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Detroit Lions training camp Day 11 observations: Alabama rookies continue to impress

The Detroit Lions held their eleventh practice of training camp, and Jahmyr Gibbs and Brian Branch continue to impress.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a Friday walkthrough, the Detroit Lions were back on the practice field and in front of fans at Allen Park for Day 11 of training camp. After a long period of individual and one-on-one drills, the Lions ran a few 11-on-11 matchups before closing the day with an end-of-game four-minute scenario, both asking their offense to come back from 10 points down and another asking the defense to hold a 10-point lead.

Attendance/Injury update

Emmanuel Moseley (PUP) was in attendance for the first time since camp opened and while he was just watching from the sideline, he did speak to some members of the media following practice.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll be out there, but I feel pretty good,” Moseley said. “I trust the trainers, trust the process, and trust everyone in the building that when the time is right, I’ll be out there.”

There were a few players missing from practice entirely, including Jameson Williams and Jermar Jefferson, while Denzel Mims was forced to leave the field early after a leg injury. Jeremy Reisman has more on these storylines in a separate article.

On a more positive note, both Frank Ragnow and Ifeatu Melifonwu returned to practice on Saturday after missing the last two practices. Melifonwu was seen with a compression sleeve on his leg, while Ragnow looked fine and took every starting rep that the first team ran.

Jahmyr Gibbs’ impactful day

While Gibbs has been working with the first team throughout camp, he has steadily seen his workload increase. On Saturday, the Lions made a point to keep their offensive skill players static for 11-on-11 drills, while shifting back into a first-team rotation during situational work. As a result, David Montgomery was with the first team during 11s, shifting Gibbs to the second team, and Craig Reynolds with the third unit. This designed usage allowed Gibbs to see every snap in a series—as opposed to splitting them with Montgomery, as they had been doing—and his increase in production was noticeable.

On the first 11-on-11 series, they opened with a Gibbs run to the right. On the next play, Nate Sudfeld found him in the flat. Then two plays later, Sudfeld found Gibbs again on a quick out that the back was able to turn upfield for YAC.

When the team moved into situational work, with the team needing a touchdown to stay alive, Jared Goff found Gibbs on a 16-yard wheel route, beating Malcolm Rodriguez to the end zone for the score.

It wasn’t an entirely clean day for Gibbs. He struggled in pass protection drills and was beaten easily by Jalen Reeves-Maybin twice. Though he did get his revenge when the roles reversed and Reeves-Maybin couldn’t keep up with the electric rookie in a coverage rep.

Overall, it was a solid day for the Lions first-round pick. He still has a few areas of his game that need to be cleaned up before the regular season, but his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways is already noticeable.

Amon-Ra St. Brown/Sam LaPorta becoming primary options

While the majority of practice was a standard day in many ways, the Lions’ situational drill at the end of practice was very telling.

In the scenario set up by coach Dan Campbell, the Lions first-team defense was on the field against the second-team offense. The “starters” were down 10 points, with 3:41 remaining in the game, the ball was on the offense's 25-yard line, and the defense held three timeouts. After the defense forced a three-and-out and punt, the first-team offense took over on their own 25-yard line with 3:21 left on the clock, no timeouts remaining, and 10 points to overcome.

On the first play, pressure from James Houston forced Goff to throw an incompletion. On the next play, Goff found Amon-Ra St. Brown for a 19-yard gain. The next play saw Goff find Sam LaPorta for another first down. Goff to St. Brown again, then back to LaPorta for another first down. A pattern was emerging.

Goff missed a pass to Marvin Jones Jr., then missed St. Brown before finding him for a 12-yard gain on third down. Starling Thomas V got a pass breakup on a pass intended for Josh Reynolds, then got beat by Kalif Raymond on a 12-yard gain. That setup Gibbs’ wheel route for a score.

The Lions simulated an onside kick recovery, giving the ball back to the first-team offense with 1:24 left on the clock and down three points.

A screen to Montgomery was followed up by two more St. Brown catches of 12 and 9 yards. St. Brown was targeted for a third time but that pass went incomplete. A Montgomery run got the Lions a first down and a spike stopped the clock with 27 seconds. That set up an 18-yard touchdown by LaPorta, who beat underneath zone coverage from Jack Campbell and over-the-top coverage from a safety who was too far away to react to the rookie tight end flying downfield into the end zone.

St. Brown continues to be a target monster for Goff, but LaPorta is an easy second option, as he creates a large target and has proven to have reliable hands.

Brian Branch, Cameron Sutton step up in situational drill

The Lions ran the exact same scenario with the first-team defense, asking them to hold a 10-point lead against the second-team offense. If it wasn’t for coaches resetting the drill multiple times, this scenario would have been over quickly.

The second-team offense opened the drive by targeting UDFA rookie Dylan Drummond for a short gain, with Jerry Jacobs stopping him short of the sticks and keeping him in bounds. On the next play, Aidan Hutchinson was clearly in for a sack but coaches allowed the play to happen and awarded the offense a first down.

With a new set of downs, Sudfeld once again tried to push the ball downfield and Brian Branch was there for a pass breakup. On the next play, Sudfeld once again targeted Drummond, and Branch read it the whole way, stepping in front and high-pointing the ball for an interception.

That should have ended the scenario, but instead, coaches reset the ball as if it had been completed to continue the scenario. Sudfeld threw a nice 28-yard seam pass to Chase Cota on first down. Then, when targeting Cota again on second down, Sudfeld was intercepted by Cameron Sutton.

After resetting the scenario for a third time, Sudfeld eventually found Brock Wright for a touchdown, extending the scenario into the second phase. Sudfeld stopped pushing it downfield as much, checking down to Wright and Mohamed Ibrahim, before giving up back-to-back sacks to Charles Harris and Hutchinson.

Quick hits

  • Chase Lucas had an interception during one-on-one drills, resulting in him throwing the ball into the stands (or close to it).
  • Julian Okwara had an interception during 11-on-11s, dropping into a zone and reading an underneath pass headed for Drummond.
  • Houston, Melifonwu, and UDFA rookie Chris Smith each got a sack during 11-on-11s.
  • Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Graham Glasgow were rotating first-team reps at right guard, leaving rookie Colby Sorsdal to get all the reps with the second team.
  • Thomas and Branch continue to get looks as one of the team’s top pairings at gunner.

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