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5 Detroit Lions rookies who impressed Dan Campbell during joint practices with Giants

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell specifically point out these five rookies as standout players during Day 1 of joint practices with the New York Giants.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions 2023 rookie class is already starting to make a big impression on coach Dan Campbell. The Lions made six selections in the top-100, and outside of quarterback Hendon Hooker—who remains on the Non-Football Injury list—they’ve gotten plays out of all of them.

But on Wednesday, prior to the Lions’ second joint practice with the New York Giants, Campbell was asked specifically if there were any rookie who stood out in the first session with the Giants. Here’s who he mentioned:

Second-round pick Sam LaPorta

“LaPorta, I thought LaPorta showed up.”

Indeed the Lions tight end continues make plays at training camp. Now a regular fixture with the first-team offense, LaPorta has started to become a favorite target of Jared Goff, particularly in the red zone. On Tuesday, he drew a pass interference during a red zone drill and moved the chains with another catch.

In my limited time watching the offense on the second day of joint practices, LaPorta was the only first-team player to find the end zone during the opening red zone seven-on-seven drills.

First-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs.

“I thought Gibbs showed up.”

As we broke down in our Day 1 observations, Gibbs had a big day against the Giants defense—not only scoring two receiving touchdowns during team drills, but also doing this to Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke.

Lions second-round pick Brian Branch

“Branch did some things.”

He sure did. Branch has now fully assumed the Lions’ starting nickel corner job, pushing C.J. Gardner-Johnson to more of a safety role and Tracy Walker to the second-team defense.

On Tuesday, Branch was all over the place breaking up passes, including this absolutely perfect coverage on Giants receiver Jaydon Mickens.

Wednesday was more balanced for Branch, but he continues to rep almost exclusively with the ones and continues to tally at least a pass breakup per practice. He timed a break on the ball perfectly to bat down a pass to Parris Campbell, and he likely would have tallied a blindside sack on a well-timed blitz.

Undrafted rookie CB Starling Thomas V

“Starling, I saw growth.”

The UDFA out of out of Alabama-Birmingham continues to rep with the second-team defense and looks like he belongs. Campbell also noted on Wednesday how Thomas’ competitive (and vocal) nature is exactly what you need to succeed and the NFL level.

“Without that, then it doesn’t matter,” Campbell said. “It will look as pretty as you want it. You do all this, but if you don’t have that, then you will never be a player in this league.”

Undrafted WR Dylan Drummond

“Drummond once again, out there making plays.”

This is the second time in a week Campbell has showered praise upon the former Eastern Michigan receiver. Earlier, he had this to say about Drummond:

“He makes plays every day. He really, mentally, can play all the positions,” Campbell said. “He competes in special teams and I would say he’s hard to ignore. He’s just hard to ignore. He just – he’s continuing to climb the depth chart, so he’s doing exactly what a guy like him has to do. He’s doing everything right. He rarely messes something up and if he does, he learns from it, he grows and it doesn’t happen again.”

Drummond has mostly been repping with the second team, but in his limited time with the first team, he’s made a big impression on Jared Goff, too:

“He’s a good player, man,” Goff said. “He does everything right, continually shows up. I know he’s good on special teams, from what I’ve heard. But yeah, for me, he’s a guy that continually is exactly where he’s supposed to be, on time, he’s fast, he’s sudden, he’s smart, he’s got good hands.”

Obviously, there are a couple players who are noticeably absent from Campbell’s list. First-round rookie linebacker Jack Campbell was left off his list and has seemingly dropped to the second team in favor of Derrick Barnes. Brodric Martin was also not mentioned, but it’s worth noting he made the team’s highlight reel from Tuesday’s practice.

Campbell also offered more thoughts on seventh-round pick receiver Antoine Green, who after a decent start to training camp, has recently been overshadowed by Drummond’s impressive run.

“Inconsistent,” Campbell said of Green’s camp. “Man, he does some things that really show, and then it just, you know, it dips. And there again he’s a young player, does some things that really catch your eye, and then some things the opposite way. So just, he’s inconsistent right now. And the more that he can, you know those can, he lessens ‘the inconsistency, the better off he is going to be.”

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