The Detroit Lions welcomed fans into Ford Field for the first time in nearly two years for some football fun. The crowd was, for the most part, light but several players took to social media to express messages of thanks to the fans for attending and bringing energy.
The session opened with Dan Campbell making a fiery speech to the crowd, but after that, the first half of practice was set up similar to a standard day at training camp, with a few pre-game rituals mixed in. Over that hour, we saw positional drills, one-on-one matchups, and some seven-on-sevens. The last hour was set up like a scrimmage, with entire first and second-team units working together to compete against each other. The offense would attempt to drive the length of the field or execute their two-minute drill, while the defense worked to prevent their success.
With modified scrimmage on the docket, the Lions weren’t going to risk a player with even a minor injury from further hurting themselves and thus there were several players not participating at Ford Field.
Here’s a list of the players not participating with the new additions listed in bold:
- WR Tyrell Williams (Finger/groin)
- WR Breshad Perriman (hip) landed on it wrong during Friday’s practice
- WR Quintez Cephus (head) “kind of bumped his head (on Friday)” per Campbell
- WR Damion Ratley (undisclosed)
- OL Tyrell Crosby (Grade-1 hamstring)
- OG Tommy Kraemer (undisclosed)
- DT Nick Williams (COVID-19 list) was newly added Saturday morning
- DT Michael Brockers (vet rest) was in attendance
- DT John Penisini (undisclosed)
- LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (COVID-19 list) was in attendance
- LB Derrick Barnes (lingering minor hamstring) was in attendance
- CB Quinton Dunbar (personal issue)
- CB Alex Brown (undisclosed) was in attendance
- CB Corn Elder (leg) was injured on Friday
With injuries mounting, the Lions made a couple of roster moves ahead of Saturday’s practice. Friday evening the Lions waived UDFA rookie tight end Jake Hausmann, and with Williams landing on the reserve/COVID-19 (he acknowledged on social media he had contracted the virus, meaning he will be out for an extended time), the team had two open spots on their active roster. They filled those spots with defensive tackles P.J. Johnson (former Lions draft pick) and Michael Barnett, who worked with the third team on Saturday.
The Frank Ragnow versus Alim McNeill one-on-one battles at camp continue to be incredibly fun to watch and while they only had one rep against each other on Saturday, it was highly entertaining. McNeill set up at the 1-technique to Ragnow’s right pre-snap. At the snap, Ragnow immediately shot to his right to get in from of McNeill, but McNeill anticipated the move and showed impressive quickness stepping into the gap that Ragnow just vacated. Ragnow extended his left arm and got a quick jab on McNeill’s outside shoulder and it slowed him just enough for Ragnow to use his elite athleticism to get back into position and hold up the rookie. Against most centers, that’s going to work for McNeill—Ragnow’s just better than most centers.
Overall it was a quality day for Jared Goff who scored touchdowns against both the first and second-team defenses, as well as in the two-minute offense. With a light outside receiver room, it was no surprise Goff leaned on his slot options, specifically T.J. Hockenson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Darren Fells.
On the first drive, Goff completed passes to Hockenson, Hockenson again, Victor Bolden, Fells, incomplete to Jermar Jefferson, and finally Hockenson a third time, this one going for a touchdown. We also saw runs from Jamaal Williams of seven and three yards, as well as from Jefferson for four yards. It was dink and dunk, but again, with no field-stretching options, this wasn’t overly surprising.
On the second drive, Hockenson again was the primary option, but it was St. Brown who came through and scored a touchdown on a nice slant route that Mike Ford had no chance of covering.
In the 2-minute drill, it was more of the same. Goff’s completions went to Hockenson, Hockenson, St. Brown, St. Brown on fourth down (quality conversion), Bolden, Hockenson, and then Hockenson again for the touchdown. Hockenson was double-teamed on the play, but he got over the top of the underneath defender, stab-stepped to the outside and froze the safety, then stepped back inside, presenting an easy target for Goff to hit.
“In my mind, he’s one of the top tight ends in the NFL,” Fells said of Hockenson after practice. “You saw, he makes big plays when called upon. Great blocker as well. I feel like when he’s next to me there’s no weakness in there. I’ve been places where you don’t know what you’re going to get. With Hockenson, you know exactly what you’re going to get.”
