The Lions held yet another open practice at Allen Park Tuesday, offering fans a chance to get a glimpse of their training camp operations. There was a little bit of just about everything, except for live action special teams. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s practice:
1. There’s a real competition at wide receiver
The top three receivers are pretty clear-cut on the Lions roster: Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, and Danny Amendola. It was assumed when the Lions signed Jermaine Kearse that he would fill the number four receiver role, but he has been quiet thus far in training camp. The rest of the receivers have not.
Brandon Powell was seen working with the first-team offense on some interesting play designs. I’ll refrain from specifics, due to team restrictions, but let’s just say they are finding different ways to get the ball in his hands.
Travis Fulgham also had a solid day. He didn’t have any miscues in individual drills, and on one play where Matthew Stafford was flushed out of the pocket he threw deep to Fulgham on the run, and Fulgham adjusted his body to make the catch in double coverage downfield.
Later on in the day, Stafford drew defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen offsides with a hard count and heaved the ball downfield to a receiver that was either Fulgham or Chris Lacy, and the receiver made an almost identical play to the one Fulgham made earlier.
It’s worth noting that on another play Kearse was also downfield in double coverage and tried to make a one-handed snag, but failed, much to the crowd’s dismay. He’s certainly not doing himself any favors thus far.
2. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a sleeper at linebacker
There were some reports that this offseason JRM bulked up about 10 pounds without losing any of his speed or explosion. Those reports seem to be true. Reeves-Maybin still isn’t as thickly built as someone like Jahlani Tavai, but he’s certainly a bit beefier than he has been in previous years.
As for his performance after putting on said weight, there is certainly more good than bad. In individual drills, Reeves-Maybin was in tight coverage all day. On one drill rep in particular, running back C.J. Anderson made a nice cut on an out route which left Reeves-Maybin two steps behind him, but he was able to make up the gap and stick his arm out with great timing to force an incompletion.
I thought at the beginning of practice when JRM was repping with the second-team kickoff unit that this could be the beginning of his end with the Lions, but it was in fact the opposite, a testament to his promotion. He spent quite some time working with the second-team defense, and his new beefier frame that fits the mold of what Matt Patricia looks for in linebackers could serve Reeves-Maybin very well this season.
3. Kerryon Johnson needs to work on his pass blocking
The second year running back struggled in one-on-one pass protection drills today. At one point he let defenders around the edge on two consecutive reps, with his faults looking almost identical. It seems that Johnson sets hit feet to engage the defender, but forgets to keep them moving. At that point he’s left reaching with his arms, and defenders can easily rip underneath his outstretched arms and get past him.
The departure of Theo Riddick means other running backs are going to have to step up in pass protection, figuratively and literally, and working on that should be a point of emphasis for Johnson heading into the season.