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Lions training camp Day 2 observations: Tight ends look sharp

Day 2 of camp has now concluded. Check out our notes here.

NFL: Detroit Lions-Minicamp Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Here are my observations from Day 2 of Detroit Lions practice.

Participation report

The following players were out or missing from practice on Saturday:

  • LB Devon Kennard (NFI)
  • DE Ezekiel Ansah (PUP)
  • WR Andy Jones (PUP)
  • DE Cornelius Washington (NFI)
  • DB Tracy Walker
  • CB Nevin Lawson

Walker and Lawson were the new players out on Saturday, and it’s unclear what is going on with either. Walker was at practice, but didn’t have a helmet and spent the entirety on the sidelines. Lawson was nowhere to be seen, but after practice Darius Slay said his absence was “personal.” It’s unclear if Slay meant it was a personal issue Lawson was dealing with or if he was saying that is Lawson’s business to answer, not his.

Kennard and Washington were both sprinting pretty good during the majority of practice and could be returning soon. It’s hard to tell where Ansah is at, as the Lions stashed him back at the far end of the practice field.

In addition to this group, camp darling Teo Redding was only out there for a portion of practice. There was no word given about his status.

Tight ends rebound

On Friday, I noted that the tight end corps looked overmatched by the Lions’ linebacking crew during passing drills. On Saturday, the tight ends had the upper hand, as some of the biggest plays during the entire practice were made by Detroit’s new slate of tight ends.

Michael Roberts shook off an early drop with an impressive back-corner touchdown grab over Tavon Wilson. Levine Toilolo pitched in with a score, and Marcus Lucas stood out among the third-string offense, grabbing two touchdowns just one snap apart from Jake Rudock.

Backup change

Much like during minicamp and OTAs, it appears the Lions will be swapping Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel with the No. 2 and 3 offenses on a daily basis. Friday, Rudock was with the twos and Cassel was with the threes. Saturday, they swapped them up.

Cassel looked comfortable and accurate on Saturday, while Rudock was a bit indecisive. The two were at about the same level after Day 1, but I’d say Cassel may lead after Round 2.

Kerryon Johnson taking it slow

The Lions continue to move their second-round pick along slowly in training camp. Johnson continues to take the majority of his reps with the third-team offense, well behind LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah (who even took a few reps with the first team).

It’s really hard to get a sense of how Johnson is doing without pads on, but he had at least one slip-up during a drill emphasizing ball security.

Two defenders surrounded a ball carrier as they ran halfway across the field. Johnson was one of just a couple of players who put the ball on the ground during the drill.

Welcome to the first team, Alex Barrett

Last year, Alex Barrett surprised many by making the Lions’ 53-man roster. Entering 2018, he could be fighting for much more than just a roster spot. With Ansah and Kennard still sidelined, Barrett took nearly every first-team rep at left defensive end, with Anthony Zettel repping on the right side. Cam Johnson and Kerry Hyder were your second-team DEs.

This isn’t completely new for Barrett, as he took a few reps with the first team on Friday, too, but it’s a clear sign he’s entering the padded portion of practice well ahead of roster bubble guys like Jeremiah Valoaga, and could potentially be higher than Hyder, too.

Drill of the day

The Lions worked on a drill designed for getting yards after the catch (or stopping YAC, depending on how you look at it). Receivers would catch a pass just five yards from the quarterback. At the same time, a defender would leap to his feet from his stomach about from about 30 yards away. From there, it was the defender’s job to get a hand on the receiver before he ran by him.

While the drill was fairly ordinary, TJ Jones made an eye-popping juke that left Jamal Agnew grasping for air.

Touchdowns with TJ

Speaking of TJ Jones, he had a fantastic day of practice on Saturday. Outside of juking Agnew out of his shoes, he also had back-to-back leaping touchdown grabs in the back of the end zone from Cassel. Thanks in large part to Jones, it was very clear the No. 2 offense is well ahead of the No. 2 defense.

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