The Detroit Lions training camp Day 2 is in the books and it was another day of acclimating back to football. No pads, a quick two-hour practice, with the first half-hour being a walkthrough. After the introductory session, the team stretched together, and then the real fun began.
It started with a really cool story about how the defense welcomed newly acquired defensive tackle Bruce Hector to the team and the energy level picked up from there.
Hector wasn’t the only Lion to step on the practice field in Allen Park for the first time this fall as UDFA rookie WR Javon McKinley was removed from the reserve/NFI list and was able to join his teammates.
Curiously absent was safety/special teams stud C.J. Moore, who was coming off a practice where he was running with the second team. It’s not clear why he was absent, but if he wants to stay in the safety mix he’ll need to be back on the field soon.
Players that were still unable to practice include C/G Evan Brown (reserve/NFI), OG Evan Heim (COVID-19 list), EDGE Austin Bryant (reserve/PUP), and LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (COVID-19 list).
Of note, TE Hunter Thedford left practice early after going down on a play during 11-on-11’s but was able to walk off under his own power alongside a trainer.
Since the spring, we’ve talked about how the battle to backup Jared Goff would be an open competition but the odds favored
Steve Zahn Tim Boyle. Boyle even got the majority of second-team reps on Day 1, but today, David Blough’s hard work was rewarded and the second-team reps were split between the two reserves. Boyle’s contract is hard to ignore, but right now, Blough is making this a real battle.
Offensive skill players
Yesterday I made note of the fact that Kalif Raymond and Victor Bolden were proving that there may be room on the roster for both players as they were both being cross-trained in the slot and on the outside—and were looking solid doing so.
Today, that storyline continued. During 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, the Lions used the same six receivers with the starters every time. When they went just two wide we saw the following depth:
- WR-X: Breshad Perriman, Bolden, Quintez Cephus
- WR-Z: Tyrell Williams, Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown
When the team went three-wide:
- WR-X: Perriman, Cephus
- Slot: St. Brown or Raymond
- WR-Z: Williams, Bolden
If you’re setting a depth chart at home, adjust it accordingly.
We also saw a lot more fullback and tight end work today, and the battle amongst the reserve tight ends is heating up. Alize Mack continues to look like TE3, but UDFAs Jake Hausmann and Brock Wright saw the field quite a bit today and could be making a case for TE4.
Wash, rinse, and repeat on the offensive line today. The first line is established and the top reserves continue to rotate through different spots. Tyrell Crosby saw work at second-team left tackle and third-team left guard, and the third-team center saw a variety of players including Drake Jackson and briefly starting left guard Jonah Jackson.
After spending Day 1 in their base defense, the Lions spent Day 2 mainly in subpackages. That meant a lot of four-man fronts, with two down defensive tackles and the EDGE fluctuating between standing and rushing from their hands in the dirt.
From left to right the common group was: Romeo Okwara was at LDE, a rotation of Alim McNeill and Nick Williams, Michael Brockers, and Trey Flowers at RDE. McNeill continues to be the only rookie defender to be in the mix with the starters and is drawing praise from players and coaches.
We got a long look at the secondary during today’s practice as they set up directly in front of where Jeremy Reisman and I watched practice. And as Jeremy noted in his four standout players from Day 2, it was Mike Ford and Jeff Okudah who impressed the most.
Ford looks to have adjusted his stance in his backpedal by dropping his hips lower to the ground and thus is able to stay under better control when transitioning. He looks a lot smoother and has not lost any of his speed, which could go a long way towards him holding onto the starting nickel job.
Okudah continues to look incredibly confident when he is on the field, and when he's off it, he’s either seeking guidance from defensive backs coach Aubry Pleasant or offering guidance to rookie corners, like Jerry Jacobs who basically lives in Okudah’s hip pocket.
Jacobs is slowly starting to garner attention in Lions circles and on the field, he is making connections with key people, which could go a long way in helping him develop and stick around. Not only does he have a secret handshake with Okudah, but he also has one with the team’s other starting corner Amani Oruwariye and consistently seeks them out for advice.
I’m feeling confident enough to say Okudah and Oruwariye are the starters. Both have been running with the first team since the spring, and today, when the entire defense split off for special teams, the duo were once again the only two not involved, as they spent the time working with Pleasant.
Tracy Walker and Will Harris continue to start at safety, but Dean Marlow is staying in the mix. With Moore not at practice, S4 was up for grabs and Jalen Elliott and Bobby Price split the reps. The pecking order at safety is clearing up.
One final note on the secondary, if you get a chance to attend camp, try and make some time to watch Pleasant coach up his players because it’s a joy. He holds his players accountable regardless of who was in front of him. If a player made a mistake on the field, he’d find them and immediately coach them up with pointers and encouragement. In drills, when the starters messed up or guessed on a call, he’d throw them to the back of the line and make them do it again. But he’s not all business, he also found time to bond with his players, like when he took a 5-second dance break with Elliott when “Return of the Mack” played over the speakers—then it was back to business.
We finally got to see some field goals attempted but before you get too excited, none were more than 45 yards. What was positive was that Randy Bullock connected on all six of his formal (with an offensive line) attempts as well as another five on his own earlier in the day. Matthew Wright also found success making all four of his solo attempts and at least three of his four formal attempts, though his final kick was close enough to the post it wasn't clear if he made it or not.
After doing punt return drill yesterday the special teams sessions shifted to kickoffs today. Raymond, Bolden, and Tom Kennedy were the firsts up to field kicks—like yesterday—but we also saw D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams (who danced the entire time), and newly converted RB Godwin Igwebuike tried their hand. If I had to speculate, the running backs, like St. Brown yesterday, were being cross-trained for emergency purposes only.
The post-practice work continues and apparently, nearly the entire team caught the bug for it today, splitting off into groups to get some extra work done. The entire offensive and defensive line took direction from team leaders, the EDGE players worked independently for a while, then came together as a collective unit, and the linebackers got the first run with the Juggs machine.
As these individual player-led sessions began to dissipate, a few key offensive skill players made one last stop at the Jugs machine to get in some extra work. This group was led by T.J. Hockenson and included Raymond, Bolden, and “likely to be the last player off the field every day” St. Brown.
Last Lions off the field today: Hockenson, Raymond, Bolden, and St. Brown. There’s a reason these guys are finding success early in camp. pic.twitter.com/jAC1NYe2zr— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) July 29, 2021