After back-to-back padded practices on Days 6 and 7, the Detroit Lions encountered a few injuries and took it easy on Day 8 with just an extended walkthrough. Today, the Lions were back in pads and ready to start another session of contact.
Let’s kick off our Day 9 observations by updating the unofficial injury/attendance report, with any new changes bolded.
- LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (COVID-19 list) joined the team late and traveled with the LB group
- OL Tyrell Crosby (Grade-1 hamstring), expected to miss some time
- DT John Penisini (undisclosed), was not participating but present and with position group
- DT Nick Williams (unknown) was not on the field today in any capacity
- CB Quinton Dunbar (personal issue) not at practice
- DT Michael Brockers (vet rest), no pads, participated in walkthrough and stretches only
- LB Derrick Barnes (lingering minor hamstring) working with trainers
- CB Alex Brown (undisclosed) working with trainers
- CB Corn Elder (leg), exited early after coming up limping during WR vs DB drills
Players with minor issues that returned to practice:
- RB D’Andre Swift (groin)
- RB Dedrick Mills (undisclosed)
- WR Tyrell Williams (dislocated finger)
- DT Levi Ownzurike (undisclosed)
- EDGE Julian Okwara (hip contusion)
- CB Jerry Jacobs (contusion)
Maybe the Lions are reading the media reports and wanted to put a stop to the “lack of deep ball” conversation because they came out of the gate slinging it today. Jared Goff seemed to have something to prove and made a point of taking a lot of deep shots.
In one drill, two wide receivers ran routes, one intermediate and one deep, and the quarterbacks rotated through who targeted which route. Well, the backups rotated because Goff only wanted to throw it deep. On his second turn through the rotation, Goff bumped David Blough out of the deep ball slot and took over that spot.
This approach carried over to the team drills as well, as Goff was throwing the deep ball enough that it appeared he was sending a message that he could still make those throws.
In the final 11-on-11 period of the day, Goff flashed some more aggressiveness when targeting T.J. Hockenson over the middle in triple coverage, threading the needle for a perfect throw. Unfortunately, the session closed on a sour note when he hesitated, double-clutched, and nearly threw an interception to AJ Parker (who was repping at second-team nickel with Elder out) on a simple out route.
Coach Dan Campbell was noticeably paying closer attention to Goff today and was seen pulling him aside for conversations more than once, which could also be a factor in the new approach from Goff.
Bottom line: It was nice to see more aggressiveness from Goff today, and if he can weed out his hesitation by gaining comfort with his receivers, it’ll go a long way towards him finding success.
In running back pass pro drills, we saw positive blocks from D’Andre Swift, Jason Cabinda, and UDFA Dedrick Mills. Jamaal Williams didn’t participate (that I could see), but the rest of the group needed some work in this area. Projected RB3 Jermar Jefferson got smoked by LB Shaun Dion Hamilton and immediately had a conversation with RB coach/Assistant HC Duce Staley. This is an area Jefferson needs to improve quickly if he wants to have a role on game days.
“You can be one of the most talented runners out there, you can be the most talented route runner out there, but if you can’t block, you can’t play for me. Point blank. Period,” Staley said in March.
Speaking of Cabinda, every practice that passes the more confident I am in my projection that he makes the roster. Not only did he look solid in pass pro, but he also ran over Hamilton after catching a swing pass and turning it upfield.
Breshad Perriman was the recipient of one of Goff’s deep balls, making a beautiful high-pointed catch that would’ve scored a TD, beating Elder who was injured on the play. Later, Perriman would come down awkwardly on his lower back/kidney area and stayed down on the field for several minutes. After a quick look over from trainers, it wasn’t long before he shook it off and was back on the field for more drills.
Another standout reception on a deep ball was made by Victor Bolden, who continues to expand his arsenal. In traffic, he tracked the ball down the field and attacked it when it arrived, securing the difficult catch. He continues to make a case for himself.
Charlie Taumoepeau had one of the best tight end reps of the day, executing an out route versus safety Jalen Elliott, gaining separation, and brushing off the tackle as he turned upfield. It’s the first real noise we have heard from him but it’s a nice first building block.
Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Jeff Okudah
We’re starting to see players match up against each other in drills and during 11-on-11s more and more frequently. Mike Ford drew Bolden quite a bit today, Amani Oruwariye vs. Quintez Cephus was also fun, but the headliner has been Amon-Ra St. Brown vs Jeff Okudah.
In a one-on-one matchup, St. Brown ate up the cushion Okudah gave him, and the receiver gained inside leverage. Okudah never looked fazed and stayed in Brown’s hip pocket in trail coverage. St. Brown took the play deep with Okudah went step for step, and when the ball arrived 40 yards down the field, Okudah’s athleticism showed as he closed on the ball and made a textbook pass breakup. It was a perfect coverage rep from the second-year corner.
