With Week 1 of training camp in the books, let’s take a look at five observations made from yours truly, after attending this weekend’s practices.
1. The Hock God hype is for real
I figured we’d get this one out of the way, since you’re probably getting tired of hearing the hype surrounding T.J. Hockenson (you’re probably not) and his domination during training camp practices.
After reading about Hockenson’s performance in OTAs and the first two days of practice, I was excited to see how he fared this weekend, and I was not disappointed. I’ve been told Hock has not dropped a single pass in four days, and has made several spectacular catches, to boot. On Sunday Hockenson laid out for a ball along the sideline after getting over the top of Will Harris. His confidence is through the roof right now.
2. With so many injuries surfacing on the D-line, a few players are making the most of their opportunities
The Lions were down to just four defensive linemen on Sunday due to some players leaving practice early with some injuries. Mitchell Loewen is someone that stood out to me on Saturday after he ran straight through Kenny Wiggins in 11-on-11 drills. Overall, he had a great practice with the ones. On Sunday, he continued to shine, getting into the backfield for a tackle for a loss during red zone drills, but just a play or two later, he left practice early after getting sealed off in the run game by Nick Bawden.
With A’Shawn Robinson still absent from practice, Snacks still on the NFI, Mike Daniels waiting to put the pads on and Da’Shawn Hand leaving practice early on Sunday, the Lions dug deep into their reserves on the interior. It ended up being Kevin Strong that impressed on the interior, creating significant push on at least a couple plays and even lined up all across the line.
3. The corners have had their ups and downs, but the depth is the best it's ever been
Darius Slay being on the NFI has been a great experience for someone like Teez Tabor to get some reps with the ones and line up across from the likes of Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay. I’ve been impressed with how much he has improved over the course of just one year, and it appears that he is really putting in the work to get better every day. Occasionally, you’ll see the speed issues, as he got burned by Marvin Jones on Saturday, but it’s not happening nearly as much as previous years and he’s getting his hands on the ball far more often this year.
Amani Oruwariye has also settled in a bit after a rough start to training camp and had a couple of nice practices over the weekend. Over the course of three days, he had both hands around the ball at least three times. Though he didn’t come up with any interceptions, his positioning has improved more and more each day, especially in zone coverage, where he seems to be getting a better feel. I also liked what I saw from him in run support. He showed some nice effort and technique to rip his way through a block and meet the ball carrier near the sideline on one rep.
Mike Ford has been repping low on the depth chart, but has stood out slightly to me after making nice plays on the ball in back-to-back days. Across from Teez playing with the first-team has been Rashaan Melvin, who has been pretty quiet in a good way. He broke up a pass on Saturday in tight coverage and didn’t give up any bad completions on Sunday either. He’s been consistent from what I saw, and that’s a good sign for him as he competes for the starting CB2 spot.
4. The linebackers are going to rush the passer often
We saw a little bit of this from Jarrad Davis last year with positive results, and we’re likely going to see a heavier dosage with the addition of Jahlani Tavai. Both players joined the D-linemen on Sunday for one-on-one drills against the offensive line and both impressed. I didn’t get to see Davis’ rep, but he reportedly blew by his guy nearly untouched. I was able to see Tavai’s rep from far away, and his elite flexibility is obvious, as he was able to bend his way around the corner and get to his target with ease.
Tavai stepped into the JACK linebacker spot with Devon Kennard out and looked fairly comfortable. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from him so far no matter where he is on the field, and the athleticism concern hasn’t really reared its ugly head just yet for the second-round pick.
5. The offense has a completely different feel under Bevell
It’s not just the addition of Hockenson or the signing of Danny Amendola. The offense looks plenty different under Bevell than it did with Jim Bob Cooter. Get ready for an abundance of 12 personnel and some actual, real pre-snap motion. Bevell also hinted at a more mobile Stafford, likely meaning more rollouts for the QB. On Sunday, Stafford took part in a drill where he would start rolling out to one side of the field and then quickly spin to the other side as if evading a pass rusher to throw the football while on the run.