With no Brockers or Williams at defensive tackle, it was Da’Shawn Hand and Jashon Cornell who got the start in their stay, and they joined rookie Alim McNeill in their base formation. The rest of the defensive starters were available and there was no change at the other positions.
Their first drive defending the second-team offense was strong, only allowing a total of 10 yards on the drive after drawing multiple penalties and making stops.
Against the first team, the defense allowed a touchdown, but there were several factors that prevented them from getting a stop early in the drive. First, sacks are not allowed, and Romeo Okwara probably would’ve had two of them on this drive, and at a minimum would’ve delivered pressure that could have altered the play. His length is a premium weapon and he seemed consistently within reach of Goff.
In the two-minute drill versus the second team, a “sack” from Hand could’ve altered the course of the drive and a questionable spot on fourth down (Jeff Okudah stopped Surratt short) should’ve been the end of it—but it appeared the refs kept the drive going so both sides could get more work in. They also held their coverage in the red zone above expectations, which was also encouraging.
Tim Boyle got the nod with the second team and had a patchwork offensive line of (from left to right) Dan Skipper, Logan Stenberg, Evan Brown, Matt Nelson, and Darrin Paulo. Alize Mack was the starting tight end and Brock Wright also saw some time in two tight end sets. With the second-team receivers working with the first team, it was third-stringers Geronimo Allison, Tom Kennedy, Chad Hansen, and Sage Surratt who got the call. At running back it’s worth noting that it was Jefferson who was called on to pull double duty after also working with the first team behind Williams.
As mentioned above, the standard drive was ugly and full of errors, but the two-minute drill was executed better, though they were given some distinct advantages. Overall, Boyle’s urgency helped give the offense opportunities, but he’s still wildly inaccurate at times and is overthrowing his targets.
A few notable positives from the skill group, include RB Dedrick Mills contributions in the passing game (as a receiver and blocker), Hansen’s reliability as a pass-catcher is helping him make a case for WR7, and Mack’s ability to execute blocks and catch passes keeps him in pole position for TE3.
No real surprises on the second team, as injuries forced third-stringers into the lineup. Newly signed Miles Brown saw snaps at the nose (replacing Penisini), AJ Parker was in the slot (replacing Corn Elder), and Jerry Jacobs was opposite Ifeatu Melifonwu on the outside, a role Jacobs was splitting with Alex Brown (who was out) previously—they were both competing to replace Dunbar during his absence. Austin Bryant was also worked in, splitting time with Robert McCray on the EDGE opposite Julian Okwara (of note: Charles Harris was with the ones).
This unit gave up a touchdown to Hockenson, both times they faced off against the first-team offense—there is really no answer for him—but they held the second-team offense off the board, which matches up with what we have seen in camp so far.
Third-team offense and defense
Due to the injuries in the wide receiver and cornerback room, the third teams faced off in nine-on-nine, only using three skill players on offense, two tight ends and a running back. There wasn’t a ton to glean from this session, other than to point out that UDFA rookie Drake Jackson was at center and veteran C/G Evan Boehm was at guard, pointing to a rotation at third-team center, as we discussed in our observations from Day 9.
The kickers were once again a mess from distance. Randy Bullock missed both 50- and 54-yard field goals wide left, while Matthew Wright missed from 50-yards to the right and fell short on his 54-yard attempt.
On kick returns, we saw Raymond, Bolden, and Godwin Igwebuike all attempt returns. Raymond executed a sweet designed cutback play, but with no tackling permitted, it’s difficult to gauge how much yardage he would’ve gained—though he was well past the 20 before a defender got close.
With limited punt attempts, we got a good look at the players that are in the mix for a few key roles. The starting gunners were Bobby Price and Ford, while the second team gunners were Melifonwu and Jacobs. The starting personal protector (PP) was once again C.J. Moore, and he was backed up by Jalen Elliott. Raymond was the only player fielding punts, which is very telling. When considering bubble players, these battles are key separators in decision-making.