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Mathbomb training camp observations: Defense dominates scrimmage, team drills

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The Lions offense has been its strength, but it’s the defense that has been winning most of the team battles.

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

Saturday marked the last day that I will be able to spend in camp, but it was an awesome day to spend in Allen Park. The Lions ran a scrimmage with the first and second teams sparring the length of the field. What also made this practice unique is that the teams wore different colored jerseys based on whether they were with the first or second team. This was the first time in seven or eight seasons we had a coach all but explaining to the fans where the roster stands. It was pretty enlightening.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford obviously ran with the first team during scrimmage. Matt Cassel ran the second team and while he threw the only touchdown it mostly wasn’t pretty. Jake Rudock only ran two drives, but he did so with the first team group.

Running backs

LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and Ameer Abdullah ran with the first team offense while Kerryon Johnson and the others ran with the second group.

Tight ends

No surprises. Michael Roberts, Luke Willson, and Levine Toilolo were the first team tight ends.

Wide receivers

This one had one of the bigger surprises. The top four receivers were who you’d expect, but the fifth receiver lined up with first team? Bradley Marquez. Everyone else, including Jace Billingsley and Teo Redding, were with the second team.

Offensive line

Behind the starters, we saw Kenny Wiggins, Joe Dahl, Corey Robinson, and... wait... Dan Skipper? That’s your first-team offensive line and top reserves. I wouldn’t read into Tyrell Crosby running with second team, as Frank Ragnow was the only rookie with the first group, but Dan Skipper in the first group was shocking.

Defensive line

Another group with no surprises in terms of who was lined up with which group.

Linebackers

Jalen Reeves-Maybin wore white (second team) while Jonathan Freeny wore blue (first team). Freddie Bishop wore white, but more on him later.

Secondary

The best group of the day, the only items of note were that Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew were with the second team along with Miles Killebrew.

The breakdown

Ameer Abdullah, RB - He had one of his better days in camp. As much as we’re going to see the other backs, it’s difficult to justify keeping any other backs over Abdullah.

Jamal Agnew, CB - Agnew didn’t do anything of note.

Deontez Alexander, WR
Dom Williams, WR
Brian Brown, WR - The guy wearing the No. 3 jersey this time wasn’t noticeable.

Alex Barrett, DE/OLB - Barrett was alright, but he was overshadowed by Hyder on first team and Bishop on second.

Trevor Bates, LB - Bates didn’t do anything I caught.

Nick Bellore, FB - Wasn’t much to say. He might not have gotten much work since there’s no second-team fullback.

Jace Billingsley, WR - Billingsley worked with the second team and I didn’t see much out of him.

Freddie Bishop, DE/OLB - So small aside, I’m a huge Western fan. While I didn’t attend college due to serving in the military, I partied a ton when I was younger and Kalamazoo was my stomping ground. Freddie Bishop was one of my favorite players. I knew he wasn’t really NFL quality coming out in 2013, but I was excited anyway when the team signed him as an undrafted rookie. He looked... not great. The past couple of practices, Bishop has dominated. It’s the second team, so he’s facing the lower end of the roster, but he’s one of the better pass rushers on the team when he’s on the move.

LeGarrette Blount, RB - The run game wasn’t very dynamic, regardless of who was running. The focus was mostly on the passing game, and Blount wasn’t a big part of that.

Matt Cassel, QB - To say Cassel was bad would be accurate. He threw one perfect back-shoulder pass to Teo Redding that could have been thrown by Stafford. The offense under Cassel was sporadic and drops were an issue, but Cassel was mostly poor.

Tyrell Crosby, OT - There wasn’t much to point out for Crosby on Saturday.

Joe Dahl, OG - With T.J. Lang out, Joe Dahl got first team work. He wasn’t the worst OL on the field (See Skipper, Dan), but he didn’t stand out.

Antwuan Davis, CB - After multiple practices where he didn’t show up good or bad, Davis had a couple of nice moments in scrimmage.

Jarrad Davis, LB - The defensive line did most of the work in this one, Davis didn’t do much to stand out.

Taylor Decker, OT - Decker didn’t have his best day. While he wasn’t terrible, he was very susceptible to inside stunts and Kerry Hyder ate his lunch several times.

Quandre Diggs, SS - Diggs didn’t stand out.

Josh Fatu, DT - I didn’t even notice if Fatu was on the field. And I tried.

Dontez Ford, WR - Ford had a lot of positive moments in 2017, but this camp has not been great. Ford badly dropped a pass where he was wide open that would end a Matt Cassel drive, ending with a field goal.

