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Detroit Lions training camp Day 7 observations

Our view of Wednesday's practice.

Head coach Matt Patricia has never shied away from inclement weather for Detroit Lions practices, and Wednesday was a good reminder of that. From the minute practice started until about 15 minutes left in the session, Allen Park was treated with some mild-to-very-serious downpour. However, because there were never any thunderstorms, the team remained outside.

Of course, with that much moisture, there was a bit of sloppiness in the Lions’ seventh training camp practice: dropped balls, players slipping and fumbles here and there. Overall, though, it remained a fairly clean practice. The Lions are now just over a week away from the final cutdown date.

Here are the rest of my observations from Wednesday’s practice.

For an update on the Lions’ injury situation, check out our Wednesday participation report here.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford was one of the players that fell victim to the slippery conditions, as he botched a snap from Frank Ragnow and had to fall on the ball for a safety during an own-end-zone drill. Both players had to run a lap afterwards.

Today was a tough day for backup Chase Daniel, who was routinely throwing behind receivers in both one-on-one drills and team reps. David Blough has looked like the better quarterback, but given Daniel’s contract and his value in the meeting rooms, there’s virtually no chance he gets cut.

Running backs

I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the running backs on Wednesday—partially, because I was tired of watching the linebackers get toasted in coverage drills—but I did watch them go head to head with defenders in pass protection drills. It wasn’t exactly pretty for the backs. The only two backs I had with a “win” in these one-on-one reps was Kerryon Johnson and (fullback) Jason Cabinda, but I had both of those players come out on the losing end of their other reps.

That being said, there was one other point in practice in which a running back stood out. Rookie Jason Huntley took a draw play handoff during 11-on-11s and blasted through a hole created by Tyrell Crosby on the left edge. With his speed, it probably would’ve been a 40+ yard touchdown. Huntley, like a good running back, made sure to tap his offensive linemen on the head after jogging back to the huddle.

Wide receivers

A pretty quiet day from the receivers, as the rainy conditions put a damper on the passing game. Quintez Cephus had a pass slip through his hands and almost into the lap of a defender behind him.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lions practice without a Marvin Jones Jr. touchdown during a red zone drill. Stafford found him wide open after Jeff Okudah got crossed up with Justin Coleman.

Tight ends

It turns out T.J. Hockenson is, indeed, human. Wednesday wasn’t his best day of practice, but it’s hard to know whether that’s because of something Hockenson was doing or because Tracy Walker was on his game. Either way, Hockenson was neutralized for most of the morning.

One thing I will say, however, is that Hockenson’s work ethic cannot be questioned. Something I noticed Wednesday—that apparently isn’t anything new for Hockenson—is that when the team is working on special teams drills, he’s typically working with a Lions coach running routes and catching passes.

Elsewhere, I thought Isaac Nauta looked solid in his training camp team drills debut. On one rep, he cleanly beat Will Harris deep for a big gain.

Offensive line

There were two significant lineup changes on the offensive line for Wednesday. First, with Joe Dahl out of team drills, it was Oday Aboushi who surprisingly stepped in as the starting left guard. Then, with Beau Benzschawel finally overcoming his injury, he assumed the second-team center position, pushing rookie Logan Stenberg back to his usual left guard position. Benzschawel wasn’t perfect, but he looked comfortable—even after Danny Shelton gave him a rude introduction during one-on-ones.

Overall, I thought the tackles played outstanding during one-on-ones, including Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper, who served as the second and third team right tackles, respectively.

Defensive line

Conversely, the Lions edge defenders didn’t look all that impressive with Trey Flowers spending most of the day on the sideline. Romeo Okwara was regularly getting stood up, and newly-signed edge defender Will Clarke looks like he’ll need another week to acclimate.

I came away highly-impressed by Detroit’s interior defenders, though. Da’Shawn Hand, Danny Shelton and Nick Williams all had dominant pass rushing reps during one-on-ones. Hand’s rep was particularly impressive, as he drove the offensive lineman at least five yards back with a hearty bullrush.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about John Penisini, and while I can’t speak to a large sample size of his plays at camp, he was handled quite easily by Frank Ragnow on at least one occasion Thursday. But, Penisini sure hustled back to the line quickly!

Linebackers

Jahlani Tavai took over Jarrad Davis’ spot at middle linebacker with the first-team defense. That will be something to monitor as we continue through camp, because Davis hasn’t shown the kind of growth you’d hope for in a contract year with Detroit. It’s certainly an over-reaction to call this the beginning of the end for Davis, but it’s a situation worth watching going forward.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin continues to stick out for all the good reasons. Today, it was his surprising bend as a pass rusher. He’s still consistently repping with the second team, so there’s no reason to believe he’ll take over a starting position, but the Lions may have some solid depth there, along with special teams skills.

Cornerbacks

For the first time I’ve seen all camp, Jeff Okudah lined up as the first-team right cornerback opposite Desmond Trufant, who returned to team drills on Wednesday. That could certainly be the look we see in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.

It was another mixed day from the first-round pick. Okudah nicely broke up a deep pass to Quintez Cephus, but he really only got an opportunity to make a play on the ball because it hung up there for a while. Cephus had a good step or two on him.

Safeties

No one had a better day of practice than Tracy Walker. Let me break down three one-on-one reps he had against tight ends.

Rep 1: Blanketed Hockenson so hard that Stafford refused to throw the ball. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a quarterback just hold onto the ball in this drill.

Rep 2: Ran stride-for-stride with Jesse James. Incomplete.

Rep 3: Got extremely physical with Hockenson, deflected the pass and eventually intercepted it.

Add good coverage on an incomplete pass to Kenny Golladay during full team drills, and it was a near-perfect day for Walker. And, yes, he was back with the first-team defense for most of practice (Will Harris also got some time, though, too.)

I also credited Jayron Kearse with a couple of pass breakups on the day.

Special teams

Just a couple of quick personnel notes here. The following players were repping at kick returner (in this order): Jamal Agnew, Jason Huntley, Marvin Hall, Victor Bolden, Ty Johnson.

As for the first-team field goal specialists: Don Muhlbach as the long snapper, Jack Fox as the holder and Matt Prater as the kicker. Steven Wirtel and Arryn Siposs both got time at long snapper and holder in later reps.