The Detroit Lions square off against the New England Patriots in the first preseason game of 2019 this week and will be wrapping up their joint practices some time before. We were once again in camp to watch the team face off against the Pats, and, as per usual, we’re going to take stock of where the players on the roster stand. I got a much better view of the defense than the offense, so there’s going to be a heavier focus there, but there’s plenty to talk about after an up and down practice on Tuesday.
Stock Up: Amani Oruwariye, CB
Amani Oruwariye tossed a receiver aside and takes down the RB at the line of scrimmage.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) August 6, 2019
Oruwariye continued to pick up first team reps even after the return of Darius Slay. While I don’t believe he has made headway to seriously contending for the CB2 position currently owned by Rashaan Melvin, he showed incredible promise throughout practice against the Patriots. Playing against N’Keal Harry for the most part, Oruwariye kept the Patriots first-round rookie in check for most of the day, notching a couple pass deflections and a pick to his credit. It wasn’t a perfect day. Oruwariye dropped an interception, at least his fourth of camp, and he gave up a pair of touchdowns. One of those touchdowns saw N’Keal Harry make a ridiculous one handed leaping grab with Oruwariye and Andrew Adams in zone coverage, while the second one was Phillip Dorsett on a go route. Dorsett, who ran a 4.33 at the 2015 NFL Combine, beat Oruwariye quickly but the Lions fifth round rookie had caught up to Dorsett as the ball arrived, only a hair too late to prevent the catch.
Stock Down: P.J. Johnson, DT
Lions and Patriots argued after a play. Matt Patricia zoomed in on his ATV and kicked his own rookie, P.J. Johnson, out of practice.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 6, 2019
P.J. Johnson was drafted in the seventh round to be a nose tackle, using his big frame to clog up space in the middle. His tape showed a guy who needed a lot of work, and with Damon Harrison out of the lineup during camp Johnson has been repping behind 2018 UDFA John Atkins with the second and third team. Johnson has failed to make any headway in moving up the lineup through camp, but he really hurt his chances to do so with his behavior against the Patriots. Johnson was pancaked badly by Patriots reserve center James Ferentz, after which he started a shoving match that got multiple players involved. He would get an earful from head coach Matt Patricia, who tossed the rookie from camp, ending his day.
Stock Up: Jermaine Kearse, WR
Jermaine Kearse just pulled in a 50yd TD from Stafford in 11-on-11s.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) August 6, 2019
BUT Stafford likely would’ve been sacked and there was offensive holding.
Still a strong contested catch from Kearse and a good ball from 9.
After a very slow start to training camp, veteran receiver Jermaine Kearse has started really turning it on lately. Tuesday’s practice was no different as Kearse made several key plays on the day, beating Patriots defenders and moving the chains in team drills. He also made one of the most impressive catches of the day, beating a Patriots defender cleanly before adjusting to an underthrown ball in the air. Kearse would then go up for the catch, then hold onto it despite the Pats corner being draped all over him trying to swat the ball out.
Stock Down: Andrew Donnal, OT
David Fales got sacked. Didnt hold onto it too long, Andrew Donnal just got smoked by Shilique Calhoun.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) August 6, 2019
I’ll talk more about the line as a whole in a second, but Andrew Donnal stood out so much negatively that he deserves a special mention. Donnal got beaten so badly on several plays that I started to question if his quarterback, in this case David Fales, had done something terrible to him that we weren’t privy to. Donnal has been holding on to the second team tackle job so he’s almost considered a lock for the roster, but this kind of play won’t get the job done.
Stock Up: Lions Special Teams
First blocked punt I've seen and it looks like it was Duhart that might have gotten a hand on it— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) August 6, 2019
Special teams aren’t usually exciting, and frankly that was the case for the most part in this one. The team did its best to challenge that notion, however, with a couple of notable plays that got the crowd going. Either Jalen Reeves-Maybin or Jonathan Duhart blocked a punt as well. We couldn’t see for sure who got the ball, but both were in the area and Duhart was celebrating pretty profusely afterwards. Both Jamal Agnew and Ty Johnson broke off good returns as well, with Agnew twice finding his way through traffic for a long gain and Johnson beating every Patriots player to the edge for a 40-yard return. With flags flying throughout the special teams drills, it was nice that the Lions were rarely on the receiving end of them as well.
