The Detroit Lions closed out the open portion of training camp with a fairly modest practice on Wednesday morning. After a fairly high-intensity practice on Tuesday that featured a lot of live tackling, the Lions went with just shells (not full pads) and only had simulated tackling on the day.
Still, there were plenty of full 11-on-11s and the practice spanned nearly two hours, as they get ready for Friday’s preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Here’s how practice unfolded.
In case you missed an of our previous observations:
- Day 1: Depth Charts take shape
- Day 2: Jared Goff’s ownership of the offense is evident
- Day 3: Will Harris seriously contending for a starting CB job
- Day 4: Aidan Hutchinson puts on a show for fans
- 10 standouts from Week 1 of training camp
- Day 5: Penei Sewell, OL dominate in pads
- Day 6: Physicality intensifies in second padded practice
- Day 7: Light practice, new opportunities
- Day 8: Fights break out in high-energy practice
- Day 9: Malcolm Rodriguez working with 1st, 2nd team
- Day 10: DJ Chark shines at Ford Field
- Day 11: WRs continue dominance over DBs
- Day 12: Jared Goff continues to impress
Not many changes or updates on the injury front. Trinity Benson, Quintez Cephus, Josh Johnson, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Julian Okwara, and Levi Onwuzurike remain sidelined. Benson had a compression sleeve on one of his legs but was moving around pretty well.
The one new addition was Frank Ragnow. He did not participate in practice, but he was basically sprinting up and down the field staying loose. He also assured media members at the end of practice that he was fine.
Taylor Decker did not take part in some team drills toward the end of the day, as the Lions continue to give him some rest, and T.J. Hockenson came up a little gimpy towards the end of practice. Hockenson didn’t get any medical treatment, but he was noticeably limping. Something to keep an eye on. It’s entirely possible they sit him for the preseason game on Friday.
Last year, the Lions finished 2-9-1 in one-score games. There were several times the Lions failed to close in the fourth quarter, and it cost them at least a few games.
Detroit worked to correct that on Wednesday, with a heavy focus on end-of-game scenarios. Specifically, working under four minutes both up and down 10 points.
In the first scenario, the Lions had the ball on their own 25-yard line with 3:41 to go up 10 points with the defense only having two timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the clock.
The offense proved to be pretty successful in this scenario, kicking off the drive with a play-action pass to Hockenson that gained 12 yards and a quick first down. A few plays later, Jared Goff picked up another first down with his legs on an option play. They wouldn’t pick up another first down after Amani Oruwariye made a nice run stuff on a tricky third-and-long play, but the offense successfully burned all of the defense’s timeouts and punted the ball away with just 57 seconds remaining. That’s mostly a win for the offense.
The Lions then flipped the scenario, with the offense down 10 points under the same circumstances—3:41 left, 25-yard line. As he’s been all of camp, Jared Goff was very sharp on the first of two drives. He hit Shane Zylstra and DJ Chark for short pickups to get them to midfield, then rifled a post route right into the midsection of Chark’s chest for a big pickup over the middle. A perfectly placed back-shoulder pass to Josh Reynolds (with Will Harris in coverage) got them down to the 10-yard line. And after a nice pass breakup from AJ Parker, Goff went right back to Amon-Ra St. Brown up the seam a floated a pass between Alex Anzalone and DeShon Elliott for a touchdown with 2:10 still left on the clock.
Austin Seibert attempted an onside kick—in a very similar way that the Cowboys succeeded on this odd-looking kick—but it was fallen on by the receiving team before it traveled 10 yards.
Still, the Lions gave the offense a shot to tie the game, giving them the ball at their own 15-yard line with 45 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
Aidan Hutchinson takes over
The Lions’ desperation drive never got off the ground. The best play was the first, a checkdown to Devin Funchess for 8 yards. On the next play, Aidan Hutchinson swept inside and past center Evan Brown forcing Goff off his spot. The Lions quarterback heaved a pass into double coverage that fell harmlessly incomplete.
