The Detroit Lions and New York Giants seemed to be feeling each other out Tuesday morning as the two faced off for the first joint practice of three this week. There was no live hitting, the intensity seemed a little muted, and therefore, it made for a pretty quiet opening to the event.
But there were plenty of things going on Tuesday, so let’s get to the daily observations.
Note: Because it was tough to focus on both fields on Tuesday, I spent the majority of time observing the Lions defense vs. the Giants offense.
Entering the day, the Lions were the healthiest they’ve been all training camp. The only player in shorts today was Andy Jones, who remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) but is looking a lot closer to getting back on the field.
That means Chad Meredith and Dwayne Washington were back Tuesdsay, although both were limited once team drills began.
Additionally, T.J. Lang did not participate in team drills again, which has been a regular occurrence this entire camp. Meanwhile, Wesley Johnson and Joe Dahl split time taking reps in place of the absent Lang.
Of course, the big news was that Graham Glasgow was injured in the final portion for practice after getting tangled up during two-minute drills. Though he walked off the field under his own power, he was limping quite noticeably and did not return.
Darius Slay vs. Odell Beckham Jr.
If there was a scorecard to this marquee matchup at camp, it would be Odell: 1, Slay: 0. The two went toe-to-toe on several reps throughout the day—although the Giants moved Beckham all around, and Slay did not follow him if he was lined up in the slot.
Beckham never thoroughly beat Slay, but he was able to consistently get a half step on Darius and pulled down more catches than Slay was able to knock down. To be fair, though, Beckham was doing that to everyone. Poor undrafted rookie Chris Jones had a one-on-one rep against Beckham and got beat deep by three steps.
Nevin Lawson faired a little better than Slay on the day. Again, designated as the Lions’ No. 2 corner, Lawson held his own against the likes of Sterling Shepard and other Giants receivers. During one-on-one drills, Lawson notched a couple of pass breakups, but when the teams went 11-on-11, Shepard got the best of Lawson twice.
Mixing and matching with the first-team offense
It’s not uncommon for the Lions to mix in second or third-team skill players with the first-string offensive line and quarterback, but Detroit seemed to be really experimenting on Tuesday. Tight end Hakeem Valles, wide receiver Bradley Marquez and running back Ameer Abdullah all got extended looks with the first team during 11-on-11 drills.
Lions wideouts fight back
While Odell was looking good for the Giants, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay were making and And-One mixtape on the other field. First, Golladay elevated over Eli Apple at the back of the end zone to snag a Matthew Stafford pass with some serious heat on it.
Later, in the aforementioned two-minute drill, Jones capped off the drive with similar catch, this time between Curtis Riley and Landon Collins.
Run defense still a work in progress
It’s hard to tell completely when there’s no full contact or live tackling in practice, but it looked like Giants running backs (sans Saquon Barkley, who sat with a tweaked hamstring on Tuesday) had plenty of room to run against the first-team defense. Jonathan Stewart was breaking off 7-8 yard runs regularly, as Lions linebacker struggled to fill gaps left by the defensive line.
A large portion of the practice was devoted to punting drills between the two teams, working mostly with the gunners. The Lions punt coverage looked especially good, with a rotating cast of defensive backs at the gunner position, but Sam Martin looked to struggle with more inconsistencies.
One punt would have a perfect spiral and travel nearly 60 yards in the air. Then the next one would curl sideways and bounce in front of the awaiting returner. Normally, I’d think this was Martin simply trying different kind of punts, but he was visually frustrated with himself towards the end of the drill.
On Monday, the Lions asserted their dominance over their own linebackers in one-on-one coverage drills. Tuesday, they did so in pass protection.
Still working within their own team, Zach Zenner and Theo Riddick clearly established themselves as the best pass blockers on the team. Zenner, specifically, looked dominant as he kept both Steve Longa and Darnell Sankey at bay in back-to-back reps.
If there’s one guy that struggled pretty badly, it was LeGarrette Blount, who had the worst rep of the drill. Trevor Bates pulled off a perfect swim move, getting to the “quarterback” immediately and leaving Blount visibly upset.
I know what you’re all looking for. You want me to declaratively say which team was better on Tuesday. Well, I’m not going to do that. But what I will say is that the Giants looked to control the trenches on both sides of the ball, while the Lions seemed to control the air.
Matthew Stafford was able to move the ball pretty consistently against the Giants secondary (and with fairly decent protection), and the Lions’ running backs were an absolute nightmare for New York in coverage.
Though Eli Manning and the Giants didn’t look too bad either, the Lions secondary gave them a pretty solid challenged, as evidenced by New York’s turn at the two-minute drill. Manning had the team driving into Lions territory, but Glover Quin put a quick end to their drive, picking off Eli and sliding to the ground to end the drill.