Now that training camp is over, there is nothing for fans to do but wait for Week 1 against the Chicago Bears. There will be no more observations or injury reports from Jeremy Reisman to sift through, so what are we to do? Easy: obsess over the meager scraps in officially released footage!
Saturday evening, the Lions posted their latest Mic’d Up video to Twitter and YouTube featuring defensive line coach Bo Davis. These videos of coaches shouting encouragement and administering drills to their players have been very cool to watch for us fans that never have a chance to attend camp practices.
We all enjoy watching the stuff produced by the Lions’ media department, and the Mic’d Up videos contain a surprising amount of actual football stuff; they’re not merely hype videos. As we talked through what we saw among the staff, our fearless leader jokingly asked when he was going to get his Bo Davis breakdown article.
What the heck - it’s not like we have anything better to do, right?
The video, embedded above in full, is a little less than five minutes in length. Let’s watch this thing together: here we go, baby, here we go!
00:00 to 00:13 - Intro Montage
Lots of rain drips down while Coach Davis sets up some dummies and 78 DT Olive Sagapolu looks around ominously. The coach lets us know he’s wired up today.
00:14 - Here we go baby, here we go!
00:15-00:17 - Get loose guys, here we go!
00:19 - YEAH, BABY!
00:20 to 00:21 - All right, baby, here we go - here we go!
00:23 to 00:41 - Pile Fumble Recovery Drill
Okay, this is the first of the real segments in the video. The drill involves hiding a loose ball under a pile of foam bodies. The player must locate the ball and snatch it, falling into a cradling position around it. While this seems silly, it is actually very important and is mainly trying to teach correct ball security technique after the fumble is recovered.
Here’s Oregon’s John Neal explaining the problem with a player (possibly T.J. Ward, who was two-time Pro Bowl but not two-time All-Pro and wore jersey number 2 at Oregon) falling flat on top to recover the loose ball. That is bad technique because it does not adequately shield the recovered ball from someone else prying it away in the pile. Coming at it from the side with a slide as Neal describes in the city fumble recovery drill protects the ball better and maximizes the chances your player retains possession. He warns that “this is not easy to teach.”
As with any other drill, the point is to make sure the players adopt this as their instinctive way to perform the action. In a game, we want the players to do this naturally rather than flopping on the ball. It is a general purpose drill, and at the 00:38 mark in the Davis video we see 57 LB Anthony Pittman on the left side and another player who is probably 40 LB Jarrad Davis since we can hear the coach saying “there we go JD, get it out of there! Good, JD,” and the next shot at 00:39-00:40 looks like 25 S Will Harris from the partially-obscured jersey number.
00:41 to 01:31 - Five Point Explosion and Quick Hands Drills
You hear coach Davis yell out as the image changes to two linemen on their hands and knees in front of blocking dummies: “snap out them hips, let’s go!” An assistant with a ball stick gives them the cue by moving the ball to simulate an offensive snap and both players explode into the dummy with both hands thrust forward. Here’s Georgia’s Rodney Garner explaining what the drill is:
According to Garner, the emphasis is on rolling the hips through and exploding through the opponent. “You can tell who’s tight in the hips and who’s not.” This is a variation on a drill that Davis did at Alabama as the defensive line coach there.
At 01:12 in the Davis video, the coach says “don’t draw them back, get that extension. Shoot them and get them out there” while demonstrating with bent and extended arms. This is for the defensive player to forcefully blast blockers away from them to get room to make shed or pass rush moves. Here’s our defensive line coach back in 2016 at Alabama:
In the clip above, Davis is telling 36 DT Johnny Davis that his arm extension is insufficient. “Get extension Johnny (motioning to extend arms). Johnny, this is what i’m seeing (walks over to the sled) - when I say I want extension, I want to see your elbows locked out (pushes the sled dummy away from his body) right here.”
This is like what Georgia’s Rodney Garner in the video earlier says at 14:41 when he introduces what he calls the Triple Reactor drill: “This is about hands, all right? Getting your hands quicker, getting that extension - punch. I want to emphasize punch here. The one thing about being a defensive lineman is that you’ve got to have violent hands. Quick and violent hands. See, you still get the full extension and everything. You get the elbows lock out, get the separation.” Quickness of hands is critical, and can be found as a point of focus in many other defensive line drill videos like Texas’ Mack Brown’s DL drill video.
01:32 to 01:46 - Hit and Shed
This is very similar to a drill that was used at Alabama with a nearly identical looking sled:
The interesting thing here is the shape of the target dummy mounted on the sled. The triangular arches are basically the armpits of the blocker where the player’s chest plate would be. That is the natural spot for the explosive punch of a defensive player to get body control of the blocker. In the Lions video, we see 92 DT Kevin Strong and 97 Nick Williams both blast the sled in the armpits and come off the blocker. This is a punch for separation, then release and follow through after disengaging.
01:47 to 02:18 - Fit and Reach Drills
This section of the Davis video was what really made me perk up and pay attention. If you remember Brett Kollman’s 2017 video on how the Green Bay Packers have figured out a way to legalize holding with what he calls their “hug technique,” the drill shown by the Lions is a beautiful sight. Kollman’s video explainer is absolutely worth another watch, even if you still remember it.
