For the first time since padded practices began on Monday, the Detroit Lions decided to shed the shoulder pads and go with a more up-tempo, less physical session on Saturday. It was an opportunity for offensive skill position players and defensive backs to shine, and both managed to do so on another hot day in Allen Park.
Obviously, with no pads on, the play of some units (especially offensive and defensive lines) become a little harder to evaluate, but I’ll do my best to give at least one observation per position based on what I saw Sunday.
For an update on the Lions’ injury situation, check out our Saturday participation report here.
The Lions ran their first set of two-minute drills this camp on Saturday. The first-team and second-team each ran one drive using the following situation: Down five points, 1:23 left in the game, starting at their own 42-yard line. I believe there were no timeouts allowed. Here are the play-by-play results for each unit.
- Short completion over the middle
- 10-15 yard gain to Marvin Jones Jr.
- Pass to Kenny Golladay for 12 yards
- Deep pass to Kerryon Johnson for what looked like a touchdown (ruled down at 1-yard line)
- Incomplete (Marvin Jones catch just out of the back of the endzone)
- Touchdown to Jones after a long scramble by Stafford (could’ve been a sack)
Total: 5-for-9, 58 yards, TD
- Pass to Jamal Agnew for 10-15 yards
- Big 20-30 yard pass to Quintez Cephus
- TD pass to Agnew
Total: 3-for-3, 58 yards, TD
David Blough got his own opportunity to simulate a late-game drive, but the scenario was a little different. Starting on his own 33-yard line with 1:14 left, the Lions only needed a field goal. Blough went 4-for-6, getting the Lions down to the opponent’s 33-yard line. The Lions only simulated the field goal (no actual kick), but head coach Matt Patricia called it good.
With D’Andre Swift and Bo Scarbrough still out, it was Kerryon and Ty Johnson again with the first-team offense. Kerryon had the play of the day with an over-the-shoulder catch on the two-minute drill deep pass mentioned above. With no full-contact drills, however, it was hard to evaluate this group.
Also, a quick note on Jason Huntley. After botching all three of his punt return reps on Friday, he kept the ball off the ground for all three of his attempts on Saturday.
Marvin Jones Jr. continues to have a phenomenal camp, catching just about everything thrown at him. But his performance today may have been overshadowed by rookie Quintez Cephus, who looked good with the second-team offense and absolutely dominated with the third team. During the two-minute drill, Cephus pulled in a nice over-the-shoulder catch from Daniel, and when with the threes he had a ridiculous catch on a tipped ball that had been intended for Tom Kennedy.
I have to keep reminding myself that T.J. Hockenson looked this good in last year’s camp, because for the third practice in a row he’s looked absolutely unstoppable. If there’s one difference compared to last year, it’s that he’s being a little more physical with his body after gaining some upper-body strength this offseason.
Hockenson vs. Tracy Walker reps have become must-see football. Hockenson came out on top in their one-on-one encounters again today, resulting in a visibly frustrated Walker.
But where Hockenson did the most damage was in the red zone. He pulled in two touchdowns during red-area drills, first beating Amani Oruwariye in coverage (followed by his best Gronk Spike impression). A couple plays later, he beat Jayron Kearse by a step or two for an easy 5-yard score.
Hopefully the injury to Hunter Bryant turns out to be minor, because he was really starting to show out. Even on the play he was injured, Bryant ran a beautiful route and had at least a couple steps on Jalen Elliott before his legs gave out.
Matt Sokol, who is still in a no-contact jersey, made a play or two, including a red-zone touchdown grab.
As mentioned at the beginning, it was hard to really draw any conclusions about this unit from the drills run today. However, it’s worth noting that Oday Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins switched sides (left to right) when lining up with the second-team offense, as the Lions continue to cross-train their players. The first-team line remained unchanged, with rookie Jonah Jackson still at right guard.
No Beau Benzschawel during team drills meant that Logan Stenberg was stuck at center again with the second team. The rookie had no noticeable issues with snapping the ball today.
Early this morning, I mentioned how we haven’t heard much from Trey Flowers because of the dominating performances from Taylor Decker all week. I finally saw Flowers win a rep cleanly on Saturday as he dipped around the corner... only to find out it was against Tyrell Crosby.
Jahlani Tavai, who has had a very slow start to camp, nearly had a candidate for play of the day. Dropping into zone coverage, Tavai completely read Matthew Stafford’s eyes and jumped a Marvin Jones Jr. route perfectly... only to have the ball go directly through his hands... and somehow still into the hands of Jones.
In other Tavai-related news, we saw the Lions dial up a couple of blitzes with both him and Jarrad Davis that, without giving away too much strategic information, would be exciting to see on Sundays
With Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant out of team drills, Saturday’s practice was an opportunity for reserve corners to make an impression. Darryl Roberts got most the action alongside Amani Oruwariye during first-team reps and looked relatively comfortable in the spotlight. He was in tight coverage against Jones on several reps and had a good shot at an interception (on a poorly-thrown ball), but dropped it.
Deeper down the depth chart, I thought Dee Virgin had a solid day. He blanketed Jamal Agnew nicely in one-on-one drills, and logged at least one pass breakup during team drills, as well. It’s still an uphill battle for Virgin, but with Agnew on offense now, there could be a spot on the roster for a backup nickel and special teams contributor.
For the second straight day, the Lions paired Will Harris with Duron Harmon for the first-team defense. Before you start panicking about Tracy Walker not panning out, this seems more likely to be about giving Harris some opportunities to play closer to the line of scrimmage. When paired with Jayron Kearse, Harris typically plays the deep safety, but his talents are probably more geared towards playing in the box. Given how good Walker has been all camp, there is no legitimate reason to believe this is a demotion.
Of note, Victor Bolden took some time off the exercise bike to field punts with Jamal Agnew, Danny Amendola, Jason Huntley and Marvin Hall. As for #PunterBattle2020, if you read a lot into order of reps, Jack Fox was the first to punt on Saturday.