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Detroit Lions final OTA observations: Offense finishes strong over defense

The offense finished OTAs ahead of the defense.

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

The Detroit Lions wrapped up their organized team activities on a cool Thursday morning. We were on hand to watch their final practice before training camp, so here are our final OTA observations for 2019.


Practice was a little lighter than normal, and not just because Michael Roberts had been traded to New England.

Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay remained sidelined from team activities, but on Thursday receivers Tommylee Lewis and Chris Lacy joined them. Both of those depth receivers were injured earlier in the month and neither participated in individual drills on Thursday.

The running back squad was equally trimmed, as both Theo Riddick and C.J. Anderson were nowhere to be found.

Finally, there were a couple new names on the defensive side of the ball. Starting linebacker Christian Jones did not participate, and appeared to be sporting a slight limp. That left second-round rookie Jahlani Tavai to start at the will linebacker spot all practice. Depth cornerback Marcus Cooper didn’t appear to be present on Thursday.

In positive injury news, rookie tight end Isaac Nauta appears to be close to a full return. He didn’t participate in team drills, but he did more during positional drills than I’ve seen in the past. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a full go at the start of training camp.

Offensive line update

For most of the day, the Lions utilized their most recent offensive front: Taylor Decker, Oday Aboushi, Frank Ragnow, Joe Dahl and Rick Wagner. However, during some red zone drills, they were back to having Kenny Wiggins and Graham Glasgow with the ones.

Also, newly signed center Luke Bowanko got some playing time with the second-team offense.

T.J. Hockenson dominates

All day, it looked like T.J. Hockenson was unguardable. He was especially lethal in red zone drills, where it looked like he pulled in at least three touchdowns on the day. However, it was fellow tight end Logan Thomas who had one of the best plays of practice. In another goal line drill, Thomas somehow managed to out-jump Tracy Walker’s arms and pull down an impressive catch.

It was very easy to see why the Lions moved on from Michael Roberts on Thursday, as Detroit’s tight ends were at their best. However, I did see a couple of drops from Jerome Cunningham.

Two big plays

If not the Thomas catch, there were two other candidates for Play of the Day.

The first came from running back Kerryon Johnson, who burned Tavon Wilson on a route out of the backfield. The pass came up a little short, giving Wilson the opportunity to recover, but Johnson elevated over the safety and pulled down what would’ve been around a 40-yard completion.

The other play came from rookie wideout Travis Fulgham, who outjumped Mike Ford for a big completion that drew some noise from the sidelines. The play put the Lions offense in a first-and-goal situation, and to Ford’s credit, he broke up a pass to Fulgham just two plays later.

Ty Johnson is, indeed, very fast

While we’re on Lions sixth-round picks, Johnson had an opportunity to get more reps on Thursday with Riddick and Anderson out, and he certainly did make an impression. During one set of plays, Johnson was able to easily outrun the Lions’ second-team defense to the edge and pick up potential big gains.

It’s hard to know if Johnson is versatile enough to win a roster spot come September, but he did well for himself on the last day of OTAs.

Random notes:

  • During special teams drills, it was neat to see the entire offensive line take a knee in front of a video screen and basically have an impromptu film session of the plays they just ran.
  • Teez Tabor did have another interception on Thursday on an overthrown deep ball from Matthew Stafford. Tabor wasn’t particularly good the rest of practice, however.
  • That interception came on a fourth-and-10 situation from the offense, who just had a brutal set of plays leading up to that moment. In frustration, Danny Amendola threw his helmet from the middle of the end zone all the way to the sidelines.
  • Despite that string of plays, the offense mostly had the defense’s number all morning. After the offense beat the defense on a red zone drill, Kerryon Johnson was visibly teasing Tracy Walker, who had to do burpees with the rest of the defense.
  • Quandre Diggs took a rep as a punt returner, which was the first time I’ve seen that this offseason. Diggs did have two punt returns last season.