Mike Ford, CB - With as much as the team invested in Ford, you have to think he’s headed to the practice squad. There’s very little chance he sees a regular season snap, based on his play in camp.

Jonathan Freeny, LB - Freeny seems set for the roster, but I didn’t see him stand out.

Graham Glasgow, OC - Glasgow looked fine.

Kenny Golladay, WR - Golladay has had some issues in camp, but I wanted to provide some context in case it’s been missed. Golladay has been struggling, but he’s often doing the type of plays that he’s struggled with in the past. To that end, we’re talking less about fly routes or fades, where we have no concerns, and crossers and out routes, where we’ve seen Kenny Golladay have problems. In this practice, Golladay ran a simple crosser where he was hit at the line by the safety (I believe it was Wilson), but instead of getting knocked drastically off the line like has been his problem we saw him shake off the hit and run a perfect drag route and catch an easy touchdown (which was negated by penalty). It’s improvement, but I wanted to point out that much of the camp concerns about Golladay are centered around existing issues, and not signalling some kind of regression.

Da’Shawn Hand, DL - I heard he was practicing, but I didn’t see anything.

Kerry Hyder, DL - This was easily the best day of camp for Hyder. Coming back from an achilles injury is difficult for any player, let alone any player who wins primarily with explosion. Hyder was responsible for multiple “sacks” in a variety of ways.

Ricky Jean Francois, DL - Another player hard to explain, RJF may be one of the best pickups in recent years, but it’s not likely because of his on field contributions. While RJF has looked good in drills, it’s his impact on other players that has gotten the most play.

Cam Johnson, DE/OLB - I still think he makes the team, I just don’t have a good reason why.

Kerryon Johnson, RB - Kerryon Johnson has been fantastic in camp. So good, in fact, that I can say that “this wasn’t his best day” doesn’t mean anything at all.

Toby Johnson, DT - I’ve heard good things about Johnson but had seen nothing to back up those observations myself.

Wesley Johnson, OC - Johnson still looks like the 91st guy on a 90-man roster.

Marvin Jones Jr., WR - More of the same. He’s hard to write about, as good as he’s been.

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

Christian Jones, LB - I saw little from this Jones.

TJ Jones, WR - A worse day for TJ, who has had a good camp. He didn’t stand out one way or the other, which is a departure from recent days when he has looked good.

Miles Killebrew, SS - This one hasn’t gotten any better. Killebrew still playing second team behind guys like Rolan Milligan. Unless he picks up a bigger role on special teams, he’s got a long road to the roster.

Leo Koloamatangi, OC - Working with the second team, he looked good in the scrimmage but some of that was just by comparison to the rest of the line who struggled.

Chris Lacy, WR - Lacy is probably just a hair above Brian Brown in that he’s primed for being rotated out.

T.J. Lang, OG - Lang didn’t play.

Nevin Lawson, CB - In my last write up, Lawson played better than anyone on the roster, but he may have contended for that honor on Saturday. I say contender, because Kerry Hyder was better, but it was a very good day by Lawson.

Jeremiah Ledbetter, DL - He had a “sack” during scrimmage and looked generally disruptive against the Lions second squad.

Steve Longa, LB - I looked for Longa to stand out, but he really didn’t on this one.

Marcus Lucas, TE - Lucas caught a single pass on a wheel and that’s all I saw of him. <—my last report which is somehow still accurate.

Bradley Marquez, WR - Marquez made a nice catch in close coverage once in the drills, but otherwise I didn't’ see him. That he’s being repped as the No. 5 WR is both telling and important.

Sam Martin, P - What a bad day from Martin. He was noticeably aggravated with several of his kicks.

Stefan McClure, FS - He exists, but he’s on the fringe.

Sean McGrath, TE - He caught the first pass I’ve seen him catch in camp, but little else.

Chad Meredith, LB - Still an injury scratch.

Brian Mihalik, OT - Robinson snapped in front of him. He was the starter for the second team at LT.

Rolan Milligan, FS - Milligan is the top SS backup, but I’m not one to say that is a good thing. He shows good range, but instincts don’t seem to be great.

John Montelus, OG - Montelus is one that won’t make the team but might make the PS. He’s flashed a mean streak on occasion, but clearly has a long way to go.

Don Muhlbach, LS - As it turns out, Muhlbach not only found the cure for all earthly diseases, he IS the cure. Scientists currently working to inject him directly into everyone’s veins.

Brandon Powell, WR - Nothing to say. He’s out there with second team and looks good on special teams.

