On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the Detroit Lions took the field for their fifth Organized Team Activity (OTA) practice. The tempo is starting to pick up, and there were a lot more opportunities for observations this week, as practice was a little bit longer, and the team had many more team drills and seven-on-seven reps.
Here are six players that stood out to me on Thursday. (Note: Because the players are still not wearing pads, I did not include any players from the offensive or defensive lines.)
Before the Lions even took the field on Thursday, both head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn told local media that Goff was coming off a fantastic performance on Wednesday.
“He made some throws yesterday that were—my gosh—they were outstanding,” Campbell said. “Just pinpoint, accurate throws. He was good on his reads—I felt like he had one bad throw yesterday, and it was really more he was late on the throw. I want to say he made about five throws that were just, ‘Wow. OK, that’s really good. Really good.’”
Goff followed it up with another very strong effort on Thursday. On the very first play of seven-on-seven drills, Goff hit Breshad Perriman perfectly on a fly route for what would’ve been a touchdown (over Will Harris). He followed it up by going 8-of-9 in the first set of seven-on-sevens and 7-for-9 on the second set.
His performance looked even better when you consider that Tim Boyle had a rough outing. David Blough, who was third in the rotation, had a better day than Boyle, but neither were in the same stratosphere as Goff, who was not only accurate, but had a good amount of velocity to his throws.
Of course, Goff needs to look good during seven-on-sevens. He’s not dealing with any pressure from a defensive line, and he’s going against the weakest units on the entire team. Still, Goff is doing everything he should be doing right now.
Lynn told reporters before practice that because it’s hard to work on a run game with no pads on, he likes to test running backs out of the tackle box, because “sometimes they’re like a fish out of water when they get out there.”
Safe to say, Swift did not at all look out of place when lined up on the outside. Swift’s precision and short-area quickness stood out among the running backs during route-running drills. In seven-on-sevens, Swift was unstoppable. Trey Flowers was his first victim, as Swift quickly gained three steps on the edge defender who will be asked to drop into coverage more this season. Then Swift beat Alex Anzalone over the middle during the next session.
Swift is a matchup problem for defenses, and I’m not sure there’s a single player on the Lions defense that can cover him right now.
Not to be outdone, Williams sure looks like the kind of player that won’t be uncomfortable lined up on the outside, either. He had arguable the play of the day, when he juked safety Godwin Igwebuike so hard out of his shoes that when Williams caught the ball, he turned back to Igwebuike while trotting backwards to give him a little trash talk.
“I be trying to tell the defense now, don’t look at this number. Don’t look at 30 and think, ‘Oh, running routes is going to be easy,’” Williams said after practice. “I want that. I want all of that. And if you think you’re frisky, come one-on-one and we can really—I want all of that.”
Last week, I was desperately trying to find a wide receiver that distanced himself from the pack. This week, from the very start of practice to the very end, that man was Victor Bolden.
During individual drills, Bolden was really the only player I noted that was quick out of his breaks and seemed to have polished his route running. During special teams drills, he was the first one taking reps at punt return—always a good sign—and he judged the depth and distance of each one perfectly, catching each with ease.
But he shined brightest during seven-on-sevens. Though he worked mostly with the second and third teams, Bolden first caught a nice diving pass from David Blough for a 20-ish yard gain. Then towards the end of practice he caught a ball from Goff at full extension, then just sort of stood over cornerback Alex Brown in celebration.
Amani Oruwariye/Jeff Okudah
Last week, it was Quinton Dunbar paired with Jeff Okudah at cornerback with the first-team defense. This week, Oruwariye got the promotion alongside Okudah.
Oruwariye was one of the only defensive players to get a hand on the ball of a Goff throw Thursday, breaking up a pass intended for Perriman. It bordered on the line of defensive holding, but he likely would’ve gotten away with it.
And while we’re talking about cornerbacks, Jeff Okudah is carrying himself in an entirely different way this offseason. You can tell he’s brimming with confidence, and he, too, forced an incompletion during seven-on-sevens—running stride-for-stride on a deep pass from Boyle to Geronimo Allison that eventually fell incomplete.
The Lions punter was having an uncharacteristically tough day. His punts were wobblily and unpredictable. When the team went to full-speed reps, his first punt was completely shanked. I was ready to have him as a full “stock down” guy for the day, then for the next two full-speed reps, he boomed back-to-back punts that had the returners backing up an extra 10+ yards. I think he’ll be fine.