On the next play, Hutchinson just blew right back Jonah Jackson for an immediate sack in no more than three seconds. With no timeouts left, the offense had to scramble back to the line of scrimmage. Goff connected on a clean pass up the middle to St. Brown for a big game, but with only about three seconds left after the catch, the offense had no time to get to the line and spike it. Hutchinson’s sack essentially ended the drive before it even started.
The Lions' second overall pick is still having a tough time with the Lions’ starting offensive tackles, but he’s really flashed when forced inside on obvious passing downs. Often flanked by Charles Harris or Austin Bryant or Julian Okwara, Hutchinson’s ability to turn speed into power has been too much for Detroit’s interior offensive linemen.
It’s hard not to imagine how valuable that interior pass rush would have been last year in late-game situations when the defense needed a stop (see: Ravens game).
Austin Seibert retakes lead in kicker battle
Seibert had a rough outing on Tuesday, missing kicks from 53 and 46 wide right. On Wednesday, he was a perfect 3-for-3 from 41, 44, and 47 and made those kicks with authority. Riley Patterson missed his attempt from 44 wide left but cleanly made the other two.
These two kickers continue to go back and forth, and Campbell intimated that the competition will ramp up in the preseason, when both kickers are expected to be on call for any moment.
“I think that’s high alert at all times, would be the plan right now,” Campbell said. “We see both of those guys kicking. As of right now, we see both of them kicking in all the games.”
Tom Kennedy, John Cominsky making most of increased reps
With Jameson Williams, Trinity Benson, and Quintez Cephus out of practice, Tom Kennedy got plenty of work with the second-team offense and even creeped into the first team for a few reps. On a daily basis, it seems like he’s been making plays, including a nice toe-tapping catch on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he was basically the entire productivity of the second-team offense. He beat rookie Kerby Joseph by at least three steps on an in-route that went for a big gain and then burned Mark Gilbert a few plays later. With the ones, he also caught a crosser, but Amani Oruwariye was there to lay a big hit, had the team been in full pads.
On the defensive side of the ball, we’ve seen the Lions reward promising players like Malcolm Rodriguez with some first-team reps. One player who has started to turn heads with the reserves is veteran defensive tackle John Cominsky, as Campbell explained before Wednesday’s practice.
“Works his rear off, and he’s smart, and he does have versatility,” Campbell said. “He can play the big end, he can play some three-technique in rush downs, and honestly, it’s really about getting him some more looks with some of the better units. We got to get him in there a little bit more versus the second and first units.”
Lo and behold, Cominksy got a couple full-team reps with the first team on Wednesday, and although he didn’t make any eye-popping plays, it’s just another example of this coaching staff actually rewarding the players who are showing out.
It’s worth remembering that Cominsky was a hot commodity when he was waived by the Falcons. Eight teams reportedly put in a claim for Cominksy, but the Lions had the highest waiver priority. Campbell noted how he’s a culture fit in Detroit.
“He kind of meets our criteria, he’s everything we’re about, because he goes to work,” Campbell said. “He’s a lunch pail guy, and he’s all out all the time, he’s very coachable.”
With Josh Paschal potentially missing time, Cominsky certainly has an opportunity to hang on the 53-man roster, but Bruce Hector and Jashon Cornell are worthy competitors.
Odds and ends
- It was a solid day for Oruwariye, who made an impact on three consecutive plays during 11-on-11s: first blowing up a screen pass, then making immediate, impactful “tackles” on short passes.
- For the first time I recall seeing this camp, the Lions had D’Andre Swift return a couple of kickoffs during full drills. He was behind Godwin Igwebuike in the rotation, with Kalil Pimpleton and Maurice Alexander also getting reps. Swift did get some reps here during spring practices.
- The Lions also ran some punt drills, with the order of returners being Kalif Raymond, Pimpleton, and Alexander. It’s worth noting the starting gunners were AJ Parker (who took the spot normally occupied by Melifonwu) and Bobby Price.
- Craig Reynolds continues to be the primary backup behind D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. He validated that spot today by taking a swing pass in stride and cutting upfield at lightning speed, turning what should’ve been a short gain into an explosive one.