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Mathbomb Lions training camp observations: TEs, RBs impress

A detailed look at how the Lions performed during Thursday’s practice.

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

Another day of practice is in the books and, oh boy, this one was a doozie. You’ve probably seen mentioned before about how frenetic and fast paced the practices under Matt Patricia are, if a little disorganized. That has translated into a ton of interesting things happening all over the filed at any given time, and with the new camp setup, almost everything can be seen easily from the stands. I tried to focus on the lines last time, since we haven't had a good view of those drills in previous years, but today I made an effort to pay attention to skill positions, and I’m glad I did.


Matthew Stafford was Matthew Stafford except for a brief period in the middle of camp where he overthrew a few passes. Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock, unfortunately, played similarly to how they did in the last practices I watched.

Running Backs

This group was phenomenal during Thursday’s practice from the top to the bottom.

Tight Ends

After disappointing in the last practice I watched, this group played far better. Blocking still wasn’t very good overall, but as receiving options we got to see a lot more positives. Michael Roberts was injured and didn’t practice, but we saw plenty of the others.

Wide Receivers

Another hit-and-miss day from the receivers. On the one hand, you had Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. going to town on defenders. On the other, you had struggles from players who had previously had no problems holding their own.

Offensive Line

The offensive line smashed the defense up and down the field for the first half of practice, but in later drills would be overwhelmed so badly that the offense had to run after several failed attempts to get anything moving.

Defensive Ends

It was a better day from the ends today. It looked ,at first, like the entire line was going to struggle again, but they came back strong in the second half.

Defensive Tackles

Overmatched early in the day, the defensive interior became a strength later in the day, especially during run plays.


It was a day of coverage drills, and nobody really looked good (LBs rarely do in camp). When they switched to run drills, the entire group looked a lot more comfortable.


As good as this group looked in the last practice I watched, they looked even better this time around. Players who looked good still did, while players who struggled before bounced back well.

The Breakdown

Ameer Abdullah, RB - He looked alright. Overshadowed by how well some of the other RB played, though.

Jamal Agnew, CB - Agnew looked fine. He didn’t stand out like he had in earlier practices, and he played less nickel than he had as well.

Deontez Alexander, WR - Alexander was not in pads today.

Alex Barrett, DE/OLB - Barrett looked a lot better today than he had previously. He’s very clearly not starting material, but he’s not out of his element, either.

Trevor Bates, LB - There were a couple nice moments, but overall forgettable.

Nick Bellore, FB - We got to see more of Bellore than we had previously and he did a fair job. I was a bit concerned that he was probably the third best blocker during running back blocking drills.

Jace Billingsley, WR - Nothing new to report, he looked okay.

Freddie Bishop, DE/OLB - After hearing he was playing well, I was excited to see Bishop play. I didn’t get to see much of him, however.

LeGarrette Blount, RB - Blount will have a role in the offense grinding out yards, but I expect him to be the second or third most important running back on gameday. He didn’t do much work early in drills when the OL was on point, and he was hit at the line a lot by the time he was getting work because the protection broke down.

Matt Cassel, QB - Cassel took almost every snap in team drills behind Stafford and looked pretty bad with them. Arm strength is below mediocre and accuracy was spotty.

Tyrell Crosby, OT - It wasn’t the breakout performance we saw on Sunday, but Crosby had a bunch of good snaps today. He and Jeremiah Valoaga traded hits on Sunday, but today Crosby won almost every rep, showing that he’s likely improving.

Joe Dahl, OG - Dahl didn’t make an impression on Sunday, but I was able to catch much more of him this time. He was one of five players snapping the ball to the quarterbacks and that versatility could be his road to the roster this season.

Antwuan Davis, CB - Davis didnt’ show up much.

Jarrad Davis, LB - There weren’t any noticeable gaffes that I saw, though he didn’t stand out positively very much either. Had a ‘sack’ in goal line drills, but that was mostly due to coverage. <—Same write up as last time, including the ‘sack’.

Taylor Decker, OT - A great performance for much of the day, the second half of the day was a completely different story and Decker was getting beaten along with his linemates.

Quandre Diggs, SS - Diggs played more nickel than safety this time and had a good go of it for the most part.

Josh Fatu, DT - Fatu was taking third-team nose tackle reps. In person, it’s very clear he’s likely headed to the practice squad to lose some bad weight and put on muscle.

Dontez Ford, WR - I didn’t see much of Ford in team drills, but he looked stiff and clunky when compared to the other receivers in individual drills.

Mike Ford, CB - Was able to catch a few reps from Ford this time and there wasn’t much to get excited about unfortunately. He got beat on both reps I caught, once underneath and once on a double move. Neither passes went his way.

Jonathan Freeny, LB - While Freeny was one of the worst players on the field on Sunday, he looked much better in this one. In RB blocking drills, Freeny was able to get the best of several backs and was one of the better defenders in those drills.

