Though I wasn’t there to witness it, Thursday’s training camp for the Detroit Lions was reportedly a dominant one from Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense. For most of training camp veterans like Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay have shown their dominance over the Lions’ young and adjusting defense. We’ve even fawned a bit over some of Detroit’s young weapons on offense like D’Andre Swift, T.J. Hockenson, and Jason Huntley.
But what I witnessed on Friday was the defense’s strong rebuttal. We saw batted balls, we saw pass rush from unexpected places and we saw the Lions’ third overall pick notch his first interception in practice.
Let’s jump right into our observations from Day 4 of Lions training camp practice.
Here’s a quick breakdown of who was in and who was out. Note on my designations here: Sidelined means they were out there for practice, but they were just working on the sidelines stretching, conditioning, or on the exercise bike. In other words, no individual or team drills. No team drills means they were out there participating, but when the team went 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s, they were on the sidelines. OUT simply means they weren’t even out there on the field.
Participation report from Friday:— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) August 21, 2020
- D'Andre Swift - OUT
- Bo Scarbrough - OUT
- Victor Bolden - Sidelined
- Nick Bawden - Sidelined
- Matt Nelson - Sidelined
- Isaac Nauta - Sidelined
- Beau Benzschawel - No team drills
- Desmond Trufant - No team
- Marvin Hall - Left early
With no Isaac Nauta or Nick Bawden participating, the Lions again had fullback Jason Cabinda working full-time with the offense as fullback.
It was another solid day from third-string quarterback David Blough. During 11-on-11s, Blough laid a perfect ball to Chris Lacy with the kind of deep ball touch that is necessary in this offense. While I don’t think there is any legitimate competition for the backup job with Chase Daniel, Blough is making a solid case for a third roster spot being devoted to the quarterback.
With D’Andre Swift and Bo Scarbrough out, it was mostly Kerryon Johnson and Ty Johnson repping with the first time.
While Kerryon looked fine, it was Ty Johnson who stood out most on Friday. He was absolutely dominant during one-on-one receiving drills against the linebackers, burning Jarrad Davis in back-to-back reps.
Jason Huntley was having himself a day, too, but a lot of that was overshadowed by the end of practice. Huntley was one of three players taking punt return reps (Danny Amendola, Jamal Agnew). I saw him back there for three returns. He muffed two of the punts and failed to catch up with a shortened punt on the third.
Huntley could still be a huge, speedy weapon on offense—he had one of the prettiest plays of the day on a wheel route—but it was a rough day for him on special teams.
Didn’t focus a ton on receivers on Friday, but among the reserves, Chris Lacy stood out the most. Don’t be surprised to see the team bring in some extra help in the upcoming days, though. With Victor Bolden out of practice and Marvin Hall leaving early due to an injury, the Lions have just seven healthy receivers.
Another big day from T.J. Hockenson, who was probably among my five biggest standouts from Friday’s practice. Hockenson vs. Tracy Walker has become must-see practice reps, and Hockenson had the upper hand today. He also made some easy-looking catches during 11-on-11 drills, as it doesn’t seem like anyone can consistently cover him in camp.
Not much from Jesse James today, but Hunter Bryant had another couple solid catches with the third-team offense.
No changes in the first-team offensive line, as rookie Jonah Jackson continues to hold down the right guard spot:
First team: (from left to right): Taylor Decker, Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Only a minor change on the second team, as Oday Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins swapped the left and right positions.
Second team: Tyrell Crosby, Kenny Wiggins, Logan Stenberg, Oday Aboushi, Dan Skipper
“So some of the rotation actually flipped from the right side to the left side, and that was good because we do have to cross-train the guards on both of those positions,” head coach Matt Patricia said before practice.
Logan Stenberg continues to really struggle at the center position, especially with snaps. One snap during team drills was so high that by the time the quarterback corralled the ball, the timing of the play was completely off. The snap-induced timing issue botched the handoff to Ty Johnson, resulting in a lost fumble.
Elsewhere, Taylor Decker remains a complete rock at left tackle. I don’t think I’ve seen him lose a single one-on-one rep this camp.
As a unit, the offensive line dominated the defense’s NASCAR (third-down pass rushing) unit. However...
Today was the day the Lions’ interior defenders showed up big during one-on-one pass rushing drills. The biggest surprise of the day came from nose tackle Danny Shelton, who finally broke Frank Ragnow’s perfect camp with a surprisingly twitchy pass rush move. He followed it up on the very next rep by doing the same to Joe Dahl.
Da’Shawn Hand physically dominated Dahl on a rep of his own, while both Julian and Romeo Okwara notched a couple sacks both during individual and team play.
As mentioned before, Davis struggled again in coverage against running backs, while Jamie Collins Sr. and Jalen Reeves-Maybin made it clear they are still the best two cover linebackers.
Today was a very light day for Jahlani Tavai. In fact, in the two days I’ve been to camp, I haven’t seen Tavai take many team reps. He appears to be mostly replacing Collins with the second team when on the field. But in full 11-on-11 drills, I don’t believe he took a single rep on Friday.
With Desmond Trufant out of team drills, rookie Jeff Okudah spent all of Friday with the first time defense. He started the day struggling a tad, and even showing a bit of frustration when Marvin Jones Jr. beat him on an in-route. However, he finished the day incredibly strong. Late in practice, he became the first cornerback to pick off Matthew Stafford... although there is a bit of an asterisk to it.
“The pick was on a free play,” Stafford said after practice. “I’m glad he made the pick, but that was a 5-yard offsides on the defense.”
Still, Okudah was all over Jones on the play, and displayed some of the ball skills that made him such a highly-touted prospect.
On the next full offensive series, the Lions secondary dominated the offense. First, Will Harris (I know, a safety) had a pass breakup on Hockenson. Then Justin Coleman followed it up with a pass breakup of his own. Finally, Amani Oruwariye capped the series with an interception.
Overall, I would say this was an impressive day from the corners, even with Trufant out.
Despite losing his tight battle with Hockenson today, Tracy Walker remains solid and comfortable out there. However, the defensive play of the day came from his cohort Duron Harmon. As the free safety, Harmon came halfway across the field to break up a bomb to Marvin Hall, colliding with the Lions receiver at the perfect time to tally the pass breakup.
If I had to pick a punter with the early edge at camp, I’d go with Jack Fox. He put a pair of tightly-spiraled punts that nearly landed directly on the sideline, causing little-to-no return. He was also the first to rep as the field goal holder. Arryn Siposs isn’t far behind, though.
Additionally, special teams remains fairly sloppy right now—and I heard from beat writers it was even more sloppy yesterday. We saw false starts, muffed returns, and one punter was even knocked down on a live rep.
This is somewhat to be expected with no offseason to get acclimated to these roles with a new special teams coordinator. If these problems still exist in a couple weeks, then you can start to worry.