvester Williams - Anthony Zettel
The Lions No. 2 cornerback battle has a new challenger
All offseason, Lions fans debated who would start opposite Darius Slay: Nevin Lawson or Teez Tabor. Both essentially split reps during minicamp earlier this offseason, and it appeared the two were on level ground headed into training camp.
But if the first day of practice was any indication, both players are fighting for third place. Free agent addition and former Seahawk DeShawn Shead took nearly all of the No. 2 cornerback reps, while Lawson and Tabor were the two outside corners with the second-team defense.
Many considered Shead an option for some work as a nickel corner or safety, considering the versatility he showed in Seattle, but Shead predominantly an outside corner for Friday’s practice, while Quandre Diggs and Jamal Agnew worked in the nickel for the first and second team, respectively.
Teo Redding is your 2018 camp darling
Redding was already being overhyped during the mandatory minicamp practices earlier in the year, and he is off to another hot start in training camp. During team drills, Redding elevated to haul in a pass over third-stringer Chris Jones, earning one of the bigger applause breaks from season-ticket holders on hand.
Good day from the linebackers
Matt Patricia spent a lot of time with the linebackers early in practice, as the Lions seek to find the right starting combination. The Lions’ first-team defense spent most of its time in nickel formation, with Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones as the two linebackers on the play.
Prior to full team drills, the linebackers matched up against running backs and tight ends. The linebackers clearly had the upper-hand for most of the drill. Jonathan Freeny, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Jones all had pass breakups. However, Freeny did get the Theo Riddick treatment later in practice, when the speedy running back beat Freeny to the edge for the easy touchdown catch.
Later, during an individual drill involving blitzing linebackers, both Chad Meredith and Trevor Bates both displayed speed and agility to get to the quarterback quickly. Patricia defenses in the past have relied heavily on pass rush from the linebackers, and it’s clear that will remain an important part of the game for this position group.
But they also got a lot of work setting the edge in run support. The Lions rotated nearly every linebacker to the edge
For most of the day, Jake Rudock was working with the second-team offense. Neither him nor veteran Matt Cassel looked particularly good (or bad), but Cassel did throw the only visible interception of the day. His pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage and fell into the hands of defensive tackle Toby Johnson.
Quiet start for Kerryon
Kerryon Johnson was probably one of the most requested player that fans wanted us to keep an eye on during Day 1 of training camp, but there isn’t a lot to say. After getting a lot of first-team reps during minicamp, the Lions mostly chose to run with LeGarrette Blount and Riddick with the ones on Friday.
Interesting drill of the day
I’m not sure if this is a new drill or not, but one individual drill that caught my attention was with the cornerbacks. Working near the corner of the endzone, cornerbacks were trying to force opposing receivers (who were also DBs) out of the endzone during their routes.
The drill, by my understanding, was for situations in which quarterbacks leave the pocket. When that happens, there is no such thing as illegal contact. Corners can be as physical as they want until the ball is in the air. So the Lions appear to be teaching cornerbacks to shove receivers out of bounds in those situations, making them ineligible receivers.
You can imagine just how important it is to defend situations like this with a guy like Aaron Rodgers in the division.