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Detroit Lions training camp observations: Swift looks fine; still searching for WRs

Notes from a sweltering day at camp.

Detroit Lions Training Camp Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Tuesday was the hottest day of Detroit Lions camp to date, but despite the weather, the Lions were in full pads ready to go. With final roster cuts just a week away, each practice is more important than the previous one, and the players know it.

Here are my observations from Tuesday’s practice.

Participation

New injuries are bolded

Unable to practice

It doesn’t sound like we’re going to see Hand any time soon, so get used to seeing his name here. As for Tyrell Williams, this was the second straight day on the sidelines in street clothes. No word yet on his injury, but it’s always a better sign when you’re actually outside with the gang, rather than receiving treatment inside. He was also catching balls, staying fresh.

Okudah went through walkthroughs without a helmet, went back inside, and then came back outside during the end of practice. He told media after practice that he’s not dealing with anything serious.

“They’re just trying to temper my workload,” Okudah said. “They thought that would be the best thing for me.”

Limited during practice

  • DT Michael Brockers (veteran treatment?)

Returned to practice

  • RB D’Andre Swift
  • OL Tyrell Crosby
  • TE T.J. Hockenson
  • DT John Penisini
  • DT Nick Williams
  • CB Corn Elder

Despite Dan Campbell’s concern, Swift was out there and did not seem limited in any way. Returning to team action for the first time since injury was Tyrell Crosby, John Penisini, Nick Williams, and Corn Elder. For players like Penisini and Elder, it’s a necessary step, as their roster spots are suddenly up for grabs thanks to the play of some younger competition. Elder was repping mostly with the third-team defense on Tuesday, while Penisini was mixed in with the twos.

Goff to Hock is back

Tuesday provided a stark reminder as to why the offense was sluggish in the week or so that Hockenson was gone. Without a shadow of a doubt Jared Goff’s favorite target at practice is Hockenson, and they connected at least four times during team drills. And as we saw throughout all of OTAs and camp, those two spend a ton of time together one-on-one during special teams drills.

“JG’s my guy,” Hockenson said on Monday. “We’re spending a lot of time after practice, before preseason games, just running routes, getting timing down, understanding things — where he wants things, where he’s seeing a certain route at a certain depth, where he’s seeing certain things, and that’s just really good work.”

I am not concerned about Swift

Perhaps Campbell’s comments were just to give the Lions’ second-year running back a kick in the pants—that would seem very Parcellsian—but Swift looked fast, he looked shifty, and he looked like he could spring a 40-yard play tomorrow if the team needed him out there. Obviously, the day after a full day of practice is more important than the day of when you’re returning from an injury, but I saw no cause for concern with Swift today.

Oh, he also made an impressive cut between Penei Sewell and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, then exploded through the hole for what would have likely been a 30-40 yard gain, if not a longer touchdown.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, come on down

We’ve seen a lot from Lions rookies this camp, but it’s been a bit slow for Detroit’s third-round cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. But with Jeff Okudah sidelined for the day, Melifonwu was the one to rep with the first-team defense on Tuesday. He didn’t make any standout plays, but he didn’t look out of place either. My only significant note from him at practice was a rep in which Kalif Raymond got a step behind him, but the speedy receiver couldn’t make the diving catch.

Looking for a receiver

Before practice, Campbell told reporters that the wide receiver room is still open for jobs.

“I think the receiver position within itself, for those spots, is very much in play right now,” Campbell said.

With Tyrell Williams out, it was a prime opportunity for someone to step up. Quintez Cephus, Breshad Perriman, and Damion Ratley all had some time with the first-team offense. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great day for the receiving corps. Victor Bolden couldn’t corral a deep ball after getting a step on Amani Oruwariye. Javon McKinley fumbled after hauling in one pass. Sage Surratt caught a couple passes, but also had either a drop or a fumble.

Perhaps the most promising play of the day came from Breshad Perriman, who took a post route for a good 20-30 yards, but there was a breakdown in coverage, so it’s hard to give him too much credit.

That being said, Kalif Raymond continues to look solid and he ended practice by beating AJ Parker on a fly route, and Jared Goff laid a beautiful ball to him for a 50+ yard touchdown.

Quick notes

  • The Lions looked to have had a couple injury scares at tight end. Alize Mack took a helmet or shoulder to the midsection after a poor pass led him into contact with Corn Elder. Mack went to the locker, but came back out, had a quick chat with Campbell, and returned to practice. I didn’t see this, but according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Brock Wright limped off, as well. Those are the team’s only depth tight ends beyond Hockenson and Darren Fells.
  • If the Lions are truly trying to find a new special teams role for Tom Kennedy to get him onto the roster, they weren’t showing it on Tuesday. He continued to rep second or third as the team’s kick and punt returner.
  • Speaking of special teams, here’s your kicker update of the day:

Randy Bullock: 4-for-4 from 42, 46, and two from around 50
Zane Gonzalez: 4-for-6 with misses from 46 and 50.

  • If there’s suddenly an open roster spot at linebacker, don’t count out Tavante Beckett. I know he didn’t get any votes in Bubble Watch, but he actually got some first-team reps in three-linebacker sets on Tuesday.

“It’s hard not to notice him,” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said after practice. “Fast, quick, aggressive. The plays that he came in the (Steelers) game and made, man, he showed out.”

  • After teasing it last week, Evan Heim played some center during team drills. In the preseason game last week, Evan Brown played 100 percent of the snaps at center. Expect Heim to get his shot this week after riding the bench the entire game on Saturday.