Joint practices between the Detroit Lions and New York Giants have come to a close. And while the two teams will meet on Friday, there’s a pretty good chance the best players on both teams will take the preseason game off.
So let’s recap the two days of practices by looking at the top performers on the Lions from a pair of competitive days.
Barnes took back starting roles from first-round rookie Jack Campbell and continues to look the part. His instincts in the run game continue to be his strength, while he’s making clear strides in coverage. On Wednesday, he read Daniel Jones perfectly, stepped in front of the pass.. and promptly dropped a potential pick-six.
“Derrick’s playing really fast,” Alex Anzalone said this week. “He’s put in the work the past few years. To me, he’s becoming a complete player as far as run and coverage.”
While there’s certainly reason to be mildly disappointed that Campbell hasn’t made the same splashes this training camp, it’s certainly understandable for a rookie. And having a different linebacker who is capable of starting and thriving is a good problem to have.
Paschal has been slowly stacking days, and he’s getting very hard to ignore. As a player capable of creating pressure both from the edge and when he kicks inside, Paschal is getting a lot of opportunities with the second-team defense and he’s making the most of it.
Of all the Lions’ 2022 draft class, Paschal looks the most primed to take a true Year 2 jump, and his confidence is growing.
“He doesn’t have the hesitation in his game,” linemate John Cominsky said last week. “He’s getting off blocks violently. He’s hitting his pass rush violently. He’s getting to the ball violently. There is no indecision. I just see—He’s just playing faster, stronger. Obviously got stronger, faster in the offseason. More skilled and that confidence.”
Gibbs was a huge winner from Day 1 of joint practices, hauling in a couple touchdowns and making Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke go viral for all the wrong reasons.
Day 2 was a step back for Gibbs, as the Giants defended him much better on Wednesday. Still, he was clearly Detroit’s best offensive weapon with the second team, which is why they kept going back to him—and why the Giants were giving him so much attention the second day. He may be a rookie, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen in the regular season: he’ll draw a ton of attention, and hopefully, that will open up a lot of opportunities for his teammates.
Cominsky was reportedly very disruptive on Day 1, and I saw glimpses of that when focused on the defense on Day 2. Detroit has been playing him with the first-team defense as an interior defender in five-man fronts and as an edge with the second team on four-man fronts. He was successful rushing the passer in both roles on Wednesday, notching—per my notebook—a sack, pressure, and run stop in 11-on-11 action.
Marvin Jones Jr.
At this point in his career, Jones isn’t going to win with speed or agility. But a good player adapts and learns how to win in new ways. Jones has become a near-elite contested catch receiver, and that was on display all week in Allen Park. Don’t take it from me, check the tape:
Jones is still mostly repping with the second-team offense—behind Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond with the ones—but if he keeps stacking days like this, he’ll get some looks on gameday.
Joseph is having an absolutely dominant training camp and that didn’t slow down during this week of joint practices. I credited him with at least four pass breakups in practice and only have notes of him allowing three catches over the two days.
Paired with C.J. Gardner-Johnson on the back-end, the Lions seem to have a reliable and play-making duo at safety.
“I think sometimes this may get lost with C.J., he’s an excellent communicator as well,” Campbell said this week. “Excellent communicator and so, you just kind of see the growth of he and Kerby together and I believe it’s elevating Kerby’s game as well, and so you potentially have a couple of dynamic safeties back there that have versatility,”
Hutchinson was flat-out dominant on Day 1 of joint practices, notching a couple of sacks—albeit against a backup tackle. But he wasn’t only dominating in team drills, he was also putting Giants offensive linemen in spin cycles during one-on-one drills.
Some believed Hutchinson was already playing near his ceiling last year, but Campbell has been marveling at how much the runner-up Defensive Rookie of the Year has added to his game already in Year 2.
“I feel like he’s got more in his toolbox and he was already a confident player, but you can just see has a ton of confidence,” Campbell said. ‘You see these tools coming out that have elevated his game, so he’s got a counter move, he’s got a spin, he’s got a bull. He’s violent shedding the run game. He sets an edge. He’s a big man. He’s got a high motor. He’s taken it up a notch.”