Matt Prater, K - Prater is still himself.

Glover Quin, FS - As great as always.

Frank Ragnow, OG - Ragnow has looked very good and it speaks volumes that he was the only rookie that worked with the first team during drills.

Teo Redding, WR - Redding had an excellent touchdown where he adjusted to a back-shoulder pass and caught it for a touchdown. Still, I feel he’s fighting more for a practice squad spot than a roster spot.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin, OLB - JRM continues to play well when he’s on the field, but repped with the second group. Bets are still that he’s poised for a fair sized role in the defense, but not a majority of snaps.

Theo Riddick, RB - Riddick didn’t stand out on the day, which isn’t a common occurrence.

Christian Ringo, DT - He didn’t play all that much.

Michael Roberts, TE - If you had to pick a worst day, this would be it for Roberts. At least two drops, and as many as three, then he fell down on team drills leading to a coach removing him from the field. Not a great return from injury for the second year guy out of Toledo.

A’Shawn Robinson, DT - I don’t think he played.

Corey Robinson, OT - Robinson was the top straight tackle in the rotation. This surprised me as I had him after Mihalik, but his athletic potential makes him worthwhile to keep on the roster.

Jake Rudock, QB - He only ran two drives and neither was noteworthy. The first saw a stalled drive lead to a field goal and the second saw two near interceptions lead to the same. Rudock is comfortable throwing to a narrow cone in front of him, but anything outside the hashes or further than a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage and it’s sailing.

Darnell Sankey, LB - He had the play of the game, but did little otherwise. I’ve heard others state that he has stood out in camp, but I have no personal observations to back that up outside of the pick six.

Ryan Santoso, P - Santoso both punted and kicked. While he was second team (blue jersey in both punting and kicking), it was refreshing to see him perform adequately (but not good) in punting drills. He made a long field goal through the skinny posts, but missed a short one through the regular ones.

DeShawn Shead, CB - Shead looked fine again.

Darius Slay, CB - The best cover corner on the roster looked like that. Again. Nearly picked off Jake Rudock who had thrown to the inside shoulder of a receiver running to the end zone (which is to say that he threw it directly to Slay and the only reason it wasn’t picked is because Slay only turned at the final moment to get hit with the ball).

Dan Skipper, OT - Skipper has one real attribute. He’s tall. That he’s repping as high as he has been is impressive to me. No player who looks as bad as he does on a regular basis lasts in the NFL, but he has, so it’s worth watching. He’s 6-foot-10 and playing at guard, which is odd even if he had the talent to make it a discussion.

Matthew Stafford, QB - He good.

Teez Tabor, CB - Tabor has been repping with second team but led to the play of the game when he broke up a crosser that led to a pick six. With more of those, he makes a case for first team (where he still isn’t repping).

Golden Tate, WR - Tate still looks good.

Levine Toilolo, TE - Toilolo looked good in blocking drills, which is what he was brought in for.

Hakeem Valles, TE - Looked fine in reserve duty. Has made several catches in camp that make him a decent option if one of the top three guys go down. I heard it floated that the Lions may carry four tight ends, and if that’s true Valles is the guy.

Jeremiah Valoaga, DE - I only ever saw Valoaga struggle, but it’s worth noting that on every play whether good or bad he was back with Bo Davis trying to find a wrinkle.

Rick Wagner, OT - Wagner looked fine for the most part.

Tracy Walker, FS - I saw Walker several times getting his hands dirty while tackling. While he’s more known for coverage than run support and tackling, he looked good in that role.

Charles Washington - He looked fine for a reserve player.

Dwayne Washington, RB - Washington looked okay in what little action he saw.

JoJo Wicker, DL - Wicker did little. He’s repping at the very back of the second squad.

Kenny Wiggins, OG - Wiggins played a little center and reportedly whiffed badly on a snap that led to a Matt Cassel safety. I say reportedly because I thought it was Wesley Johnson who snapped that one, but whoever did it looked really bad.

Sylvester Williams, DT - Williams took a majority of the nose tackle snaps and looked really good.

Luke Willson, TE - I saw little from Wilson.

Tavon Wilson, SS -Wilson is your starting strong safety, but his inconsistent play seems to be here to stay.

Zach Zenner, RB - Both scrimmage teams did little running, so the running backs didn’t get a lot of work. Zenner caught some dump stuff, but did little else.

Anthony Zettel, DE - Zettel has looked like the best pass rusher in camp, but he hasn’t stood out enough to make me comfortable with that.