Today (Training camp Day 5), during a special teams drill, we saw Tracy Walker hurry over to the board, grab the tablet that controlled video playback and easily navigate through to the play he wanted to watch. He watched it over a half-dozen times, slowing it down, replaying specific points in his coverage, looking to identify something to give him an advantage later.
Not long later, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, along with long snappers Don Muhlbach and Scott Daly used the video board to examine some things from the previous punting sequences. The Lions aren’t in full pads yet—that happens Tuesday—but when the pads come on, it’ll be important for the long snappers to get the line and blocking assignments properly set up.
The ease of use from Walker and the others suggests the team was likely given instructions on how to use the machine to their advantage, as they all seemed very familiar with how to navigate through options quickly. Pretty cool use of resources.
The Lions made some pre-practice moves today, signing Evan Boehm and removing Evan Heim from the COVID-19 list, bringing the roster up to the maximum 90-players.
Additionally, C/G Evan Brown, who is still on the reserve/NFI, was on the sidelines working with a trainer and appears to have begun the evaluation process.
EDGE Austin Bryant: reserve/PUP and LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin: COVID-19 list remain unable to practice, though Bryant has been working with trainers in past days and was with his position group today observing their routine.
A few players that were banged in previous practices returned to the field in full today including LB Jahlani Tavai, who left after Saturday’s walkthroughs, and TE Hunter Thedford, who was injured on Day 2 of practice last Thursday.
LB Derrick Barnes, who left Saturday’s practice midway through, was on the field today for walkthroughs and stretches but exited when position drills began. This looked like a pre-planned move. CB Quinton Dunbar was limited in his participation on Saturday and was not on the field on Monday at all.
RB D’Andre Swift was also limited in the back half of Monday’s practice, but per running back coach/assistant head coach Duce Staley, Swift is not injured and today was about giving more time to Jamaal Williams and some other backs today.
Well, we finally got to see Jared Goff cut loose a few deep balls today. He made a nice completion to Breshad Perriman down the right sideline, had an incompletion to Tyrell Williams down the right side—though it was hard to tell if it was a drop or a PBU by Mike Ford—and hit Victor Bolden on a big throw down the left sidelines.
After noticing Goff spend time talking to Frank Ragnow during stretching last week, I spent more time today actively seeking out where he was when he was not under center, and what I saw was him continuing to grow his relationships with teammates.
After an offensive lineman got beat, Goff sought him out after the series and offered him a pad on the shoulder and a few quick words. From there he chatted up a few skill players, had a one-on-one conversation with Jamaal Williams, and then found his way back to the starting offensive line and had a long conversation with rookie RT Penei Sewell. When the team broke for a special teams section of workouts, Goff and T.J. Hockenson went to the other field and practice their timing on routes for the duration of the period. These little interactions every day add up to better connections and hopefully bigger things down the road.
Tim Boyle continues to settle in and while he’s still not going to push Goff for a starting role, he might have the biggest arm and be the fastest quarterback on the roster.
David Blough had a rough day today and after watching his wife, Melissa Gonzalez, fall short of advancing to the gold medal race in the Tokoyo Olympics moments before stepping on the practice field, it’s understandable if his accuracy dipped for a day.
The rest of the offense
With Swift getting a partial rest day, the other backs got in more work in all phases. Williams was the clear starter, but there was a lot more of Jermar Jefferson mixed in as well. After these two, it’s hard to get a read on the rest of the group, but with pads coming on tomorrow, this could clear up soon.
We saw a lot of two tight end sets today and that meant more opportunities for Jake Haussman, Brock Wright, and Charlie Taumoepeau. Wright showed off some of his athleticism and Taumoepeau displayed some positional range, but the tight end group after Hockenson/Darren Fells/Alize Mack is still very much up for grabs.
Starting left guard Jonah Jackson met with the media this afternoon and mentioned that he has put on 10 pounds of muscle this offseason and is feeling “bigger and stronger”. He also noted that he has begun working out with assistant strength and conditioning coach Morris Henry (who is a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo, per Justin Rogers of the Detroit News) and is using martial arts to improve his hand movement/usage.
Nothing noticeably different in the Lions front-seven today, they’ve been using the same players in a rotation since camp began, but because Barnes is not participating and Reeves-Maybin is still out with COVID-19, it’s created opportunities for the reserve linebackers to step up. Shaun Dion Hamilton has been running with the second team fairly consistently and continued that trend today—his stock is rising.
Anthony Pittman, who has been splitting time between the second and third teams, had another day where he stood out on multiple plays, including an interception today. Pittman’s only NFL game day experience was previously at JACK linebacker in Week 17 of 2019, but this coaching staff has switched him back to inside linebacker, where he played at Wayne State, and he looks more comfortable. He, like several linebackers, has dropped significant weight and looks quite a bit quicker.
Front office assistant Chris Spielman always appears to gravitate back to his roots and finds himself among the linebackers at different points during practice. Sometimes he is chatting with linebacker coach Mark DeLeone, other times he grabs players aside. I mentioned after Day 1 how he spent extra time with Barnes and today it was Alex Anzalone’s time to gather wisdom from the Lions legend.
Getting back to the Walker story at the top of the piece, he wasn’t done learning after he watched the play in question on the video board. Once satisfied with what he saw on the replay, Walker immediately sought out defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn for a discussion. When that conversation ended, he made his way over to secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant who was working one-on-two with Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye during the special teams period. When they wrapped up their set, Walker pulled Pleasant aside and talked him up for a bit before the next 11-on-11 period began.
Okudah, like Walker, never seems to stop in any one place for a while and is trying to maximize his time on the field. Previously you could see him mentoring rookies like Jerry Jacobs, but today he was all about getting time with Pleasant. In addition to the time mentioned above, Okudah also got some one-on-one time with the coach during other special teams periods.
With Dunbar out, Mike Ford pulled double duty and saw time as the team’s starting nickel as well as on the outside with the reserves. He’s proving to be a valuable piece for this secondary.
The Lions ran two live punts drills today and who they put in key roles was very interesting. On the first punt, they used several experienced special teams contributors suggesting this could be the group that has the early lead. Key spots included Victor Bolden as the punt returner, along with Ford and Bobby Price as the top gunners. On the second punt, Kalif Raymond fielded the punt, with Ifeatu Melifonwu and Quintez Cephus as the gunners.
Kick returns ran in a more general format, but it’s worth noting that Raymond was the first man up, Bolden the second, while Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tom Kennedy were watching intently but never jumped into the mix.
Ford, Raymond, Cephus, and Melifonwu are all in good shape to make the roster, but this is a nice bump in responsibilities for bubble players Bolden and Price, which could go a long way towards them making the 53-man roster.
Embracing the city
Aaron Glenn was sporting a black shirt with a custom “313” printed on it in light (not quite Honolulu) blue on it today. It appeared to have had custom writing on the back as well but the lettering was a bit challenging to work out from a distance.