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Detroit Lions Day 17 training camp observations: Jared Goff sharp in player-led practice

The Lions offense continues to have a strong camp—even without Detroit coaches in attendance.

Indianapolis Colts Training Camp Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Monday’s practice will forever be known as the coachless practice. Time will tell whether this will go down as a creative, ingenious move from Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell or something we look back on years from now wondering how we had missed the warning signs of a doomed regime.

As a not-so-impartial observer, it was certainly a sight to see, and I am very intrigued by both the rationale from Campbell and his thoughts on how it went. Regardless, I am a fan of leaders who are both unconventional and trust their men to do the work on their own.

While practice was only an hour long, there was far more to it than just an absence of coaches. So let’s dive into what happened on a balmy Monday afternoon.

Catch up on our previous observations here:

Attendance/Injury updates

Because it was a shortened practice that heavily featured the starters, the Lions appeared to rest a lot of players who were heavy participants in the preseason game. We’ll get to them in a minute, but let’s start with the players we know are injured.

G Kevin Jarvis, DT Levi Onwuzurike, EDGE Julian Okwara, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, and S C.J. Moore all remained out. Defensive end Eric Banks, who suffered an injury during Saturday’s game, was also out.

Notably, however, tight end Devin Funchess was back after suffering a minor injury during joint practices last week. His return is timely, as he’ll need to make an impression in this final week before next Tuesday’s roster cutdowns.

The following players were also not participating in practice, and it is unknown whether they were getting rest or are dealing with injuries:

  • WR Tom Kennedy
  • TE James Mitchell
  • TE Shane Zylstra
  • OT Dan Skipper
  • OT Kendall Lamm
  • G Logan Stenberg
  • G Tommy Kraemer
  • EDGE Austin Bryant
  • DT Bruce Hector
  • CB Bobby Price
  • S JuJu Hughes

Notable first-team reps on defense

The offensive lineup didn’t have any surprises, but the defense rotated a little bit. At linebacker, the Lions are holding with Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez as the starters, followed by a rotation of Derrick Barnes and Chris Board. Jeff Okudah reclaimed outside cornerback duties opposite Amani Oruwariye (though I did not see Okudah targeted once all practice). And AJ Parker reclaimed starting nickel duties after Mike Hughes started there against the Colts on Saturday.

Team play opens with some trickeration

Given that it was a player-led practice, it was quite entertaining to see the offense come out and dial up a huge trick play that ended in an Amon-Ra St. Brown deep shot to DJ Chark. Unfortunately, it was later revealed that it was the coaching staff who provided the team with the script, so this was their doing, not the players’.

“That was scripted from up top,” quarterback Tim Boyle explained. “So as much as the coaches were not out here, they were out here from a schematic standpoint. So it’s kinda fun for them in the meeting room right now, probably get to watch practice and see if the play they scripted hit. Yeah, it was a good ball by Saint, and hopefully, more of that to come.”

It was a fun play to watch, and it’s one of many trick plays that we’ve seen succeed this training camp.

Offense continues to dominate

Beyond the trick play, the Lions' defense didn’t have much of an answer for Detroit’s aerial attack on Monday. On the day, I only had Jared Goff with two incomplete passes—a nice breakup from Amani Oruwariye on a short curl to St. Brown and an overthrown ball into double coverage during a late-game scenario. Parker was all over another short pass to Kalif Raymond, but the speedy slot receiver still hauled it in.

Other than that, it was easy pickings for Goff. He fired a laser to Josh Reynolds for a nice 20-yard post with Tracy Walker trailing. He found Chark up the seam for another 15-ish yards with Mike Hughes a step behind. He also connected with Craig Reynolds on a short crosser that went for a big gain after the running back had gotten two steps on Rodriguez.

But Goff was particularly deadly in seven-on-sevens. He went 6-for-6 with four touchdowns, including a bomb to Kalif Raymond, who made a fingertip catch after beating Parker by a couple of steps. Other touchdown receivers were Quintez Cephus, Reynolds, and Raymond (again).

Late-game drive

The Lions' first teamers set up for one quick end-of-game scenario: offense down two points, starting at their own 45-yard line with 19 seconds left.

Here was the play progression:

  • Deep shot to Reynolds is overthrown with Hughes and Walker bracketing the receiver pretty well.
  • Goff finds Chark for a 20-yard curl, putting the offense at the 35-yard line. Timeout with under 10 seconds left. At this point, the defense pleaded to Dan Campbell—the only coach out there—to call that play a sack, but Campbell refused to butt in.
  • Quick out to T.J. Hockenson for 5 yards with the tight end getting out of bounds to stop the clock.

That left enough time for the offense to “kick” a 48-yard field goal, but with no specialists out there it was just deemed a “win” for the offense... at least according to Boyle.

“(Goff) had a clean day,” Boyle said. “I’ll be honest with you, he had a clean day. Thought he threw the ball accurately, didn’t give us much lip back in the play call standpoint, led our team down in two-minute, we won the drill and that’s all you can ask for as a quarterback coach/OC/backup quarterback.”

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