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Detroit Lions training camp, Day 10 observations: Hutchinson, St. Brown shine in ‘scrimmage’

The Detroit Lions held their annual “scrimmage” practice on Day 10 of training camp and we saw impressive plays on both sides of the ball.

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

Each training camp, the Detroit Lions typically hold an inter-squad scrimmage near the end of the second week of training camp. Typically the Lions hold this practice at Ford Field as part of their “Family Day” events, but with the stadium booked for WWE Summerslam, the Lions opted to hold keep this practice in Allen Park.

This practice is designed to help the team prepare for game-like activity, and with Week 1 of the preseason just over a week away, Thursday provided the Lions with the ideal opportunity.

Attendance/Injury updates

In addition to Emmanuel Moseley (PUP) and Hendon Hooker (NFI) remaining on their respective injury lists, Ifeatu Melifonwu (reported knee injury) and Frank Ragnow also missed their second practice in a row.

Trinity Benson, who was injured and carted off during Wednesday’s practice was absent as well, but coach Dan Campbell suggested he escaped a major injury.

“Yeah, it sounds promising, sounds promising,” Campbell said at his morning press conference. “We(‘re) getting a second opinion on it, but I think we dodged one there. Looks like it could just be a sprain. He’ll be out, probably a good week or so, but it’s good news. It’s great news.”

During practice, reserve cornerback Jarren Williams was injured and carted off the field, but we will have to wait until Saturday to get an update on his status from Campbell. Denzel Mims also missed a portion of practice with a hand/finger injury, but he was able to return to practice and produced despite the injury. Additionally, Halapoulivaati Vaitai was not playing on all his anticipated reps, but he did start and end practice with the first team, suggesting the team is just managing his health.

Defense strong early, offense scores late

Not including the designed special teams periods, the Lions ended up running 14 sessions matching up the offense and defense. The team would alternate which of the top two offensive and defensive units would face off against each other, with the third teams matching up for reps at the end.

Over the 14 sessions, the defense won a lot early on in the day, while the offense closed things out nicely once they found their rhythm and were put into more favorable situations. Over the first four matchups, the defense forced two interceptions and a turnover on downs, with a touchdown in between, then held the offense to three consecutive field goals. The offense closed out the final seven matchups, with five touchdowns, a field goal, and a turnover on downs.

Front-7 stats continue to pile up

While the overall design of the day was to put the offense and defense in a scrimmage scenario, the coaching staff also had specific situations they wanted to address. So at times, despite the defense “getting off the field” the drive would continue so that the two units on the field would get a desired amount of reps together.

We saw this happen when the first units squared off. On the first play of the series, the offense shifted in their outside receiver (Josh Reynolds) to execute a down block on the edge rusher and free up Jared Goff who would be play-action rolling behind him. Unfortunately for Reynolds, he was tasked with blocking Aidan Hutchinson, who easily dispatched the receiver and got the sack.

Two plays later, Campbell blew the play dead after Hutchinson once again bust into the backfield and was in pursuit of Goff. This whistle may have been a bit premature, but it speaks to the havoc Hutchinson has been creating all camp. Hutchinson would get a third sack when taking on the second-team offense as well.

In addition to Hutchinson, we also saw sacks from Alim McNeill, Romeo Okwara, Brian Branch, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, as well as two coverage sacks. Okwara also had a tackle for loss, as did Brodric Martin, and Kerby Joseph.

While not a sack or tackle for loss, we also saw a very impressive play from Josh Paschal who, on a sweep to his side, ran laterally with Jahmyr Gibbs, taking a proper angle to make sure he ran out of bounds before getting the angle to get to the end zone. Gibbs is not an easy player to track when moving laterally but Paschal showed some impressive quickness and smarts to make sure he reduced and cut off the angle.

Coverage improvements

In addition to the coverage sacks and Branch’s impact noted above, we also saw the Lions' back seven make a lot of plays on the ball.

Speaking of Branch, he split his time between the top two units on Thursday, but when he was with the second team, he drew Jameson Williams as his coverage assignment. On a play where Williams crossed the field, Branch found himself in a trail position but was relentless in his pursuit. Sudfeld threw the ball slightly behind Williams, and when he tried to bring it in, he left it on his back hip where Branch wisely punched it out before the catch could be secured.

Cameron Sutton, Alex Anzalone (on fourth down against the first team), Trevor Nowaske, and Romeo Okwara (yeah, him again) also had pass breakups, as did Derrick Barnes, whose tipped pass resulted in a Saivion Smith interception of Goff.

Brady Breeze also got an interception with the third team, when Adrian Martinez threw an errant ball towards the end zone.

The offense still flows through Amon-Ra St. Brown

The Lions offense opened with some designed runs but once they went to the air, St. Brown was immediately involved. Goff started with a quick out that, with yards after the catch, converted a first down. The next pass targeted him again but was overthrown. Josh Reynolds caught a pass next, then back to St. Brown again. Unfortunately, that opening drive ended on the next play (above tweet/video) when Smith intercepted a pass intended for Sam LaPorta.

When the first teams squared up, a Goff to St. Brown 25+ yard reception was the biggest of the offense’s 14 plays on the drive. The Goff-St. Brown connection showed up again during situational work when St. Brown stretched the seam for an 18-yard gain and set up a David Montgomery score—more on that in a minute.

But none of those plays were as good as the touchdown pass he caught when the first team was working against the second-team defense, with Chase Lucas drawing the challenging assignment. While the defensive back had blanketed coverage, Goff threw a dart low and behind the receiver (note: it had to be there to stay away from Lucas), and St. Brown reached back and snatched the fastball out of the air for the score.

Beyond the Sun God

On the aforementioned Montgomery score, we saw the Lions working in a situational drill. After the St. Brown catch, the Lions offense had the ball at the 6-yard line with eight seconds remaining and one timeout in their pocket. The Lions opted to try and surprise the defense by running the ball, knowing they could stop the clock if stopped short. The result was a terrific blocking execution from the offensive line, most notably by Graham Glasgow (from center) who opened a gaping hole by blocking down and walling off Hutchinson. Montgomery saw the hole, attacked, and it ended up being an easy score.

Brock Wright scored a touchdown with the second team during situational work, Jason Cabinda scored during a red zone drill, while UDFA rookie Dylan Drummond scored, beating Sutton at the end of a long drive drill that pitted the second team offense against the first team defense.

Drummond continues to make his presence known.

One final note on the offense: Penei Sewell is fun.

On a few occasions during Thursday’s practice, we saw Sewell get out in front of a running back, bringing back shades of Week 18 when he relocated Darnell Savage. Sewell found himself pulling into space and getting ahead of both Montgomery and Gibbs on occasion, and that has to be terrifying for defenders—and an absolute joy for Lions fans.

Play of the day

On the first series for the second-team offense, they took on the first-team defense and were aggressive in attacking them downfield. Nate Sudfeld threw his first two passes to Jameson Williams, missing him 20 yards downfield on the first and completing a screen on the second.

Sudfeld’s third pass was a beautifully-timed sideline throw to Justin Jackson running a wheel route with Jack Campbell in coverage. Jackson got the early advantage in the route and was gone, with only a closing C.J. Gardner-Johnson to beat. Jackson faked a cutback which caused the safety to hesitate just a bit, and that was all the running back needed to gain separation for a touchdown. In total, the play went for at least 65 yards.

Kicker battle update

Both Riley Patterson and Parker Romo got in a lot of work, kicking for varying distances and converting extra points. Here’s a look at how the day went for both kickers (Green = make; Red = miss):

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