On Monday, the Detroit Lions donned pads for the first time, and it was just about as physical a practice as you could reasonably expect. Coach Dan Campbell purposely opened Monday’s session with a one-on-one tackling drill, not only due to the importance of tackling to football, but to set a tone for the rest of practice.
And it did. There were plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd throughout the morning thanks to physical reps from the likes of Penei Sewell, T.J. Hockenson, and others.
But this was just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of padded practices left in the bank, and as players settle in, the intensity could pick up in subsequent practices.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which Lions players are you excited to see more play from in pads?
My answer: It was fascinating to hear both Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn provide the exact same answers to this question when asked specifically about the rookie class. Both wanted to see how linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez looked and edge rusher James Houston looked in full gear. Rodriguez quickly validated that response on Monday:
It was a rougher practice for Houston, who didn’t have the pass rushing success that we saw in the previous week in shells. There’s definitely some intrigue on how he’ll respond in subsequent practices.
But the obvious answers are still the most right to me. We got a taste of Sewell vs. Aidan Hutchinson and I want more. Day 1 decisively went to Sewell, but I think we all know it’s a matter of time before Hutchinson notches a few wins on his belt. Monday will serve as a learning experience, and Hutchinson was the kind of player at Michigan who would never make the same mistake twice. Look for him to rebound.
Elsewhere, I was very encouraged by what I saw from Hockenson as a blocker on the first day of pads, and I would love to see that continue. He’s rightfully seen a lot of criticism about his blocking skills, and if he can take a big step there, his game will be so much more versatile.
Finally, I need to see more from Levi Onwuzurike. This feels like a critical year for him, and we didn’t see much of anything in the opening week of practice. If this defense has truly been tailored to his strengths, we should see some flashes this camp, even if he’s going against a pretty great trio in Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai.