On Thursday afternoon, the Detroit Lions took the field at their Allen Park facility on a mild, sunny day for Day 3 of Organized Team Activities—their first in front of local media. After walkthroughs, which were not available to watch, the Lions took the field for about 60 minutes of individual drills, special teams, and some seven-on-seven play.
While I’m sure plenty of you are eager to hear how every single player looked, it’s important to note that without pads on, and with only a very small section of practice played at full speed, any sort of sweeping generalizations would be premature and based on too little of information. Still, I know you are hungry for information, so here are my most notable observations from Thursday.
Head coach Dan Campbell proudly boasted the team’s 80+ player attendance in OTAs thus far, and that number appeared to hold on Day 3 as well. That being said, there were some notable players who were not present. Here’s a list of who I did not see participate on Thursday:
- RB Rakeem Boyd
- WR Tom Kennedy
- TE Charlie Taumoepeau
- OT Tyrell Crosby
- LB Jamie Collins
- DT John Atkins
- DT Michael Brockers
Kyle Meinke of MLive also reported that John Penisini was not at practice. I spent much of my time watching the offense, so I cannot confirm or deny that.
At this point, it’s unclear whether all of these players chose not to participate or are dealing with injuries. Obviously, with veterans like Michael Brockers and Jamie Collins, it’s not uncommon for them to skip out on OTAs, as they’ve already established a comfortable offseason regiment at this point in their career.
The other notable name here is Tyrell Crosby. Currently in the middle of trade rumors, it’s unclear if that’s related to Crosby’s absence or not, but it certainly sticks out.
For as much as we’re all interested in the players, the new coaching staff is just as much on display. A few of the observations made by our own Erik Schlitt jumped out to me, as well. Most notably: Dan Campbell has a very hands-off approach, allowing his positional coaches to do their job. He mostly spent the practice hovering from position to position, leaving feedback only here and there.
The most energetic coach I saw out there was quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell, who was sprinting from drill to drill and one of the most audible coaches no matter where you were on the field. That energy is certainly shared by many of the former players among the Lions coaching staff, but he was the one that stuck out the most on Thursday.
Who played where?
Thursday was our first look at who the Lions were sporting in first and second-string lineups. Again, I focused on the offense, so my observations of the defense are a little thinner:
The first string was exactly as expected:
LT: Taylor Decker
LG: Jonah Jackson
C: Frank Ragnow
RG: Halapoulivaati Vaitai
RT: Penei Sewell
Second team was as follows (remember, no Tyrell Crosby):
LT: Matt Nelson
LG: Logan Stenberg/Evan Heim
C: Evan Brown
RG: Tommy Kraemer
RT: Dan Skipper
As special teams coordinator Dave Fipp explained before practice, there were five players in competition for the punt return job:
- D’Angelo Amos
- Kalif Raymond
- Amon-Ra St. Brown
- Victor Bolden
- Tom Kennedy (did not practice Thursday)
The Lions spent a significant portion of practice working on special teams. Specifically, they worked on trying to down punts inside the 10-yard line. To do that, they split two groups of gunners. Here’s who participated (Groups 1 and 2 do not necessarily represent first string/second string)
- Amani Oruwariye
- Mike Ford
- Corn Elder
- AJ Parker
- Alex Brown
- Jerry Jacobs
- Quinton Dunbar
- Tyrell Williams
- Ifeatu Melifonwu
- Damion Ratley
- Quintez Cephus
- Geronimo Allison
- Breshad Perriman
- Jeff Okudah
- Jonathan Adams Jr.
As I said, I didn’t get a good look at the defensive groupings, but I did happen to catch the pairing when the Lions went seven-on-seven. Of note here is that Jeff Okudah was paired with Quinton Dunbar on one team, while Amani Oruwariye and Ifeatu Melifonwu were paired up on the other.
I’m going to do this in a bullet point format, simply because most observations were short, one-off notes.
- The WR corps had some shaky hands early on Thursday. I noted drops from Damion Ratley and Breshad Perriman.
- During those drills, I found Jared Goff to be very accurate, but there was no defense present.
- During the gunner drills, Mike Ford stood out as someone that looked comfortable in that role. However, during a full team special teams drill, the ball bounced through his hands for a touchback.
- Watching Jeff Okudah during those drills was fascinating. On one rep he caught the simulated punt full speed, but couldn’t slow himself down in time to drop the ball before sprinting into the end zone (another touchback).
By my count, the Lions ran 11 seven-on-seven plays with Jared Goff at quarterback. Here are the results of each:
- Completed quick out to TE Darren Fells
- Completed short crossing route to D’Andre Swift for a big gain (Jalen Reeves-Maybin a few steps behind)
- Completed short-curl to Amon-Ra St. Brown
- Completed short pass to Quintez Cephus
- Incomplete pass. The closest receiver was T.J. Hockenson. Looked to be confusion.
- Incomplete pass to Cephus
- Complete pass to Damion Ratley
- Completed pass up the seam to Fells (10-15 yards)
- Completed out route to Hockenson (10-15 yards)
- Completed quick curl to Fells, who wrestled the ball away from the defender
- Incomplete pass to Cephus (either dropped or broken up by Amani Oruwariye)
Overall, Goff was accurate during this session but did not test the defense downfield much. It’s unclear if that was by design or simply Goff’s reads, but this is also something that was obvious during the Lions’ official OTA Day 1 highlights.
As Dan Campbell said before practice, Thursday’s session felt more like a ramp-up period, as it closed out week one of four of OTAs. It was a much slower pace than Matt Patricia practices, with plenty of time for rest. Patricia's practices were noted for their hustle between drills and almost frenetic energy. These sessions were more laid back, with more built-in rests.
OTAs will continue after the holiday weekend on Wednesday, June 2.