Graham Glasgow, OC - Like the other OL, it was a tale of two halves.

Kenny Golladay, WR - Golladay struggled some on Sunday so I was hoping to see a bounce back. Instead, Golladay had one egregious drop and was knocked off his routes repeatedly by multiple defensive backs. He’s the player I’ll be watching closest on Friday.

Da’Shawn Hand, DL - Still not practicing.

Kerry Hyder, DL - Hyder looked okay in the second half of practice, but he was overshadowed by the play of RJF, Sylvester Williams, and Anthony Zettel.

Ricky Jean Francois, DL - There have been several stories about Jean Francois since he was signed, but I was surprised to see just how quickly he was up to speed and how well he was playing. I expect Ricky Jean Francois to start for the Lions, but I wasn’t expecting a player who beat on offensive linemen every snap. It’s only one practice, but he looks like a very good addition so far.

Cam Johnson, DE/OLB - Injured a few days ago, I didn’t see him so I suppose he’s still hurt.

Kerryon Johnson, RB - Johnson looked great every time he touched the ball on Sunday, but he only saw a few touches. This time he saw the ball far more, and somehow managed to still look great every time. On the day, he caught multiple fantastic passes despite good coverage, looked like the most complete pass blocker among backs, and made you physically agitated when he left the field so other backs could get touches.

Toby Johnson, DT - I never noticed him.

Wesley Johnson, OC - My lowest rated player actually had a good day today. I only saw him for a few reps, but he completely washed Jalen Reeves-Maybin to spring Zach Zenner for a long run.

Marvin Jones Jr., WR - More of the same, Jones schooling defensive backs.

Chris Jones, CB - He still exists and is currently on the roster.

Christian Jones, LB - I didn’t see Christian Jones, good or bad.

TJ Jones, WR - It wasn’t as great of a day for Jones. He was up and down on kick return drills and didn’t dominate receiver drills like he did previously.

Miles Killebrew, SS - Killebrew hasn’t done much and the only snap I caught of him was getting beaten badly by a comeback route.

Leo Koloamatangi, OC - I only caught Koloamatangi during the second half of practice when the offensive line was getting beaten routinely. It wasn’t great.

Chris Lacy, WR - I was excited to catch Lacy after he looked good on Sunday. He... did not this time. Teez Tabor beat Lacy on every route and I don’t think Lacy caught a single pass all day.

T.J. Lang, OG - I didn’t catch much of Lang in the second half of practice, but he was fantastic in the early drills.

Nevin Lawson, CB - Lawson was at best fourth or fifth on the depth chart on Sunday, but he alternated with DeShawn Shead to start across from Slay today. It wasn’t just snaps, Lawson looked good for most of the reps, too. Most notably, Lawson beat Kenny Golladay on several reps, even getting his hand in the way once, despite the huge difference in size. He capped off a good day by breaking up a back shoulder pass meant for Marvin Jones in the end zone.

Jeremiah Ledbetter, DL - Ledbetter had a much better day than he had previously, though I didn’t get to see many reps of him.

Steve Longa, LB - One of my favorite reps of the day was Steve Longa popping Kerryon Johnson in the mouth during pass rush drills. It was a good rep from Longa, even if he didn’t beat Johnson in the drill.

Marcus Lucas, TE - Lucas caught a single pass on a wheel and that’s all I saw of him.

Bradley Marquez, WR - Never saw him.

Sam Martin, P - Martin has had a good camp, but he did very little today. The ST drills I was able to catch all had to deal with kickoffs, with Prater or Santoso doing the kicks.

Stefan McClure, FS - Now I’m beginning to doubt he’s real.

Sean McGrath, TE - Though several of the tight ends stuck out, McGrath wasn’t one of them.

Chad Meredith, LB - Nothing to say.

Brian Mihalik, OT - Mihalik got work both early when the line was doing well and late when they were not.

Rolan Milligan, FS - Another poor showing by Milligan. Last time it was run support, this time it was coverage.

John Montelus, OG - Never saw him.

Don Muhlbach, LS - During camp, he developed his own martial arts style and negotiated peace between several foreign nations.

Brandon Powell, WR - After a strong showing last time, I saw very little out of Powell even when he was on the field.

Matt Prater, K - Prater is still himself.

Glover Quin, FS - As great as always.

Frank Ragnow, OG - Ragnow was very good early in the day, but struggled later in the team drills, especially in run blocking.

Teo Redding, WR - Redding took a ton of reps as a returner so we finally got to see some of his speed. If the Lions decide to go with a speedster for that final receiver spot, Redding could be the dude.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin, OLB - JRM got a ton of work in coverage but, unfortunately for him it was the duty of covering Kerryon Johnson and he wasn’t able to do so even when he did his job well. It wasn’t a bad day overall, but it’s already hard to judge linebackers in coverage during training camp without bringing Kerryon Johnson into this.

