During Friday’s preseason game, the Detroit Lions' defense failed in two end-of-half scenarios. In the first half, with just 47 seconds left and just one timeout, Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder was able to drive 46 yards downfield, ending the half with a 47-yard field goal that tied up the ballgame. They also gave up the game-winning touchdown by allowing Ridder to complete a 21-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-9.
In Monday’s training camp practice, the defense handled these late-game scenarios in a much better way, leaving the offense—which has dominated all of camp—scoreless during five different end-of-game scenarios.
Let’s get into it in our recap of Day 14 of camp, which was a longer practice, but not in full pads.
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
- Day 13: Aidan Hutchinson emerges as late-game weapon
Monday was a good/news bad news situation for the Lions.
On one hand, Quintez Cephus returned to action and did not appear to be hindered at all by his lower-body injury suffered a couple of weeks ago. As a bubble player at receiver, the next two weeks could be huge for him to return.
On the other hand, at some point during Monday’s practice, starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai left practice. No reporters saw what happened, so we cannot speculate what is going on, but he was replaced by Tommy Kraemer in the starting lineup.
The following players also missed practice: WR Josh Johnson, DT Levi Onwuzurike, EDGE Julian Okwara, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB Saivion Smith, and S Brady Breeze. Smith and Breeze are new additions. Breeze suffered an injury on the opening kickoff of the preseason game. It’s unclear what is ailing Smith.
Defense dominates offense in late-game drills
On Monday, the Lions worked several different late-game scenarios, and the defense won just about every one of them. Here’s a breakdown of what happened.
Offense down 1 with 16 seconds remaining, ball on own 49-yard line
First-team offense lasted one play because Charles Harris pulled a spin move on Taylor Decker and registered a sack on Jared Goff.
Second-team offense was able to connect with Tom Kennedy in bounds, but the other receivers ran too far downfield, and when they scrambled to get back to spike the ball, they were able to do so with just five seconds on the clock. That led to 58-yard field goal attempts, and both kickers came up short.
Offense down 7 with 20 seconds remaining, ball on opponents’ 18-yard line
The first-team offense started out promisingly, with an angle route pass to Swift that got them down to the 3-yard line. After a spike, the Lions had time for two plays. The first, Goff dumped the ball at Amon-Ra St. Brown’s feet, throwing it away when Brown’s route got disrupted at the line of scrimmage. The final play was broken up by C.J. Moore and fell incomplete.
Offense down 7 with 45 seconds left, ball on own 49-yard line
The first-team picked up a quick first down with easy gains of eight and six yards to Josh Reynolds and T.J. Hockenson, respectively. But then Goff threw behind DJ Chark, connected for just a 4-yard gain to Shane Zylstra, couldn’t find St. Brown, who was locked up by Jeff Okudah, and missed an open Chark on fourth down.
The second team—led by David Blough—only mustered a single first down, as well. Tom Kennedy made another impressive grab with Chase Lucas in coverage, but Lucas would get the last laugh. On a deep post to Kalif Raymond, the seventh-round rookie high-pointed the pass, and showed tremendous ball skills by coming away with the interception.
Lucas, who dropped a potential game-winning interception in the preseason game against the Falcons, felt somewhat redeemed by the play.
“I had to make up for Friday, man,” Lucas said after practice. “I had to get something. I had to get my hands on some balls, at least, today.”
Rewarding good preseason performances
Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Funchess were both standouts from Friday’s preseason opener, and seemingly as a reward, both saw elevated reps during Monday’s practice. Rodriguez was with the first-team defense for almost the entire practice, working alongside both Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes. It was an up-and-down day for Rodriguez, who got an ear-full from linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard on a couple of occasions and was regularly beat by Barnes in special teams drills. However, he popped in a late team drill logging yet another tackle for loss on D’Andre Swift.
Funchess was still mostly repping with the second-team offense, but he did get a few looks with the ones, as well. He was too much to handle for Chris Board during 7-on-7s and scored a touchdown over Will Harris in a red zone drill.
This was his best practice in training camp thus far, and his teammates are starting to notice his improvement.
“A lot,” Brock Wright said of his progress. “It’s funny, he talks about it all the time, the transition into becoming a tight end. He’s got all of these incredible receiving skills, but he’s come a long ways.”
Offensive line shakeups
With Vaitai out and center Ryan McCollum cut before practice, it was a really busy day for Kraemer. Not only did he step in for Vaitai in the starting lineup, but he was also used as the third-team center. To help give him a break, undrafted rookie Kevin Jarvis stepped in for him at right guard with the second team. Jarvis had a solid preseason game and could sneak in with the reserves if he takes advantage of this opportunity.
Odds and ends
Here’s your kicker report from Monday:
- Made: 33, 43, 47
- Miss: 54, 58
- Made; 33, 43
- Miss: 47, 54, 58
Patterson’s miss from 54 yards was a line drive to the point where it wasn’t clear if it was tipped at the line.
- While he didn’t stick out much in the preseason game, James Houston looked fantastic in special teams drills on both punt return and punt coverage units. I had him with three wins over Shaun Dion Hamilton in one-on-one drills, both as a blocker and evader.
- Will Harris suffered a hand injury in the preseason game, and it was clearly bothering him during practice. Eventually, he taped up the ring and the pinky on his right hand.
- Both Jashon Cornell and Anthony Pittman suffered minor injuries and spent time with trainers, but eventually returned to practice. Something to keep an eye on.
- Aidan Hutchinson just absolutely demolished Shane Zylstra during an 11-on-11 rep. Warning to opposing offenses: don’t put a tight end on Hutch.