In the very next drill, offensive skill players and defensive backs squared off again in an open field tackling drill, a matchup that clearly favored the offensive players. Ford and Oruwariye stood out for making impressive tackles, while St. Brown and Okudah closed out the sequence. St. Brown baited Okudah with a cut outside—something he unsuccessfully tried earlier on Okudah—but this time when Okudah went for the tackle, St. Brown hurdled him to the delight of the offensive players. In his excitement, he punted the ball and mock threw chalk into the air, ala LeBron James.
Fun stuff from the pair.
The starting offensive line stayed the same as always. But with players moving in and out of the lineup due to injuries, we have seen some shuffling of the second and third lines.
No Crosby meant Dan Skipper was elevated to the second team. Instead of playing his usual spot at left tackle, Skipper manned the right side, making way for Matt Nelson to take up at left tackle. Guards Logan Stenberg and Tommy Kraemer also switched sides, with Stenberg back on the left and Kraemer on the right. Newly signed Evan Boehm was the second-team center, sending Drake Jackson to the third team, where he played guard now that Evan Brown has returned to the lineup and saw reps at center. Expect Brown and Jackson to rotate moving forward, which could help both player's positional development.
Offensive line versus defensive line drill
This drill is one of the main reasons why it’s so fun to watch the players practice in pads. If I could, I’d watch nothing but this drill for the entire day.
There were a couple of standouts in these drills that drew multiple position notes in my notebook. First up was Julian Okwara, who impressively won two of his three reps. On the first, he executed a low dip on Matt Nelson and got leverage to gain pressure. Nelson went low and got the better of Okwara the next time around. The third rep was easily the most impressive thing I’ve seen Okwara do during his time with the Lions, though. Matching up against Penei Sewell (who had won both his other reps) Okwara attacked the outside shoulder and expertly deployed a spin move to the inside with quickness we, quite frankly, haven’t seen from him before. Perfectly executed, dynamic pass rush and it highlighted his ceiling.
Other impressive wins during this drill came from Trey Flowers over Logan Stenberg (which seemed completely unfair), Alim McNeill over Evan Boehm, Da’Shawn Hand over Hal Vaitai, Sewell over Charles Harris, and Frank Ragnow taking newly signed NT Miles Brown to task.
With Brockers and Williams out, we saw a rotation of defensive linemen through the starting lineup. During different 11-on-11 periods, Da’Shawn Hand, Alim McNeil, Kevin Strong, and Jashon Cornell all got chances to run with the ones. Hand, in particular, was all over the front today, lining up everywhere from the 0 to the 5-technique. Cornell also got some looks at the 3T and 0T, as the team was looking to fill reps for Penisini (injured), likely didn’t want to overwork McNeill (who was also played at the 3T), and were still acclimating Brown into the mix.
Levi Onwuzurike was back in team drills today and you can tell he is still knocking some rust off his timing. He jumped offsides once, and after that rep was over he went over to the sidelines and did some self-imposed pushups.
Ford is clearly the leading candidate for the starting nickel spot and has been terrific against the run and sniffing out screens/swing plays. He is letting guys get away from him in coverage more than he would prefer, but there’s a lot of intangibles to like.
Ifeatu Melifonwu is also being crossed trained in the slot in nickel and dime packages, in addition to his role on the outside with the reserves. He won’t challenge Ford for the job, but he looks like a player they could lean on when playing matchups.
It was mostly a quiet day for Tracy Walker as the quarterbacks rarely targeted players in his coverage area, but on one 11-on-11 rep Kalif Raymond got deep over the top of him and the defense was fortunate the pass was overthrown. Mike Ford, who was in coverage against Raymond slowed his pursuit and he appeared to think he had over-the-top safety help. Walker, who was also responsible for the deep routes on the other side of the field as well, didn’t appear like he was expecting to be handed Raymond in coverage and was late to turn and run with him. After the period was over Walker immediately ran over to the video screen and reviewed the play several times, then sought out defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant for a conversation. Walker continues to be very detail-oriented during this training camp.
While Elliott got beat by Taumoepeau (mentioned earlier) he rebounded quickly, executing a perfectly timed blitz that the offense had no chance to pick up. Later, he just missed undercutting a route by Hockenson (mentioned above in the Goff section) and followed up that play by laying the wood in run support.
Safety Alijah Holder doesn’t get his name brought up often, but he did manage to intercept Blough today, which drew a nice cheer from the defense.
Lots of new blocking and pursuit drills were run during the special teams segments today, but when it came to returning the ball it was the same four players: Raymond, Bolden, St. Brown, and Tom Kennedy.
Bobby Price continues to stand out during drills and in the one “live” rep they did, it was Price who was the first defender down the field to reach the returner... again.