Stock Down: Lions Reserve Offensive Line
The first team offensive line had some ups and downs, but the second and third team groups only had the latter. The aforementioned Andrew Donnal was a chief offender, but Tyrell Crosby also saw his share of beatings, at one point getting spun around so badly that I thought he injured himself. The interior guys were also getting routinely beaten, Luke Bowanko, Leo Koloamatangi, and Beau Benzschawel included. Neither Tom Savage nor David Fales had time to breathe, and neither are great in those situations.
Jamal Agnew, CB: Agnew had a few good reps in coverage, but also some bad ones. More importantly for his roster viability, he was working both punts and kicks.
John Atkins, NT: Atkins has been consistently repping with the first team in Damon Harrison’s absence. Though the DL didn’t pressure Brady much, Atkins ate some valuable space for the linebackers.
Joe Dahl, OG: Playing with first team, Dahl and Ragnow were giving the Patriots fits. Now that he’s a roster lock, it’s worth wondering if Dahl isn’t making headway to a starting role.
Jonathan Duhart, WR: Duhart played various roles with the first special teams unit and today was the first time I thought he may have an actual in to the final roster as a special teamer.
T.J. Hockenson, TE: Hockenson had himself another good day, hauling in multiple difficult catches including a touchdown during one-minute drills.
Miles Killebrew, LB: Funny thing after the past couple of practices I’m beginning to think Miles Killebrew might not only make the roster for his special teams work but also have a role on defense.
Chris Lacy, WR: In one of the only plays I saw from the first team on the far side of the field was Chris Lacy with a nifty catch in coverage where he broke away for a long gain.
Eric Lee, DE: One of the few pass rushers to make an impact on the day, Lee dashed through the Patriots line on one play for a ‘sack’ that looked all too easy.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB: JRM has always been good in coverage, but his best play of the day was in the red zone. The Patriots tried to rush Sony Michel up the gut and JRM lit him up so hard it echoed across Allen Park.
Frank Ragnow, OC: Ragnow has quietly had a good camp, but seeing him against the Patriots first-team defensive line really showcased that it’s not just because he’s been against backups.
Darius Slay, CB: Slay was back and yeah, he’s back.
Jahlani Tavai, LB: Tavai struggled mightily again in man coverage, but in team drills he showed why the Lions liked him. One one play he cut through the Patriots DL on a stretch run, knifing into the backfield to take down the running back for a loss.
Logan Thomas, TE: Thomas may see more work than many expect this season. He consistently finds ways to get open and catch footballs.
Andrew Adams, S: Adams has been having a very good camp, but this was a day of learning for him. He struggled with the more physical Patriots receivers.
Nick Bawden, FB: I’ve been at and watched seven practices for the Lions and this is the first one Nick Bawden didn’t crush someone in the run game or make some difficult catch. Cut him. (Don’t really)
Luke Bowanko, OC: As mentioned earlier, the reserve OL had their backsides handed to them.
Justin Coleman, CB: Coleman got smoked badly in zone coverage not once but twice, both times by a second-year sixth l-round receiver in Braxton Berrios. Very bad day for the prized free agent.
Tyrell Crosby, OT: Crosby struggled all day, playing on both second and third team with Savage and Fales. He blocked well for neither.
Taylor Decker, OT: While the first team OL did well, Taylor Decker got absolutely wrecked on more than one occasion. Really struggled with speed against Chase Winovich.
Leo Koloamatangi, OC: Koloamatangi has struggled even after being demoted to third team. It was another day of that.
Tre Lamar, LB: Lamar’s lack of speed has shown up more than once in camp and it has never been more evident than when he was in coverage during team drills.
Brandon Powell, WR: Powell continues to get some gadget work, but his special teams usage took a literal big hit courtesy of the much larger Chase Winovich.