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Detroit Lions training camp observations: Jahlani Tavai assumes big role in Day 1

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Recapping the opening day of Detroit Lions 2019 training camp.

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

It was a slow start to Detroit Lions training camp on Thursday morning, as the team opened up practice for the 2019 season. The team was out of pads, there wasn’t a lot of contact, and for most of the practice, they were at a walk-through or slightly faster pace.

There were obviously some 11-on-11 full drills, but for the most part, it was clear the Lions were going to ease into things to kick off training camp.

Here are my observations from Day 1:

Participation

As expected, everyone on the injury list did not particpate in Thursday’s practice. That inlcludes:

PUP list:

  • Tommylee Lewis
  • Steve Longa
  • Trey Flowers

NFI list:

  • Darius Slay
  • Darius Kilgo
  • Damon Harrison Sr.

Additionally, Malik Carney was working with trainers for the majority of practice.

There was one wild card, though. A’Shawn Robinson was not there at practice. Robinson was also a little limited during OTAs and minicamp, not participating in a lot of team drills, but Thursday he was nowhere to be found.

Earlier in the week defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni noted that everyone had reported to camp, so this doesn’t appear to be a holdout, but it’s not clear why Robinson wasn’t out there on Thursday.

First-team offense looks sharp

There weren’t a lot of full-team drills on Thursday, but during goal-line drills Matthew Stafford and the first team receivers looked dominant. Stafford hit Kenny Golladay with a beautiful back-shoulder throw while Rashaan Melvin was in close coverage. A few plays later, he found Marvin Jones Jr. by splitting the zone, leaving the starting defense to do push-ups.

T.J. Hockenson living up to the hype

Much like OTAs and minicamp, Hockenson continues to look like the real deal. He was the source of the first “oohs” and “ahs” with a nice leaping touchdown grab, one of a few he had on the day. We’ll still have to see how he is as an in-line blocker, but as a receiver and route-runner, Hockenson has pretty much looked unblemished thus far in practice.

The same can’t be said for his compatriots in the tight end group. Isaac Nauta had a bad drop. Logan Thomas ran a perfect route and had two steps on Tavon Wilson, but he, too, had a rough drop. Jesse James had a pretty quiet day. All things are trending for Hockenson to be TE1 in Week 1.

Jarrad Davis looking frustrated

While the first-team offense was putting it on the defense, Davis was wearing his emotions on his sleeve. There were a few breakdowns in coverage resulting in open receivers. It’s impossible to tell who exactly is at fault with where we were situated and a lack of replay, but it was clear Davis was not happy with either himself or someone else.

Jahlani Tavai: Starter?

If you though the Lions may take second-round pick Jahlani Tavai slowly, Thursday’s practice would suggest otherwise. He received most of his work with the first team, mainly taking away Christian Jones’ responsibilities.

That being said, the Lions did a lot of shuffling with their linebackers. Both Tavai and Davis split time in the middle. Jones actually played some “JACK” linebacker with the second team, as well as his typical off-ball linebacker role.

Offensive line update

As expected, Frank Ragnow remained at center for Day 1 of training camp with Graham Glasgow at right guard. Kenny Wiggins was your starting left guard, although the Lions rotated Joe Dahl in at center and left guard a little throughout the day. As far as I could tell, Oday Aboushi was strictly with the twos on Thursday.

Tyrell Crosby also got a little bit of time with the first-team as the left tackle. At this point, it’s clear Crosby is their primary backup at the tackle position, while it looks like Dahl may hold that honor along the interior line.

Mandatory Teez Tabor update

With Darius Slay sidelined, it was once again Teez Tabor and Rashaan Melvin manning the outside corner position. While Tabor had a pretty quiet day, he did have one of the better pass breakups on the day.

The play of the day actually came from free agent signing safety Andrew Adams, who stepped in front of a Tom Savage pass for the only interception of the day. Adams actually saw a little playing time with the first-team in three safety sets.

Drill of the Day

I chuckled a little bit when the Lions pulled out a new, quick drill with just about everyone on the team participating. Basically, two players lined up across from one another. They would move toward each other and one would essentially lift the other up almost like a dance move. It was clearly to work on leverage and upward motion while blocking/tackling, but it just looked funny watching 50 200-300 pound players do this in unison. Additionally, Christian Jones put Jarrad Davis on his back during one rep.

Odds and ends:

  • Here are the players that split reps for punt return duty: Brandon Powell, Danny Amendola, Tom Kennedy, Jamal Agnew and Quandre Diggs
  • Get ready: Chris Lacy is going to be the annual wide receiver training camp darling. Repping with the twos and threes, he looks a level above his competition.
  • Mike Ford is repping way down with the third team (behind Amani Oruwariye), but he had a nice breakup while covering Deontez Alexander.
  • Interesting note after practice: After two hours of padless practice, several players—mainly defensive linemen and linebackers—put on pads and worked on contract drills off to the side. I didn’t see that happen once last year.