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Detroit Lions OTA Day 5 observations: Jahlani Tavai gets some time with the first team

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Our observations from Thursday’s practice.

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions took the practice field on Thursday, hoping to get an opportunity to work on ball security on a rainy day.

“As far as today with practice, we’re going to try to go outside,” head coach Matt Patricia said before the team broke for practice. “I know it’s raining out – I haven’t really seen it yet. We do have new fields out there, so I don’t really feel like tearing them up. But they’ve actually done a great job of holding up with the rain. Good opportunity for us to work on some ball-handling, some things in the wet weather that you never know when they’re going to come up, so you take advantage of those opportunities when you can.”

Well, unfortunately (fortunately?) for Patricia and the Lions, the sun immediately came out as the team took the field for a beautiful two-hour stretch of football activities.

Here are our observations from Day 5 of OTAs:

Jahlani Tavai getting some first-team work

In “base” formations, it was still Devon Kennard, Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones working with the first team, but in positional drills and certain subpackages, we saw—for the first time publicly—Davis and second-round rookie Tavai working alongside each other. For the most part, it was still Davis patrolling the middle with Tavai on the outside, but Tavai was getting work all over the place, including his normal spot as the middle linebacker for the second team.

Frank Ragnow stays at center

The offensive line remained the same as last week. From left to right: Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner. The second team was also the same: Tyrell Crosby, Joe Dahl, Leo Koloamatangi, Oday Aboushi and Andrew Donnal.

With Ragnow now taking part at center in at least three of five practices, it certainly looks like this positional switch is more than just a test of versatility. At this point, Ragnow is the favorite to start at center this year.

Another minor note on the offensive line: Kenny Wiggins spent some time with the twos as a replacement for Joe Dahl. Dahl, on those limited reps, spent time as a fullback, since Nick Bawden remained with trainers on Thursday.

Tom Savage looks sharp

As we head towards mandatory minicamp next week and training camp in late July, it looks like Savage has a firm grasp on the backup position over Connor Cook. Savage drew some audible gasps from media members with some serious displays of arm strength Thursday.

In a goal-line drill, Savage’s arm cannon was really on display. He fit several balls into small windows, which allowed the offense to beat the defense and had defenders doing pushups at the end of the drill.

You can see one rep of that drill at the 16 second mark here:

His deep ball accuracy remains an issue, especially on the run, but he impressed today more than any backup in recent memory.

Participation

I’m going to split this into three categories: Completely absent (not on the field), mostly with trainers (in attendance, but not working with position groups), very limited (with position groups, but not going through most drills).

Completely absent: Darius Slay, Damon Harrison Sr., Tommylee Lewis
Mostly with trainers: Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, Nick Bawden, Steve Longa, Isaac Nauta, David Jones
Very limited: Trey Flowers, Austin Bryant, Justin Coleman

It was a step in the right direction for Flowers and Bryant, who spent most of their time with trainers last week.

Note: ESPN’s Michael Rothstein is reporting that Matt Prater was also absent. I can’t confirm nor deny that as I spent no time watching special teams.

No standouts at wideout

One of my positions to watch was wide receiver. With Jones and Golladay still sidelined, I was hoping that someone would differentiate themselves from the pack. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I noted Andy Jones with a drop, Travis Fulgham with a drop, Deontez Alexander with two, and no significant plays from anyone else in the wide receiver corps.

The best catch of the day came from Danny Amendola, who made a twisting grab over the middle of the field. For a good portion of practice (five minutes or so), Matthew Stafford was working exclusively with Amendola in the middle of the field, while the backups worked with the rest of the wide receiver corps.

Random observations

  • Teez Tabor, again, made the defensive play of the day. He had an excellent pass breakup on Amendola on a comeback route. Barely a step behind, Tabor showed some rare closing speed that allowed him to get the PBU.
  • A’Shawn Robinson got into a very minor scuffle with Oday Aboushi. A little rare to see before the pads came on, but no blows were thrown.
  • Logan Thomas appears to be the early favorite to win the TE3 job. He was getting a lot of reps with the first and second team on Thursday.
  • Like last week, Da’Shawn Hand was the last guy off the field, as he helped mentor two undrafted rookie defensive tackles on their technique: Ray Smith and Kevin Strong
  • Additionally, the entire linebacking crew stayed on the field after sprints. The meeting appeared to be led by Jarrad Davis among others. Also included in that group was Eric Lee and Austin Bryant: