The Detroit Lions closed out minicamp on Thursday with a shortened session. However, head coach Dan Campbell gave us a couple of new drills that we hadn’t seen up until then, including some two-minute drills to finish practice.
For much of the team, Thursday was their final practice before a month-long break. Campbell said he’s expecting around 50 players for the final sessions of organized team activities next week, but the main focus of that group with be first, second, and third-year players.
So let’s recap Thursday’s event, likely the final practice available to the media until training camp in late July.
The only two players who did not practice at all on Thursday were Austin Bryant and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Both were on the sidelines in street clothes, however, and Campbell said earlier in the week neither player’s injury was considered serious.
Prior to practice, Campbell noted that Jeff Okudah and Damion Ratley “bumped noggins” during walkthroughs on Wednesday, and, indeed, both had heavy bandaging on their foreheads on Thursday. Okudah practiced without a helmet during positional drills but spent the rest of the practice jogging on the sidelines. Ratley was essentially a full participant.
Partial participants in Thursday’s practice included rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes—who has been sitting out seven-on-sevens all week—and Tracy Walker—who, like Okudah, took part in positional drills without a helmet, but didn’t do much else during practice.
With the beaten-up secondary, here were the starters for the first-team defense:
CB: Amani Oruwariye
CB: Quinton Dunbar
NCB: Mike Ford
S: Will Harris
S: Dean Marlowe
Amon-Ra St. Brown
I focused on the wide receivers during the early part of practice, as they worked with quarterbacks in the red zone. Amon-Ra St. Brown stood out twice during these drills, once for his route running, another for his hands. Obviously going without a defender here, it’s hard to know how effective his route would have been, but he’s so sudden out of his breaks that it’s easy to see how he creates separation at the top of his routes. He also had a nice snag on a fade route that shows his underrated ability to high-point a ball.
Running back dropsies
Not necessarily a big deal, but certainly noteworthy: during a receiving drill, three straight running backs dropped the ball: Mike Warren, D’Andre Swift then Dedrick Mills.
The Lions ran a special teams drill I had never seen before. Basically, they had two players barreling downfield simulating gunners, and it would be up to the returner to out-juke them in a one-on-two drill. The Lions shuffled through several returners including: Kalif Raymond, Victor Bolden, Tom Kennedy, Jermar Jefferson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Dedrick Mills, D’Angelo Amos, Sage Surratt, and D’Andre Swift.
Three particular reps stood out and drew a reaction from the rest of the team watching:
- Tom Kennedy juked inside before displaying his speed and beating both defenders to the outside and taking it the “distance”
- St. Brown was caught by—of all people—39-year-old Don Muhlbach, which caught the delight of many onlooking players.
- Victor Bolden had a shifty inside move that split the defenders and found daylight.
Also—and I hate to sound like a broken record here—but this was another instance in which Jared Goff and T.J. Hockenson continued to build their chemistry. During nearly the entire special teams session, Goff and Hockenson were side-by-side chatting before passing the ball back and forth.
Two-minute drill (seven-on-seven)
The Lions ran a two-minute drill for the first time this offseason (at least in front of media). Here was the scenario: own 25-yard line, 1:48 left, 2 timeouts, down 24-20.
The first-team offense scored with relative ease. Here’s the breakdown of the plays:
- First-and-10: Quick out to Hockenson, broken up by Dean Marlowe.
- Second-and-10: Amani Oruwariye deflects a pass, but Tyrell Williams catches it anyways for 15 yards (inbounds).
- First-and-10: Hockenson picks up an easy 20 yards.
- First-and-10: Goff finds D’Andre Swift, who beats Jahlani Tavai by a step or two on a crosser. He picks up about 10 yards but is “tackled” inbounds. Timeout.
- First-and-10: Goff finds Hockenson for a toe-tapping out route for 12 yards.
- First-and-goal: Fade to Breshad Perriman. Incomplete (not close).
- Second-and-goal: Pass thrown away after one receiver falls down, and Jahlani Tavai is all over Swift’s angle route.
- Third-and-goal: Hockenson beats Alex Anzalone for a fairly easy touchdown.
The second team wasn’t quite as successful. Kalif Raymond made up for an early drop (with Corn Elder in close coverage), by creating yards of space with a dig route on the next play. After chunk plays from tight ends Brock Wright and Jake Hausmann, Tim Boyle was nearing striking distance. However, rookie cornerback AJ Parker stepped in front of Damion Ratley for a well-read interception that ended practice.
(Note: the third-team offense (David Blough) did not get an opportunity to run the two-minute drill.)