The Detroit Lions are still taking a slow-burn approach to training camp. With the pads not expected to come on until next week, players are spending more time in individual and positional drills, hoping to get their feet under them before the contact comes.
Still, despite the lack of many team drills, there were a handful of players who stuck out on Thursday during the windy practice. Here are four players that caught my eye during the Lions’ two-hour practice
During much of Thursday’s practice, the Lions' defensive backs did positional drills right in front of us. I thought, of all the defensive backs, Ford looks smoothest in his movements. Every step looked calculated, the movement in his hips was effortless, and he almost looked like he was gliding on ice out there.
Ford also took just about every first-team rep as the defense played a lot more nickel on Thursday. I wouldn’t declare the starting job his this early in camp, but I think he’s further ahead of a guy like Corn Elder than I had originally believed.
Okudah made the play of camp on Thursday, running stride-by-stride with Tyrell Williams on a bomb during 11-on-11s. Jared Goff’s throw was perfect, but Okudah’s positioning was just as perfect. He knocked the ball down and let everyone on the field know it.
Maybe even more impressive, Okudah has already taken on a mentorship role with the team. Undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs was basically on Okudah’s hip the entire practice, even developing a secret handshake with him. And on a play Jacobs got beat during team drills, Okudah was the first to jump in and talk to Jacobs about what went wrong.
“Jerry’s my young bull,” Okudah said. “I think we might be the same age, but he’s still my young bull, though. (He’s) someone that I want to help bring along. I know as a rookie cornerback it’s difficult. So it’s something I take personal just trying to help the rookie cornerbacks so they can avoid some of the things that I went through. Make their path a little easier.”
That kind of leadership is impressive for a second-year player.
Gilbert was a late addition to the Lions roster, signing with the team just three months ago. But the 28-year-old veteran brings some serious experience to the team, and he could work his way into the conversation for the team’s fourth or fifth edge defender spot—especially with Austin Bryant sidelined and a quiet start for Charles Harris.
On Thursday, Gilbert beat Matt Nelson several times, causing a simulated sack on one 11-on-11 rep. He followed it up a play later by getting a “tackle” (no real contact yet) on a run play. He even showed a little attitude getting in Dan Skipper’s face after the play and adding a little extra shove. Things cooled down quickly, though, avoiding any sort of serious scuffle.
As the Lions went into more three wideout looks, it was Kalif Raymond who got a lot of play with the first-team offense. Rookie fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown is still getting a handful of reps with the starters, but Raymond, it appears, will be in the mix for that slot receiver job. That’s significant since he’s also getting the first set of reps as the team’s kick and punt returner.
Raymond’s play didn’t necessarily stick out too much—there are still too few team sessions to draw any sweeping conclusions—but he did catch a bubble screen and take it for a handful of yards.