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Detroit Lions Day 6 training camp observations: Defense dominates

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The defense—especially the defensive backs—were all over the place on Wednesday morning.

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

This offseason, turnovers was a big focus for the Detroit Lions, as it tends to be every year. Detroit forced just 14 turnovers last season, and that mark stood for the second fewest in the league.

The team responded by adding a few playmakers on defense this year: Trey Flowers, Mike Daniels, Andrew Adams and Justin Coleman, among others.

And during Wednesday’s training camp practice, the playmaking ability of the Lions defense was on full display.

Here are my observations from Day 6 of Lions camp:

Participation notes:

The only big change from Tuesday’s practice was that cornerback Marcus Cooper was not in pads today, while Devon Kennard was. Unfortunately, Kennard didn’t do much at practice anyways, but he’s clearly trending in the right direction.

Additionally, Romeo Okwara finally moved from limited participation to a full participant, taking over as the starting down end on defense while Trey Flowers remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Here are the players who did not participate nor wear full pads on Wednesday:

  • Christian Jones
  • Malik Carney
  • Jonathan Wynn
  • Da’Shawn Hand
  • Austin Bryant
  • Mike Daniels
  • Marcus Cooper
  • Tommylee Lewis (PUP)
  • Steve Longa (PUP)
  • Trey Flowers (PUP)
  • Darius Slay (NFI)
  • Darius Kilgo (NFI)
  • Damon Harrison Sr. (NFI)

If you’re looking for signs of optimism, Da’Shawn Hand was in a cheery mood leaving the field, chatting it up with the media. Here’s a look at the brace he’s currently sporting on his left arm:

Finally, it looked like Jarrad Davis got a little dinged up towards the end of practice. It didn’t seem major and I didn’t see him spend time with trainers. However, he was held out of the final 11-on-11 drills.

Defense dominates (Teez Tabor mandatory update)

Let’s start right there with the defensive domination. They won just about every single 11-on-11 drill, especially in the secondary. Teez Tabor had at least three pass breakups in the first 40 minutes of practice. He had a pass deflection on Marvin Jones early, punched a ball out of Jones’ arms in a one-on-one drill, and had good coverage on a deep ball to Marvin in 11-on-11s. That being said, Kenny Golladay did get the best of Tabor on a red zone fade for a 20-yard touchdown.

Elsewhere, Tracy Walker had himself a day. He dominated reps against Andy Jones in one-on-ones. He had a pick six in seven-on-sevens while in coverage against T.J. Hockenson. Though, to be fair, the pass from Matthew Stafford was well behind Hockenson. He also had a pass breakup on Logan Thomas.

Twice during practice, the Lions did a single 11-on-11 rep, loser does pushups. Each time the defense won the play with ease, and it was like that all day long.

It is worth noting that much of the day was spent in third-and-long situations, but it didn’t seem to matter whether it was team drills, third-down drills, or seven-on-sevens, the Lions DBs were dominant.

Offensive line update

For the first time all camp, the Lions had the same first-string lineup in consecutive days. It was the Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner show on Wednesday.

However, there was a notable shakeup for the second team offense. Luke Bowanko, who has been repping as the No. 2 center for almost all of camp, slid over to left guard. Joe Dahl, who has played just about every this summer, took Bowanko’s spot at center.

RBs vs. LBs

The Lions ran two consecutive drills that pitted their running backs against their linebackers. First, the running backs were tasked with pass protection one-on-one—a drill that heavily favors the linebackers. As Hamza Baccouche noted on Tuesday, this is a drill that Kerryon Johnson has struggled with, and Wednesday was no exception, as Jalen Reeves-Maybin blew by Johnson on a rep.

Surprisingly, Ty Johnson looked decent at this drill, suggesting that maybe he could be a younger, faster Theo Riddick clone. Of course, no one repped better on offense than Nick Bawden, but that was to be expected from the fullback.

What’s interesting is that immediately after that drill, the tables turned. The linebackers were then in one-on-one with the running backs in coverage drills—a drill that heavily favors the running backs. Kerryon Johnson decleated Jarrad Davis with a big juke on the very first rep, but Davis bounced back with a nice, physical play against Zach Zenner.

As expected, Jalen Reeves-Maybin remains Detroit’s best coverage linebacker.

Perhaps the most discouraging sign was a rough rep from Jahlani Tavai, who let Nick Bawden slide by him easily. You can’t let a fullback get by you in those drills, even if they’re heavily slanted in the offense’s favor.

Drill of the Day (DOUBLE)

Because there was no drill of the day on Tuesday, you get two today.

First, the Lions worked on an intense goal-line tackling drill. Two players—one ball carrier, one defender—would line up on the 3-yard line and the 1-yard line respectively. At the whistle, the defender would simply try to stop the rusher from crossing the goal line. Jarrad Davis’ physicality was evident to anyone watching (or listening).

Additionally, it was HILL DAY! At the end of practice, the Lions passed over their normal sprints to head to the hill at the back of the practice field. Just about every single player not injured went through the drill, in two separate lines: one for the steep side of the hill, one for the flatter side. The team spent around seven to 10 minutes there, before finishing up with stretches.

Odds and ends

  • Not a particularly strong day from Stafford. After the aforementioned poor throw on the pick six, he followed it up with a bad overthrow to Danny Amendola, who had a good step or two on his defender.
  • Speaking of Amendola, he was just about the only player the Lions couldn’t cover on Wednesday. He’s easily been the most consistent receiver on the team, and is clearly the best route runner.
  • Rough day for Dee Virgin, who caught two flags during one session of one-on-one drills from the referees who were out in Allen Park for the first time this training camp.
  • A couple of good plays from Chris Lacy to finish practice. First, he elevated over two defenders to make a leaping catch, but just barely landed out of bounds. The very next play, he scored on a pick play that left him wide open.
  • The Lions were shut down in just about every third-and-long situation on Wednesday. The lone exception: A perfectly laid pass from Tom Savage to Deontez Alexander on a crossing route that would’ve gone for at least 30 yards.
  • One player did not get enough of the hill during practice. Rookie tight end Isaac Nauta spent at least five minutes after practicing running up and down the hill on his own.
  • Lastly, Nick Bawden was seen early in practice getting some long snapping in. Because I was told if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything, let’s just say you don’t want Don Muhlbach to suffer any sort of injury this year.