Theo Riddick, RB - Riddick looked fine. He was as good as always in receiving and blocking drills, but what was most noteworthy was something outside of his control. Kerryon Johnson looked amazing catching passes in every part of the field, and that may mean fewer targets for Riddick.

Christian Ringo, DT - I saw nothing positive on the day. Again.

Michael Roberts, TE - Roberts stood on the sideline in a hoodie all day.

A’Shawn Robinson, DT - Robinson saw far fewer snaps on the day than I’m used to seeing. It could just be getting Ricky Jean Francois up to speed, but Robinson didn’t get much work.

Corey Robinson, OT - Robinson was the first right tackle on the second team, but he didn’t do much before Mihalik took over. I’d say they’re both on equal footing at the moment.

Jake Rudock, QB - Rudock looked really bad early in the day while the rest of the offense was thriving. He’d spend the rest of the day working in individual drills or on the sideline, with Cassel taking nearly every team drill snap with second team.

Darnell Sankey, LB - Sankey saw some work later in the day when the defense was doing well, but I didn’t see much of him personally.

Ryan Santoso, P - Santoso did little punting (most ST drills were kick coverage). He did some kickoffs, however, but most of them landed well short of the end zone. It’s possible that was by design, but it seemed to be only him that was kicking that shallow.

DeShawn Shead, CB - Shead continued his strong camp and looked good no matter who he was covering.

Darius Slay, CB - Slay is extremely hard to get open against, and his camp has looked like he’s ready to go to yet another Pro Bowl. Golden Tate never got open, but he did make a couple of contested catches. It says a lot when you get your hands on the only passes you allow on the day.

Dan Skipper, OT - Skipper is still tall, but did little. I’m not sure he’s even getting many snaps.

Matthew Stafford, QB - Looked like himself mostly, but there was an odd series of passes where Stafford sailed several passes in a row.

Teez Tabor, CB - Tabor had a much better day than he did on Sunday when I was at camp. Most of it was while covering Chris Lacy, but Tabor was sticky in coverage and made few wrong moves. It was a nice bounce back.

Golden Tate, WR - It was a great day from Tate. He made two of the best catches of the day, both while being covered by Darius Slay and both in contested coverage where the defensive back got his hand on the football.

Levine Toilolo, TE - Toilolo isn’t fast, but he’s big and the Lions may find some use for that in the red zone. He ran several pick plays and it may be a cheap way to score on the goal line if they can’t punch it in.

Hakeem Valles, TE - In 2017, Valles was mentioned often as a player that could make some waves. I never saw much to back up that sort of observation, but Holy Receiving Tight End, Batman we got some of that today. Valles was the best tight end on the field today. Yes, I know we get flash in the pan players all the time and this very well could be that, but Valles had no real missteps that I saw. His best catch of the day was over the middle of the field where he caught the pass, turned upfield, and dodged Glover Quin.

Jeremiah Valoaga, DE - There wasn’t any crazy pass rushes, and Valoaga got beat routinely at the beginning of camp, but later when the defense took it up a notch he was right there busting into the backfield.

Rick Wagner, OT - Another day of beating pass rushers, Wagner tapered off later in the day, especially in the run game, like the rest of the line.

Tracy Walker, FS - As hard as I tried, I didn’t see Walker once all day.

Charles Washington, FS - Washington had a fantastic play late in the day on Teo Redding. Redding adjusted to an underthrown pass and high pointed the ball, but Washington caught him on the way down and knocked the ball out.

Dwayne Washington, RB - Washington has become a bit of a punching bag for his poor play, so it’s notable whenever he has a good play. When he has a good day, and in fact makes so many good plays that you could argue he was one of the better backs on the day, it’s very notable. On kick returns, Washington muffed a kick and put it on the dirt, but other than that mistake he generally had a great day in every other way.

JoJo Wicker, DL - I’m calling it. JoJo Wicker isn’t a real person. Someone is playing a prank having him listed on the roster.

Kenny Wiggins, OG - After a strong day Sunday, I was excited to see if Wiggins could follow it up. Unfortunately, I caught very little of him.

Sylvester Williams, DT - Williams took a majority of the nose tackle snaps and was one of the driving forces for the defensive surge later in the day.

Luke Willson, TE - With Michael Roberts injured, my expectation was that Willson would get the majority of the vacated snaps. Instead, we saw very little of Willson. It’s not that he played poorly, mind you. When he was on the field he showed an ability to separate and has a noticeable chemistry with Matthew Stafford.

Tavon Wilson, SS - Wilson was back on the field with the red jersey off, but there was very little positive or negative to talk about.

Zach Zenner, RB - It was a fair day for Zenner. Not only did he look good in pass blocking drills, like expected, he played a ton of snaps with the first team offense. This was most notable during the two minute offense where Zenner was the first back to see the field.

Anthony Zettel, DE - A bounce back day from Anthony Zettel saw him blasting tight end and tackles alike and making life difficult for the offense. Run defense was where he did the most damage, and he was hard to move off the ball.