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Detroit Lions 2023 training camp Day 7 observations: Rookies getting starting opportunities

Through seven training camp practices the Detroit Lions rookies have slowly been earning starting opportunities.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions welcomed the general public into Allen Park on Sunday, but after two days in pads, coaches backed off the intensity of practice, essentially running individual drills and walkthroughs for just over an hour.

Attendance/injury updates

There were a few changes among the Lions’ injured players on Sunday, but with the format of practice, it’s important not to read too much into today's participation levels.

The three players on the injured lists—Marvin Jones Jr. (NFI), Emmanuel Moseley (PUP), and Hendon Hooker (NFI)—saw no change to their statuses. Jones continues to work with trainers and looks like he could return any day, Moseley is expected to return to Allen Park on Monday, while Hooker is continuing his regular workouts with the training staff post-practice.

“Yeah, so (Hooker’s) in all the meetings the rest of the guys are and then we’ve got him doing a—certainly can’t be with the coaches (per NFL’s NFI rules), but we’ve got him doing a workout,” coach Dan Campbell explained at his morning press conference. “It’s around every other day to see how that knee responds post-practice. And we’ve got our training staff, our strength coaches that take him through a workout, and it’s really scripted [...]He’s doing good. There’s no setbacks. He’s working.”

Campbell also disclosed that Penei Sewell was in the NFL concussion protocol and won’t be eligible to return to practice until Wednesday. Also along the starting offensive line, Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow got the day off, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai returned to practice after not participating on Saturday.

Wide receivers Jameson Williams and Antoine Green also returned to practice on Sunday, but they were limited to only individual drills. Linebackers James Houston and Jalen Reeves-Maybin—who were injured on Saturday—were back on the field on Sunday but it’s unclear if they were only individual drills or more, because they were practicing on the far field out of view.

One final note, on Saturday night we noted that Tom Kennedy had cleared waivers and reverted back to the Lions roster. On Sunday, he was listed on the team depth chart as being placed on injured reserve and was at practice in a shoulder/arm sling. His specific injury has not been confirmed, and he is a candidate to be released with an injury settlement, but if he remains with the team, his IR designation means that his season is over.

Walkthrough note

During walkthrough sessions, the Lions split their roster into two groups: The starters with a few primary reserves; and the remaining members of the second team, along with the third team.

Offensive line depth battle looking for a hero

With several offensive line starters out, the Lions marched out Matt Nelson (LT), Jonah Jackson (LG), Graham Glasgow (C), Vaitai (RG), and Germain Ifedi (RT). Kayode Awosika stepped in at right guard when Vaitai was given a rest. It’s worth pointing out the top-identified replacements on the offensive line because the reserve roles are very much up for grabs.

“Honestly, no, not negatively, not positively,” Campbell said of the offensive line depth players standing out. “You want somebody to separate themselves, that’s what we’re looking for is that next wave. There’s a group of guys that, ‘Let’s go, somebody go take a job here, somebody separate themselves from the other group.’ And so there’s a lot of jockeying. I think they’re competing back there. And we’ve seen some good things out of all of them. You’re just constantly looking for—like (Lions G Kayode Awosika) Yode did some good things yesterday. Colby’s (Sorsdal) getting a little bit better. Logan’s (Stenberg) done a couple of things, but you’re wanting to see somebody separate themselves, so no, not yet.”

Rookies getting starting opportunities

Over the last few practices, Brodric Martin has been slowly increasing his time with the first team and on Sunday he opened the day with the starters. Now, the caveat is, this was just a walkthrough day, but he has been increasing his workload and steadily improving. Martin made some noise early on Saturday and looks to be well on his way to increasing the legacy of general manager Brad Holmes.

“There was a couple of things that showed up yesterday with (Martin), to your point, that was encouraging,” Campbell said at his press conference. “Man it was encouraging, because that’s kind of one of the next steps for him [...] But there again, that was a couple of plays. Let’s see if he can stack another day together and put a few more of those on tape. And that’s the good news is, he’s being tested by some really good players.”

But before we crown the rookie as a starter, Campbell was also quick to point out, there are other defensive linemen still in the mix for snaps.

“But I don’t want anybody to forget about (Isaiah) Buggs either now,” Campbell continued. “Buggs is going to do some stuff and Benito’s (Jones) doing some really good things out there. We’ve got a group of that interior D-Line that’s showing up that’s, I said this the other day, but our fundamentals are showing up, up front defensively and it’s making a difference with all those guys. (Lions defensive line coach) John Scott’s done a great job.”

Jack Campbell was also starting during walkthroughs, but unlike Martin, this one is feeling a bit more permanent, as he’s been integrated there for nearly a week now. Additionally, Brian Branch was not on the field in the nickel spot first—that was C.J. Gardner-Johnson—but he was getting worked in with the first team in several different spots.

On offense, Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta have been getting starter reps, rotating through the running back and tight end spots respectively, since the beginning of camp. They may not be listed as technical starters—the Lions tend to favor veterans on depth charts—but they are both expected to see starter-level snaps.

In total, five of the six top-100 draft picks are working their way into heavily contributing roles, with Hooker on the path to recovery.

“You want to feel like at this point, that they at least belong,” Campbell of the rookies acclimating to the NFL and training camp. “That they’re not in over their head, [...] You expect them to struggle early with some things. And I would say, really all those guys, you don’t feel that way, so that’s good. You feel like, ‘Okay, here we go, these guys will step up, they’re going to be able to handle this, they’ll adjust, they’re going to just get better and better and better’. I always think that’s the starting point with rookies [...] I feel like they’re going to be able to grow, develop, keep going.”

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