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Detroit Lions training camp Day 6 observations: Kerryon Johnson makes the play of camp

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The Lions rookie running back drew the biggest cheer of the day.

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

Here are my observations from Day 6 of Detroit Lions training camp.

Participation report

The following players did not practice on Thursday:

  • TE Michael Roberts
  • WR Deontez Alexander
  • WR Andy Jones (PUP)
  • LB Chad Meredith
  • LB DE Cam Johnson
  • DT Da’Shawn Hand
  • DE Cornelius Washington (NFI)
  • DE Ezekiel Ansah (PUP)
  • DB Stefan McClure

After just one day in a red no-contact jersey, Tavon Wilson had no restrictions on Thursday.

In addition to these guys, Devon Kennard still did not participate in full team drills after coming off the NFI list on Wednesday. Also, T.J. Lang didn’t do much of anything on Thursday. In his place, the Lions mostly used Joe Dahl, but with a little Kenny Wiggins mixed in with the first-team offense.

REFS AND KICKOFFS!

We saw two new things at practice on Thursday: officials and kickoff drills. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Lions introduced both on the same day, considering the NFL has now completely revamped kickoff rules this year.

There wasn’t anything notable about the Lions’ strategy during these drills, but the following players were seen back and ready to field kicks: Ameer Abdullah, Jamal Agnew, TJ Jones, Brandon Powell, Teo Redding and... Kerryon Johnson.

Kerryon Johnson’s breakout day

Aside from the two touchdowns that ended Sunday’s practice, Johnson has had a pretty subdued training camp. That changed on Thursday. Johnson got a lot of playing time on today, and every time he touched the ball, he was electric. There was one play where his patience and acceleration allowed him to cut up the field at the perfect time and get to the second level in an instant.

But Johnson’s big moment came when he was actually lined up out wide. He pulled a double move on the defender, and while he didn’t get a lot of separation, he made an unbelievable diving catch up-field for a huge 30-yard gain.

Johnson wasn’t exactly known for his catching ability at Auburn—he only had 55 catches in three years—but it’s clear that receiving is still in his skill-set.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all perfect for Johnson. In the one rep he got in the aforementioned kickoff drills, he bobbled the kick and put it on the ground. Don’t expect him to win that job this year.

Offensive struggles

Late in team drills, the Lions offense couldn’t seem to generate any sort of movement on the defense. Receivers were getting no separation from the defensive backs, and running plays were getting blown up in the backfield. It got so bad that Matt Patricia had the entire offense (first, second and third team) run the length of the field as punishment.

Standouts

Jalen Reeves-Maybin - The second-year linebacker has come into camp bigger than last year, but it hasn’t slowed his instincts or speed. Twice, I saw him knife into the backfield thanks to his athleticism and football smarts. He’s still exclusively playing with the second-team defense, but expect him to have a role this year.

Nevin Lawson - For the first time all training camp, it was Lawson in as the No. 2 cornerback instead of DeShawn Shead, and Lawson took full advantage of the opportunity. I counted three pass breakups for Lawson on the day, including one against Marvin Jones Jr., who has dominated just about every cornerback not named Darius Slay this camp.

Matt Cassel - During early drills alongside Matthew Stafford, Cassel was going toe-to-toe with the Lions franchise quarterback. His accuracy has been on point all training camp, and he connected on a couple of deep balls during one-on-one drills. He still looks a bit indecisive during team drills, but he’s further separating himself from Jake Rudock at this point.

Jarrad Davis - Davis had the hit of the day when he met Zach Zenner in the gap during a full team drill. The pop of the pads could be heard from anywhere on the field and drew a set of “OHs” from the press bleachers. Davis would later blow up a screen play.

But perhaps the most impressive thing about Davis’ day was his overall commitment. He was out on the field well after every other player had walked to the locker room. Initially after practice, he talked a long time with Ricky Jean Francois and worked on his technique, but then he was literally by himself, working on his form against a tackling dummy: