The Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars kicked off a pair of joint practices on Wednesday for a spirited—and fairly evenly-matched—practice. Today, I came in with a bigger focus on the Lions offense, but I’ll try to give some observations on the other side of the field to present a full picture of the opening practice.
Let’s get into it.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, both Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams left practice with leg injuries. St. Brown tried to come back on the field after getting his ankle taped, but the Lions opted to shut him down for the day. Williams pulled up and grabbed the back of his right leg during a seven-on-seven drill. He ended up heading back to the locker room after walking off the field under his own power. We’ll know more about the statuses of both after Dan Campbell’s press conference on Thursday morning.
The overall good news is that the Lions came into the day in very good health. Only running back Mohamed Ibrahim and wide receivers Denzel Mims and Maurice Alexander were not accounted for.
Kalif Raymond rises to the occasion
With St. Brown out of practice early, Raymond slid into the slot with the first team, and a carousel of Marvin Jones Jr. Dylan Drummond, and Chase Cota filled in on the outside with the first-team offense.
By far, this was Raymond’s best practice, as he quickly became Jared Goff’s favorite target in practice. Raymond is most lethal when he runs horizontal routes, and just outruns everyone on the field. On one route, Raymond literally crossed the entire field, caught the pass, and turned it up for at least a 30-yard gain.
Not that there was any ever a question with Raymond, but it’s good to see him still giving it 100 after signing his extension late last week.
The run game finally flashes
It’s been a relatively quiet camp for the run game, but Wednesday was a huge step in the right direction. Perhaps bolstered by the return of Frank Ragnow—who missed last week of joint practices for the birth of his child—there were several rushing lanes for both Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery. During a red zone drill, the red seas parted between Taylor Decker and Jonah Jackson for a fairly easy 10-yard rush for Gibbs.
The best part of the Lions run game is that we may have just seen the tip of the iceberg. As coach Dan Campbell said before Wednesday’s practice, Montgomery’s best attribute—his ability to break tackles—hasn’t even gotten a chance to shine yet.
“I think we haven’t even seen the best of him yet because we don’t really go live and he’s not in games yet,” Campbell said. “That’s when I think he’s really going to show up.”
Taylor Decker finally finds a worthy opponent
It’s been a near-perfect camp for Lions left tackle Taylor Decker, but Jaguars edge defender Josh Allen proved to be a worthy adversary on Wednesday. Allen didn’t have any clean beats of Decker, but his power and length often led to Allen forcing Decker into the pocket and making Goff uncomfortable.
Not Goff’s best day
In my opinion, it was a pretty even split between the Lions offense and the Jaguars defense, but a couple of poor throws and bad decisions may have tipped the scales slightly in Jacksonville’s favor. Goff didn’t put enough air under a pass to Raymond up the seam, allowing Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd to make a one-handed interception. He almost threw another one to Lloyd a few series later.
Defensive backs rebound after a bad start
During red zone seven-on-sevens—admittedly a drill that favors the offense, Trevor Lawrence lit up the Lions secondary with touchdowns in three of six plays. Then, during the next 11-on-11 series, Lawrence found Calvin Ridley for a 50+ yard touchdown after Jerry Jacobs stopped running with him.
But Detroit’s secondary rebounded in a big way. As noted in an earlier piece, C.J. Gardner-Johnson laid two crushing hits that forced fumbles—one seen here:
Plus, after a rough start, Cameron Sutton posted an interception, as did linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez.
Oh, and did you think I was going to forget about Brian Branch? I noticed two pass breakups, including this one on Jaguars starting WR Zay Jones:
Reports from other reporters are mixed on how the defense did overall—again, my main focus was the offense. But Lions defensive backs seem to think they did very well, aside from a few deep shots.
“Dominated. Dominated. Our motto is no explosive plays. We gave up one — we gave up actually three, the last two in the last period. But man, we’re just going to stay on our motto. But the defense was great. The run game, unstoppable”
To be clear, those two deep shots at the end of practice came against the second-team defense with Colby Richardson and Steven Gilmore in coverage, respectively.
Odds and ends
- The Lions kept with the same offensive line changes from Monday. That meant rotating Graham Glasgow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai every series between the first and second team right guard. Colby Sorsdal continues to rep as the second-team left guard. And Matt Nelson has moved to right tackle, with Germain Ifedi repping at left tackle.
- One notable personnel change on defense: Will Harris moved to nickel with the second-team defense today. That pushed Chase Lucas to the third team and elevated Steven Gilmore to take Harris’ spot as the outside cornerback opposite Starling Thomas with the second team. Gilmore was beat on one of the Jaguars’ three deep shots on Wednesday.
- I thought it was another strong day from both Drummond and Chase Cota. Cota had the longest play of practice with 50-yard touchdown from Nate Sudfeld. Drummond found a nice chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater, earning back-to-back first downs from the Lions new quarterback, including this diving grab: