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Detroit Lions Day 3 training camp observations: Defensive linemen win first padded practice

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Surprisingly, it was the defensive linemen that looked ahead of Detroit’s newly-revamped offensive line.

NFL: Detroit Lions-Training Camp Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

All offseason, the Detroit Lions offensive line has been getting a lot of hype. After adding Frank Ragnow in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the final piece had been put into place, and Detroit was ready to run the ball again.

The defensive line, on the other hand, was the neglected stepchild of the offseason, with only minor additions in free agency and a third-day addition in the draft.

But when the pads came on for the first time on Sunday morning, it was the defensive line that shined, while the offense still has some work to do.

Here are my thoughts from Day 3 of Lions camp.

Participation update:

Nevin Lawson was back at practice on Sunday after taking a day off for what head coach Matt Patricia called a “personal issue.” Additionally, third-round pick Tracy Walker returned, as did Marvin Jones Jr. after Saturday’s injury scare.

Devon Kennard, Andy Jones, Ezekiel Ansah and Cornelius Washington all remained sidelined with injury. However, Ansah was running around a lot more than he had in the previous days and Kennard was running for almost the entire practice. He was even working on pass rushing moves with defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni for a few minutes.

Of all the injured players Kennard looks closest to returning, followed by Washington and Ansah. Andy Jones has not been doing much on the sidelines for all three practices.

Edge rushers looking solid

Many hail the Lions’ edge rushers as their biggest weakness heading into 2018, but Sunday was a good day for the pass-rushing depth.

In one of the first full-contact drills, the Lions had edge rushers going up against tight ends one-on-one. While that match up certainly favors the defender, it was still good to see some of the Lions’ depth take advantage. Some quick highlights from the drill:

  • Jeremiah Valoaga was dominant—I mean dominant—in two reps. Lined up against Michael Roberts, he beat the tight end with a inside move so bad that Patricia made them do the rep again.
  • Luke Willson started the drill off solidly, impeding all of Kerry Hyder’s progress, who was visibly frustrated. However, Hyder quickly rebounded on his next rep and got an enthusiastic response from Patricia, who was all over this drill.
  • After the good start, Willson got manhandled by Cam Johnson, a depth player who has had a quietly solid start to training camp.

Later in the day, both sides of the line went up against each other in one-on-ones, and—again—the defense looked ahead of the offense. Here’s what stuck out during these drills:

  • Anthony Zettel had Taylor Decker’s number twice on Sunday. However, during a previous drill, Detroit actually had Jeremiah Ledbetter on the edge opposite Hyder, while Zettel was on special teams.
  • Da’Shawn Hand gained my attention for the first time all camp by driving 317-pound Dan Skipper into the backfield and even lifting him off his feet. No pun intended, but the rookie defensive tackle’s hand speed was impressive and his strength was undeniable.
  • If there was one offensive lineman with a solid play during this drill, it was Wesley Johnson, who stood up Josh Fatu and anchored nicely.

#PunterBattle2018?

On Thursday, special team coach Joe Marciano told reporters that there may be a punter camp battle brewing in Lions camp.

“Ryan (Santoso) and Sam (Martin), I think there’s going to be a battle there,” Marciano told MLive.com. “Ryan has a chance.”

At first, I brushed aside these comments as a nicety toward undrafted rookie Ryan Santoso. But after two straight practices in which Santoso took the majority of punts, I’m not so sure. Santoso was dropping bombs all over the practice field on Sunday, and while Sam Martin doesn’t look bad at all, Santoso is going toe-to-toe with him.

Drill of the day

The Lions did a drill that loosely resembles the infamous “Oklahoma Drill.” In the Lions’ version, a running back/receiver/tight end would lie on his back about five feet away from a defender (linebacker or defensive back) who is also on his back (players were head-to-head). When notified, both players scramble to their feet and the skill player would try to get by the defender.

The drill seemed to play into Ameer Abdullah’s skillset, as he absolutely toasted linebackers on the two reps I saw. Rookie Kerryon Johnson, on the other hand, was a bit slower and it cost him a face-full of Jalen Reeves-Maybin.