The first day of Detroit Lions training camp is in the books. And while the pace was very slow, the pads weren’t on, and there wasn’t a particularly great angle for media to watch some team drills, there were some interesting notes from Wednesday’s practice.
Here are my Day 1 takeaways from Lions 2021 training camp.
Most rookies are being brought along slowly... but not all of them
If you were hoping to read reports on how mid-round picks like cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu and linebacker Derrick Barnes did on the opening day, I’m sorry to say I don’t have much for you. Not only did the Lions run very few team drills, but those two didn’t see the field until the second, third and sometimes fourth teams were taking reps. The same can be said of second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike.
It’s clear the Lions are going to take their rookies along slowly, and they should. There is no hurry to get Melifonwu in the lineup when Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, and Quinton Dunbar are safely your top three corners. Onwuzurike can take time to learn behind the likes of Michael Brockers, Da’Shawn Hand, and Nick Williams.
That being said, the Lions wasted no time throwing first-round pick Penei Sewell into the starting offensive line lineup. Likewise, Alim McNeill, the team’s third-round pick, was the first-team nose tackle on the very first rep and throughout the day.
D’Andre Swift is going to catch a lot of passes
During OTAs and minicamp, Swift and Jamaal Williams shined as receivers. However, given that the team really doesn’t practice running plays when no contact is allowed, it was hard to tell if Detroit was planning to have their backs heavily involved in the passing game, or if that was simply the only thing they could do in the spring.
If Wednesday was any indication, the running backs—specifically Swift—will be a huge part of the passing game. While I can’t give any direct details on plays, it’s clear Detroit will have some passing plays designed for the back, and I’m not just talking screens. Swift got a few carries during team drills, but he made his biggest impact as a receiver.
The Lions are testing players on the offensive line (out of necessity)
We saw a few Lions offensive linemen taking reps at unexpected positions. Reserve tackles Tyrell Crosby and Matt Nelson both took some reps at guard with the third and fourth teams.
However, before you go jumping to conclusions, it’s worth pointing out that the Lions were low on interior offensive linemen to open camp. Evan Heim is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while Evan Brown is on the Non-Football Injury list. That leaves just three players as interior depth beyond the obvious starters (Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai): Drake Jackson, Logan Stenberg, Tommy Kraemer. That’s it. Both Crosby and Nelson got plenty of tackle reps, so this does not appear to be a positional change.