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Lions, Jaguars joint practice Day 2 observations: Defense shines in situational drill

The Detroit Lions defense cut out the long plays and “won” the situation drill against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Day 2 of joint practices.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions closed out joint practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars by lowering the intensity a bit on Thursday. The teams did not wear full pads, meaning there weren’t as many violent collisions, and trench play was a bit hard to fully analyze.

After focusing mostly on the offense on Wednesday, I turned my attention to the defense for Day 2. Here’s what I saw.

Lions defense opened strong in red zone 7-on-7s

The Jaguars offense opened practice with a sequence of red zone seven-on-seven drills. The first four reps began around the 20-yard line; the second four were from the 10-yard line or closer. The first-team offense only managed to find the end zone twice in those eight plays.

Trevor Lawrence missed on a pair of throws to Calvin Ridley. Coverage was tight on both attempts; once by C.J. Gardner-Johnson and once by Kerby Joseph.

However, there were two successful conversion, both to Zay Jones against Cameron Sutton in coverage. On the first, Jones beat him cleanly by a couple of footsteps with a nice juke for a 20-yard TD. On the second conversion, Lawrence lobbed a perfect ball just barely out of the reach of an outstretched Sutton for the score.

It’s been a rough couple days for Sutton on the outside, but this is great practice for him against a strong receiving corps.

Malcolm Rodriguez saw a lot of action come his way with the second units for both teams on the field. He batted down a pass to running back Snoop Conner nicely, but was beat by rookie tight end Brenton Strange for a touchdown. Rodrigo was also called for holding on that touchdown to Strange.

Josh Paschal had a solid day

In my notes, I credited Paschal with a run stop, a perfect read of a screen that caused the quarterback to throw it into the ground, a sack, another run stop at the line of scrimmage, and another pressure.

At this point, Paschal is looking like the biggest standout among the Lions’ second-team defensive line. He could be playing his way into a bigger role in his second season.

Settled down on defending deep shots

On Wednesday, the Jaguars were able to connect on three deep shots against the Lions defense. Detroit pretty much stopped that completely on Thursday. The one deep play the Jaguars connected on was with the third-team offense: Jacksonville receiver Tim Jones simply outran Chase Lucas over the middle of the field for a big gain.

Against the first team, Lions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson came away with an easy pick after an ill-advised throw from Lawrence. Pressured by both Aidan Hutchinson and Isaiah Buggs, Lawrence lofted a prayer to Ridley. The ball hung up there and Gardner-Johnson or Sutton could have picked it off, but it was Gardner-Johnson who walked away with it.

Later in practice, Lawrence tried to target Evan Engram down the right sideline. Gardner-Johnson came from across the field to break up that pass with one fully-extended arm. Unfortunately, Jerry Jacobs was (rightfully) flagged on the play for grabbing Engram.

If there’s one area where the Lions defense still looks a little vulnerable, it’s in zone coverage. Both the Giants and Jaguars were able to complete passes just beyond the linebacker level over the middle of the field and between the outside corners and safeties in the “turkey hole.” Ridley caught an easy pass between Sutton and Joseph for about 20 yards, while Zay Jones found space just beyond Derrick Barnes’ grasp for 25-ish.

No run game to speak of

Again, it’s tough to analyze line play without pads on, but I didn’t see the Jaguars create space for even a single run of beyond 4-5 yards. Detroit looked much more disciplined when it came to Jacksonville running read option plays and misdirection. Any time they tried to just run up the middle, there was a pile of Lions defenders waiting.

Situational drill

The Lions and Jaguars closed practice with the first situational drills we’ve seen in either pair of joint practices. Here was the situation:

  • 1:18 left
  • Offense starting on its own 35-yard line
  • 1 timeout

Both teams’ first and second string offenses had the opportunity to score. Here’s how it went:

Jaguars first-team offense

Jacksonville quickly went three-and-out after Aidan Hutchinson notched a sack on first down. Playing from behind the sticks with the clock running, Lawrence checked down to Parker Washington to get back to third-and-manageable. However, his next pass to a well-covered Christian Kirk was behind the receiver. With Jacksonville being well out of field goal range, the coaches just decided to move the ball up anyways, so the Jaguars attempted a 50-yard field goal attempt (and it was good).

Lions first-team offense

Jared Goff immediately pushed Detroit into Jaguars territory with a big 20-yard gain to Marvin Jones Jr. over the middle to kick off the series. From there, he worked the sidelines well with three completions to Sam Laporta, one to David Montgomery and a short out to Kalif Raymond. In total, Goff went 6-of-7 for about 45 yards. Unfortunately, the drive stalled after taking a sack. Detroit rushed to the line to stop the clock with 4 seconds left, and Riley Patterson knocked through a kick from around 45-yard to “win” the drill.

Jaguars second-team offense

Jacksonville dinked and dunked their way down the field, but the Lions defense did a very good job not only keeping the play in front of them, but “tackling” the players in bounds, which kept the clock running. In the end, the Jaguars got down to the Lions’ 37-yard line with almost no time left. A 54-yard field goal attempt went wide right on a windy day.

Lions second-team offense

After a formation penalty on Dylan Drummond set them back, Detroit quickly got out of the hole with a third-down conversion to Craig Reynolds. However, the drive quickly stalled after that when Nate Sudfeld was sacked. After connecting with James Mitchell for about 10 yards to mitigate the damage, the Lions awkwardly spiked the ball on third down, setting up a fourth down around midfield. It was too far to attempt a field goal, so to simulate a game-winning attempt, they moved up the ball about 7 yards and attempted a 55-yard field goal. Parker Romo also pushed the ball wide right on a kick that looked like it was heavily impacted by the wind.

Odds and ends

  • The Lions kickers got some extra work in outside of the situational drills. I couldn’t see the kicks from my viewpoint, but fellow Pride of Detroiter Ryan Mathews noted perfect sessions from both Patterson and Romo from his view from the stands:
  • The Lions are banged up at receiver, limiting their options for kick returners. Here’s who was shagging kicks for them during kickoff drills (in order): Jahmyr Gibbs, Kalif Raymond, and Starling Thomas (!!)
  • Brian Branch got mossed by Jaguars rookie tight end Brenton Strange. Branch played it beautifully, but the 6-foot-4 tight end just used his height advantage (Branch is 6-foot-0) perfectly.
  • Jack Campbell nearly caused a full-team fight after tossing a Jaguars running back to the ground late. Both sidelines rushed to the scrum, but I didn’t see any punches thrown — other than Aidan Hutchinson jumping up and throwing a fake punch (he was nowhere near any Jaguars players)
  • I only saw a single play of the offense when they were working on the opposite field: a 70-yard touchdown to Josh Reynolds. I didn’t see the route develop, but there wasn’t a Jaguars defender within 5 yards of him.

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