The Detroit Lions took the field again Tuesday morning on a warm day with a nice little breeze running through the Allen Park field. As it was my first day at training camp, my focus was a little bit less on how the players performed and a little more focused on where they were.
Obviously, I tried to do both where possible, but given this is only the team’s second padded practice, I tried to be understanding that performance wasn’t at the kind of level it would normally be at this point in the offseason. Plus, it can sometimes be more telling where these guys are playing and who they’re repping with.
Here are my position-by-position observations from Day 2 of Lions training camp.
With the quarterback depth chart pretty much set, I didn’t pay a ton of attention to this position group. However, David Blough got a fair amount of playing time, and I have to admit he looked a lot better than when we saw him last. In full 11-on-11 drills, he threw an absolute rope to rookie tight end Hunter Bryant, and followed it up a couple plays later with a nice touchdown pass to Quintez Cephus (more on him later).
Nothing of note to say about Matthew Stafford, other than the fact that he chewed out an unidentified receiver after there was some sort of miscommunication between the two.
You’ve probably already seen every Lions beat guy Tweet about how rookie D’Andre Swift looked absolutely uncoverable as a receiver on Tuesday, and they’re all correct. Of course, the drill everyone is referencing—one-on-one routes against Lions linebackers—heavily favors the offense. Still, Swift clearly distanced himself from everyone else going through that drill, and he even showed some impressive burst in the running game during a fair amount of first-team reps with the offense.
Speaking of first-team reps, the Lions really shook things up on Tuesday. Ty Johnson saw a lot of action, while Kerryon Johnson was very limited (Note: Matt Patricia clarified that Keryron’s day was a scheduled “maintenance” day). After taking a shot from Jalen Reeves-Maybin in the one-on-one coverage drills, Bo Scarbrough got up slowly and didn’t appear to do much the rest of the day.
Back during the NFL Combine, Jeff Okudah said that the best receiver he went up against in college was Quintez Cephus. Well, Cephus proved him right on Tuesday, beating Okudah on back-to-back reps during one-on-ones.
That was just the tip of the iceberg on Cephus’ monster day. Though the Lions’ fifth-round pick was mostly working with the second team, he made at least two big catches on the day during team drills, including a red zone touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. Clearly feeling it, Cephus hurled the ball high in the air after scoring and let out an audible scream that was easily heard from the media bleachers on the complete other side of the field.
Not much else to say about this group. Jamal Agnew had one good rep on one-on-ones and one failed end around. Meanwhile, Marvin Hall spent some time with the first team.
Didn’t watch a ton of tight ends on Tuesday, but T.J. Hockenson pulled in one touchdown pass during 11-on-11s, and Bryant had the aforementioned big pickup a couple plays earlier.
Despite what Matt Patricia said about rotating who would start at right guard throughout camp, it was rookie Jonah Jackson again starting on Tuesday. The first and second team lineups (on average, as there was some rotation) were as follows:
First team: (from left to right): Taylor Decker, Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Second team: Tyrell Crosby, Oday Aboushi, Logan Stenberg, Kenny Wiggins, Dan Skipper
A couple notable things from the second team: Oday Aboushi was almost exclusively a right guard last year, so the Lions are clearly trying to cross train him (he has plenty of experience in his career on the left side).
Additionally, Stenberg notably struggled at the center position, both in terms of snapping the ball and blocking. Oftentimes, he’d be replaced by Jonah Jackson as the second-team center, as the team continues to look for a backup behind Ragnow with Beau Benzschawel still sidelined.
As a unit, the team actually performed quite well in running drills, creating rushing lanes for Ty Johnson and D’Andre Swift. Jackson, specifically, landed the first (and only?) pancake of the day, and continues to look surprisingly comfortable for a rookie.
When the Lions went with four defensive linemen, here’s the general lineup they ran with:
First team: Nick Williams - Danny Shelton - Da’Shawn Hand - Trey Flowers
Second team: Frank Herron - John Penisini - Olive Sagapolu - Romeo Okwara
As noted above, the defensive line was bested by the offensive line in running drills. However, in one-on-one pass rushing drills there were a few defensive standouts. Okwara displayed some nice speed by beating Halapoulivaati Vaitai around the edge, while Da’Shawn Hand cleanly won a rep against Jonah Jackson. Joe Dahl easily handled Shelton on back-to-back reps, but Detroit likely isn’t expecting much pass rush help from the 335-pound nose tackle.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day for me was seeing Christian Jones as the team’s primary jack linebacker for the day. That was a role many were expecting either Austin Bryant or rookie Julian Okwara to take over. Unfortunately, Bryant remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and the Lions are bringing Okwara along slowly.
I want to talk about Okwara a little more, because he was going to be my main focus on Tuesday. During individual drills, Okwara was mostly repping with special teams and not the linebackers. He got a fair amount of second and/or third-team jack linebacker reps, but it appears the Lions are trying to get him ready for a special teams role first and will rotate him into the regular defense later.
Jarrad Davis had a very up-and-down day. He struggled in individual blitzing and coverage drills, but when it came to team drills, I thought he bounced back quite well. He absolutely stuffed Ty Johnson on a full-contact goal line drill, driving the running back onto his backside. On the very next play, new running back Jonathan Williams just barely crossed the goal line before Davis was able to do it again.
Other quick notes from the linebackers: Reggie Ragland got some time at jack linebacker, while Miles Killebrew saw a handful of first-team reps at will. Jamie Collins Sr. was playing mostly on the interior and looked extremely comfortable in the defense.
Okudah continues to go through some rookie hardships. It’s not like he’s getting soundly beat deep on any team drills, but he was bested a few times during one-on-one drills. He’s slipped a couple times through two practices, so some of it is a matter of literally getting his footing. It’s too early to start having any concerns, and understandable that he’s still repping with the second-team.
Amani Oruwariye has looked somewhat comfortable with the first team. Agnew beat him cleanly during a one-on-one drill, but he responded nicely with a pass breakup against Victor Bolden, then another breakup during team drills while defending Marvin Jones Jr.
Didn’t see much from the safeties on Tuesday, but they were aligned exactly as you’d imagine. Duron Harmon was playing deep most of the time with Tracy Walker navigating the middle of the field.
I very, very, very briefly watched a little bit of #LONGSNAPPERBATTLE2020. Don Muhlbach’s snaps were more consistently tighter than Steven Wirtel’s. That’s all I got.