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Lions-Giants joint practice Day 2 observations: Defensive line comes alive

The defensive front finally showed signs of life during Wednesday’s practice.

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

The big story of the day was Graham Glasgow at Detroit Lions camp. After gingerly walking off the field Tuesday, Glasgow returned to camp fully padded on Wednesday. While it was a pleasant surprise for Lions fanz, it also came with some pretty heavy limitations. He sat out of all team drills against the Giants.

Perhaps the bigger news was that first-round rookie Frank Ragnow shifted to center for nearly the entire practice. This looks like a pretty transparent attempt to make sure the Lions have a backup plan in case Graham Glasgow does suffer an injury, because the play of Wesley Johnson at center has not looked so promising thus far.

Here are more observations from Wednesday’s practice:

Participation report

Again, it was only Andy Jones (still on the PUP) completely out of practice, but T.J. Lang also sat out for the majority of the Day.

I didn’t personally see this, but apparently at the end of practice Lions OT Dan Skipper was carted off:

Offensive line shuffling

With both Lang and Glasgow sitting for the majority of the day, here’s what the Lions’ “starting” offensive line looked like from left to right:

Taylor Decker - Wesley Johnson - Frank Ragnow - Joe Dahl - Rick Wagner

Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for the starters. Pass protection remained ahead of run blocking, but the run blocking was pretty awful all day. I can’t recall a single time in which a tailback had a clear lane, and it only got worse when the second team came in, led by Joe Dahl at center.

Struggles are understandable when the lineup is being shaken up like this, but it’s not going to be a fun day in the film room for the offensive line.

Tight ends, especially Hakeem Valles, have a good day

If there has been one position group (outside of DT) that has underwhelmed in camp, it’s been the tight ends. But Wednesday was their breakout day.

In one portion of 7-on-7 drills, the Lions’ first-string offense scored touchdowns on three straight plays (from the 15 or 20 yard line). First Michael Roberts pulled in a touchdown on an in-route. Then it was Levine Toilolo’s turn.

Hakeem Valles, though, was the player of the day today at practice. He brought in two touchdowns today, one with the first team and one with the second team. He even threw in a special teams tackle during kickoff drills, showing that he’s doing everything he can to make the roster as either a fourth tight end or potentially even higher than that.

Defensive line looks... good?

I thought the Lions’ defensive front was worked pretty hard in Day 1, but they rebounded quite nicely on Wednesday. Using the front noted by Chris Burke above, the Lions were able to penetrate the Giants defensive front early and often in the run game. The Lions linebackers were the beneficiaries, as I noted both Steve Longa (another solid day from him) and Freddie Bishop with tackles for loss on the day.

The defensive line was able to generate a fair amount of pressure, too, and with little help from the linebackers. Devon Kennard, who is listed as a linebacker but has mostly been an edge rusher, was having a field day with the Giants’ right tackle.

Full disclosure: the Giant’s right tackle is Ereck Flowers—the guy Ezekiel Ansah burned for three sacks last year.

One-minute drill

Toward the end of practice, both teams attempted to execute full one-minute drills. The scenario:

  • Down 2 points
  • 58 seconds left
  • Starting on their own 40-yard line
  • 0 timeouts

Interestingly, each team had their backup quarterback working with their No. 1 offense. It worked out fairly well for Davis Webb and the Giants’ first string offense, as they methodically worked their way into field goal range. Though the kick went wide on the skinny posts, it would’ve been good with normal uprights.

The Lions put Jake Rudock in with the starters and it did not go well.

  • First-and-10: Pressure coming, throws it at receiver’s feet.
  • Second-and-10: Deep ball into coverage, falls incompletely but gets a defensive pass interference call.
  • First-and-10: Eli Apple jumps in a front of the receiver after Rudock stares him down, and takes it for a pick-six.

Matt Cassel was a little more composed and was able to dink-and-dunk his way into field goal range. However, Ryan Santoso missed the mid-range field goal (on regular uprights) as the Lions rushed the field goal unit onto the field before time expired.

Quick shots:

  • Jarrad Davis had one of the worst reps I’ve seen in camps during a one-on-one coverage drills. Opposite Zach Zenner, Davis was completely flat-footed, perhaps expecting a move from the 221-pound back. But Zenner literally just ran in a straight line, and beat Davis by three steps.
  • TJ Jones continues to look good with the second team. He’s the only one getting consistently open and he’s developing some chemistry with the backups. He’s far and away the most consistent reserve receiver.
  • Theo Riddick had a rare blunder in pass protection, having to haul down a blitzing linebacker which would have drawn an obvious flag.
  • Reeves-Maybin had a bounceback day in coverage, notching pass breakups both during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
  • Darius Slay vs. Odell Beckham Jr. was a bit of a letdown in Day 2. Slay started off with an excellent pass breakup during 7-on-7s. A few reps later, Beckham beat the defender by three or four steps... but that defender was Glover Quin, who looks—to put nicely—aged.
  • Overall, I thought this was a much better practice for the Lions. Outside of the shuffled offensive line, the first teams on both sides of the ball outplayed the Giants’ first teamers. The tides shifted significantly when the second stringers were out there, but it was a bounceback day for Detroit for sure.

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