OTAs and training camp can only provide so many fresh looks. Even for rookies, playing against the same guys day in and day out allows you to pick up on cues that may not translate to a game situation. Quarterbacks and coordinators may tinker with the looks they throw out there, trying and assessing new things. All in all, it’s hard to get a true read on a team based on training camp practices alone.
That’s where joint practices come in. With so little live action for each unit in preseason games, joint practices allow teams to throw their players into unfamiliar looks and see how they fare in a true wild card situation. To me, the insights from joint practices carry significantly more weight than a typical report out of Allen Park.
With the New York Giants in Allen Park for joint practices this week, I’ll have my eyes on the players who are the biggest question marks: the rookies.
Question of the day: Which rookie are you watching closest at joint practices?
There are so many to choose from, especially after day one with the Giants. The Detroit Lions’ official twitter account teased us with highlights from the newest Lions.
There are so many talented Lions rookies to choose from, and it’s hard not to get excited about them all. However, I’ll be looking out for one guy who hasn’t gotten a lot of attention so far: Jack Campbell.
It’s still unclear just how far along Campbell is so far in training camp. Is he ready to start in Week 1? There hasn’t been much of a narrative surrounding his progression, unlike the rookies above.
With that being the case, the Giants pose a very unique test for the rookie linebacker. Giants running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Darren Waller are two of the best at their position, and are each especially good in the pass-catching department. One of the biggest benchmarks of a reliable linebacker in today’s league is whether or not they can cover in pass defense. Waller and Barkley will pose a unique test to Campbell that may give us a glimpse into whether he’ll be up for the task in Week 1.
I still expect Alex Anzalone to get first dibs in coverage against these guys, but Campbell should certainly get some looks too. It’s also important to remember that if Campbell struggles, Barkley and Waller are two of the best at their positions for a reason.
Regardless, I’ll be watching Campbell’s progression closely throughout much of training camp. If he hits the ground running, I expect him to be a cornerstone of this defense for years to come. If he doesn’t, then the Lions find themselves holding their breath for Alex Anzalone to replicate the better parts of his 2022 season, or face a gaping hole on defense.
We’ll get to see more out of Campbell in the coming weeks as well, as the Lions will also host the Jacksonville Jaguars for joint practices. The Jaguars also present a formidable RB/TE duo in Travis Etienne and Evan Engram, both also specialists in the passing game and part of a red-hot offense.
Will Jack Campbell get his time to shine this week against the Giants? Or will he look the way the Giants linebackers did against Jahmyr Gibbs? Which rookie will you be watching closest? Let us know in the comments.