The hug technique is something we are also accustomed to seeing as Detroit Lions fans, and essentially boils down to an offensive lineman grabbing the shoulder pads from the side to control a defensive player. What Kollman points out is that the officials will only ever throw a penalty flag if they see a defender being grabbed outside the frame by a blocker, but it’s almost impossible for that to happen when the offensive blocker is already illegally holding them from both sides. We run into a chicken and egg problem where the holding prevents the referees from seeing what they require to actually call the holding.
In Georgia coach Garner’s video, he actually has a series of drills that look exactly like the Green Bay technique: one player grabs the shoulders of a defensive lineman, who must break free by throwing open his hips and opening up the blocker’s stance to get a lane around. The Lions are doing a similar thing, except taking it one step further by having the “blocker” grab the shoulder pads like a Green Bay offensive lineman.
It’s really interesting to hear coach Davis telling 99 DE Will Clarke at 01:56 “your elbow’s like this (bends his arm), I need extension (straightens his arm). I want to see him locked out here. (bends and straightens his arms repeatedly). Lock him out! Lock him out!” All of the drills build on each other for the same goals.
02:19 to 02:31 - Kerryon Johnson Cuts it Back
Jeremy Reisman’s favorite part of the Davis Mic’d Up video was a team drill from training camp day 7 showing 10 QB David Blough handing off to 33 HB Kerryon Johnson for a huge inside zone cutback run. This looks like it is actually most of the starters on both sides of the ball, except for Blough (which I suppose is not that relevant since it is a running play) and 63 G Beau Benzschawel playing center. 97 DT Nick Williams is lined up as the outermost defensive lineman as part of a big package with what looks like (it is a bad angle so it’s hard to see jersey numbers) Williams, 71 NT Danny Shelton, 93 DT Da’Shawn Hand, and 95 DE Romeo Okwara across the front.
At the snap, rookie 73 RG Jonah Jackson fires out to the second level while 72 RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai reaches to cut off Williams. The center, Benzschawel, takes on Shelton head-up, so the critical block is Vaitai on Williams. You can hear the despair in coach Davis’ voice when he breaks it down as it’s happening: “Nope, he cut out right there. We lost the 3.” As Kerryon Johnson dashes down the sideline, Davis yells out “come on Nick, you gotta stay there, Nick!”
After the play, the video cuts to the coach with Williams on the side. “You rip across that mfer’s face to get there. If you swim, then he’s going to push you out of the hole.” Going back to the video, we can see what coach is talking about. In the second panel above, Vaitai has a good reach position to cut off Williams (boxed in pink) from the back side B-gap (the purple box). Instead of moving across Vaitiai’s face (for example, with a rip move as Davis suggests), Williams tries to penetrate by swimming over Vaitai with his right arm.
The problem is that both 25 S Will Harris and Williams are now sitting in the back side C-gap. Two defenders in the same gap means one is empty for the ball-carrier to burst through, and Kerryon finds it.
02:32 to 02:59 - Vertical High
The next segment in the video looks a lot like work on an arm-over style block defeating move. The lineman pushes power in one direction, and then reverses back the other way by quickly whipping the front side arm over and behind the blocker. It is not exactly a swim move, but more like a smaller movement arm-over like Cam Jordan talked to Brian Baldinger and Ron Jaworski about in an NFL Film Session video.
03:00 to 03:38 - Flowing with zone blockers
Coming back to playing the run, we have a short thing that looks like a lesson on stretching out zone plays. “It’s not so much you’re gaining ground up the field, as so much you’re getting where? Here, and staying flat (moving lateral to the line of scrimmage). Because where’s that ball coming? Downhill, right? So if you stay flat down the hill line, what’s going to happen? You’re going to run in through it.” Staying in front of the play and refusing to give the runner a cutback lane is a pretty good way to force the offense into the 12th defender, which has a perfect record at stopping the ball-carrier: the sideline.
03:39 to 04:17 - Pass rush one-on-ones
At the end of the drill footage, we get to see a few pass rush one-on-one reps:
- Danny Shelton goes right, then pulls Beau Benzschawel across his face and throws Benzschawel in that direction to get a lane to the left instead.
- Da’Shawn Hand beats Logan Stenberg with a club-rip move to Hand’s right.
- Romeo Okwara beats Jonah Jackson to the outside with a speed chop-rip around the edge. Davis points out that Okwara’s left hand on the blocker’s inside shoulder is too far over, and that setting that closer to the sternum would give him better control.
- Olive Sagapolu gets by Benzschawel with a pull-rip to the inside. Davis praises Sagapolu’s hand positioning.
04:18 to 4:52 - Inspirational message of the day
2020 is looking like it will be a rough year for sports, but we just have to come out with a good mindset. Yeah, we’re posting some pretty ridiculous stuff on Pride of Detroit and the comments system might not do everything we want it to do, but we’ll fix it. That’s what the (canceled) preseason is for. The regular season is right around the corner, so hopefully that saves all of us Lions fans from the pit of desperation for actual material we are in now.
THE MIND GAMES WITH THE LIONS HAVE BEGUN. https://t.co/2hzFPnoFMi— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) August 29, 2020
See you all for more movie time fun in two weeks!