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Detroit Lions training camp observations: Team shuffling after the preseason opener

The Detroit Lions shuffled some of their personnel after the preseason game against the New York Giants .

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions were back at it on Monday for a long training camp practice before welcoming the Jacksonville Jaguars in for a pair of joint practices starting Wednesday. With it being the first practice since the team’s preseason opener against the New York Giants, there were some interesting adjustments made to the Lions’ squad—although some were likely made because of injury, too.

Let’s get into it.

The right guard competition is back on

With Frank Ragnow returned to practice, Graham Glasgow was no longer repping at center, giving him the opportunity to compete for the starting right guard job. Every practice session on Monday rotated between Glasgow with the first-team offense and Halapoulivaati Vaitai at the position. Vaitai had the best block of the day, with a vicious pulling block during a goal line drill that helped David Montgomery score.

One interesting wrinkle of this battle is that because Glasgow and Vaitai were rotating between the first and second-team right guard, that moved rookie Colby Sorsdal to left guard. I have not previously seen him play on the left side, but it could mean Detroit is comfortable putting more on the rookie’s plate.

Offensive tackle reserve battle

Another interesting wrinkle of practice involves Matt Nelson and Germain Ifedi—two players vying for the backup swing tackle position. Nelson noticeably struggled in the preseason opener, but he has been regularly the team’s left tackle to Ifedi’s right. On Monday, the two were swapped for the entire practice, with Ifedi repping as the second-team left tackle, and Nelson at right tackle.

But Nelson was still the preferred option as the extra lineman when Detroit went to a six-man front. Still, it feels like these two are in closer competition than before.

Teddy Bridgewater’s arrival

As coach Dan Campbell noted after the preseason game, the Lions are easing Bridgewater into the mix, but those reps are coming at the expense of Adrian Martinez. Nate Sudfeld is repping with the second-team offense... for now.

In his very first team rep, Bridgewater found Jameson Williams over the middle for a big gain (20-ish yards). The throw was a little behind Williams, but he caught it and kept his stride going forward. Bridgewater only got one session with a mixture of the second and third-team offense.

But after practice, Bridgewater was seen getting in some extra work with the Lions’ young offensive weapons, including Williams, Dylan Drummond, Avery Davis, and running back Devine Ozigbo.

“(Williams) is a guy that has unbelievable talent, and I want to just push him to those limits he may have never been pushed,” Bridgewater said after practice. “It’s a little tougher when practice is going on because the coaches have different guys they have to get going. If he messes up on a play, you can critique him really quick, but you’ve got to get to the next play. He’s a guy I really want to see have a long future in this league because we all know he was a first-rounder for a reason. I just want to challenge him to be the best player he can be, be a true pro.”

The part where we marvel over Brian Branch again

Branch had the play of the game on Monday’s practice. Jared Goff tried to throw a swing pass to Jahmyr Gibbs, but Branch read it immediately, tipped the pass before it got to Gibbs, and caught his own deflection for what would have been a pick-six.

Branch continues to rep as the team’s first-string nickel defender, with C.J. Gardner-Johnson now the full-time safety next to Kerby Joseph. With the amount of plays he continues to make, I don’t see this lineup changing anytime soon.

Goal line/red zone drills

The Lions focused a session of practice on the goal line and one a little further back in the red zone.

For the goal line drill, the offense was placed at the 2-yard line. The first-team offense scored on two of three attempts. One of the successful plays was a toss to Gibbs, who just beat everyone to the edge of the play. The other was a trick play, but team rules prevent me from offering any details. David Montgomery was stopped short on the third attempt.

The second-team offense managed to only find the end zone once, with Sudfeld finding rookie tight end Sam LaPorta—who cleverly snuck out of a blocking stance—for a relatively easy score. Devine Ozigbo—who got a lot of play with the second-team offense with Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, and Mohamed Ibrahim not participating—was stuffed on two runs during this session.

The other red zone drills started from the 12-yard line and included live tackling. Here’s how each team’s drives went.

First-team offense

  • Throw to David Montgomery for about 4 yards
  • Montgomery up the middle for 4 yards
  • Draw to Montgomery for 3 yards (earned a first down)
  • Montgomery run for a 1-yard TD, sprung by the aforementioned block by Vaitai

Second-team offense

  • Sack by a blitzing Will Harris (9-yard loss)
  • Beautifully thrown post route that was dropped by Antoine Green for what would have been a 21-yard touchdown
  • Screen to Gibbs that Levi Onwuzurike read and chased down from behind for just a 5-yard gain.

Third-team offense (Adrian Martinez’s only three team reps of practice)

  • Benny Snell run for 5 yards
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin sack for 10-yard loss—Snell did not appear to diagnose the blitzer and let him run right by him.
  • Throw up the seam incomplete

Special teams notes

The Lions ran some punt drills on Monday, mostly doing one-on-one protection drills. Standouts during this period include:

  • Ifeatu Melifonwu, who won all three of his reps against rookie Brandon Joseph
  • Derrick Barnes, who did a good job keeping Jack Campbell at bay—no easy task
  • Chase Lucas, who I saw win back-to-back reps against Steven Gilmore

Also of note, Jalen Reeves-Maybin was holding down the all-important personal protector position, with Lucas and Melifonwu holding down gunner positions. Also, down some of their normal punt returns, both Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams got time shagging balls.

Odds and ends

  • Scary moment during practice when Amon-Ra St. Brown went low to catch a pass and Jerry Jacobs met him there, seemingly colliding head-to-head. Both were okay.
  • With no Cameron Sutton (illness), Will Harris took over a spot with the first-team defense. The second-team corners were Steven Gilmore and Starling Thomas.
  • With no Aidan Hutchinson, John Cominsky took some first-team reps in four-man sets. When the Lions went to five-man fronts, Cominsky shifted inside and Romeo Okwara stepped in on the edge.
  • Another strong day from Josh Paschal, who I had credited with a tackle for loss and a QB pressure.
  • On a team drill with no tackling, Jason Cabinda picked up a first down on a third-and-short run. After he was slowed up, the play appeared to be over and he stopped. But offensive coordinator Ben Johnson wanted him to finish the run, so he made Cabinda run to the end zone—and Johnson ran side-by-side with him for the final 20 yards.

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