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Detroit Lions training camp observations

ByStephen M Edwards

Aug 7, 2021

– The Lions practiced in full pads today and were wearing helmets. They started off with a brief warm up before rotating into position drills. Later on, they worked on 7-on-7s, and finally finished off practice by working on 11-on-11s.

— The quarterbacks made some nice throws in 7-on-7s, but didn’t completely impress by any means. One of Stafford’s passes was dropped by Calvin Johnson and then another throw to Johnson was pretty underwhelming as well. Shaun Hill had a couple nice touch throws that led Nate Burleson and Kris Durham respectively into the end zone for scores during those same passing sessions. Both Hill and Kellen Moore had touchdown passes during 7-on-7s.

— Defensively, the Lions pass rush really stepped it up today compared to practices from yesterday and Sunday. Nick Fairley made some nice plays rushing off the edge against an offensive tackle, which led one reporter to joke that he might have been the best player on either team at that moment. Ziggy Ansah also looked pretty good as he blew by Riley Reiff in a one-on-one scenario and sacked Matthew Stafford for a would-be sack/strip attempt if not for push back by his own teammate (more on this later). Stephen Tulloch made some nice plays too when rushing off the edge again and helping force another sack of Stafford. Larry Webster also came through with some nice pressure.

— Griffins Report: Nick Fairley (wrist) did not practice today, and was wearing a wrap on his left wrist. He tested it out early on in walkthroughs but took himself off to the side before anything too strenuous began. The Lions have said there is no concern about him missing regular season time. He’s just going to be “week-to-week” while he continues to rehab his injury. Meanwhile, Louis Delmas (knee) missed practice again today and Israel Idonije (back) also missed his second straight day of action as well… The only notable players that didn’t participate were those previously mentioned plus Larry Webster (head), Ziggy Ansah (back) and Kellen Moore (knee).

— After a beautiful day with temperatures in the 80s on Saturday, Sunday was a bit hotter but also more humid. Once again, there were storms that rolled through during practice today so it’s always a good thing when they pass through before anyone gets hurt from lightning or anything else for that matter. The Lions spent most of their time practicing at the end zone near where the press box is located, which was nice while they sat under some shaded tents… The first real 11-on-11 action wasn’t without its fair share of issues though. Sam Martin had one punt blocked today after being bull rushed right into his punting leg, while Don Muhlbach had another blocked after tipping it up at the line of scrimmage. With that being said, both kickers looked really good with their field goal attempts… On offense, if not for a nice diving touchdown reception by Corey Fuller on the left side as he beat Rashean Mathis and Jonte Green, some other unfortunate news would have to be talked about. Starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle injured his knee during team drills sometime towards the end of practice. He didn’t appear to be in too much pain as trainers helped him off the field and into a cart so hopefully this is just precautionary and nothing serious.

— The Lions are spending majority of practices working primarily on one facet of the game per day and sometimes a bit more than just one. So far, it’s been pass rush/run blocking on Day 1, run defense/pass coverage on Day 2, throwing/receiving on Day 3 and blitzing/running on Sunday. Today was perhaps the most encouraging day when looking at some skill position players in terms of making plays as opposed to everything else up to now. Multiple players caught touchdown passes during 11-on-11s including Calvin Johnson (two touchdowns), Corey Fuller (one), Joseph Fauria (one) and Kellen Moore (one).

— Johnson looked really impressive today while running slant routes with Darius Slay out of the slot position. He made a few tough catches and made defenders miss in the open field after the catch, including a nice juke move on safety Glover Quin. However, it’s not just Stafford that Johnson is making look good out there either… Both Stafford and Shaun Hill have impressed with their arm strength for sure so far but you could tell they were finally wide open to take advantage of it today. Quick passes over the middle were hitting receivers right away instead of being a little late or off-target as we’ve seen in daily observations so far.

— Back to Johnson, he appeared to tweak his left ankle during practice but carried on without missing any time at all while trainers wrapped it up for him in between drills. He will be taking some plays off for the rest of camp but his ankle wasn’t too swollen after practice when he walked around on it.

— There were a few new faces in attendance today, most notably running back George Winn and cornerback Keith Lewis plus long snapper Jimmy Landes and wide receiver Jeremy Ross who had previously been absent from team activities. However, some players have once again been ruled out for the remainder of training camp including safety Jerome Couplin (knee), running back Montell Owens (unknown) and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (ankle). Defensive ends Larry Webster (concussion) and Ziggy Ansah (back) also missed their third straight days of action while Kellen Moore (knee) was replaced at quarterback by Garrett Gilbert during team drills.

— Today was the first day since Day 1 that I didn’t really see any of the five quarterbacks do anything during practice to warrant much praise or criticism. The running game looked good but with just one run being called during team drills, it wasn’t too exciting and there were no wide open tight ends like Fauria on Sunday who had 2 catches for 34 yards and two touchdowns today… There has been a lot of talk about Hill getting some time with the starting offense each day against some top defenses so far this camp but that hasn’t been the case yet. He has had a rough go at it when compared to Stafford over these past few days though, especially when the rush is coming from the right side where he is most comfortable as a passer. He was sacked twice again today and I think once by Kyle Van Noy (1) and once by Ashlee Palmer (2). The latter sack was more of his own doing, though, but in any case… Hill did manage to complete a nice pass between the hashes to Ross for thirty or so yards on the first play that they had against cornerback Johnson Bademosi with Kenny Golladay lined up wide left and Golden Tate at slot right.

— With George Winn showing some ability while running with the second team offensive line during 11-on-11s, it caused rookie Zach Zenner to look even worse than usual. There has been some talk of him getting some time with the first team offense once camp gets underway and backup running back Ameer Abdullah is on track to return from injury soon, but Winn may have just taken that spot. Barring any more injuries between now and then, I would be surprised if Zenner was ahead of either Winn or Abdullah when it’s all said and done.

— Today’s practice started with a special teams segment wherein Ameer Abdullah lined up at wide receiver across from safety Don Carey while Theo Riddick lined up in the slot position against cornerback Mohammed Seisay… It’s probably a good sign for Matt Prater that he got some chances to kick field goals today even with roster cuts surrounding him. Alex Henery has been doing pretty well for himself as far as accuracy goes, but Prater is still the incumbent and will be on my roster prediction list once it’s released in early September.

— While the defensive line unit has been one of strength so far during training camp, that wasn’t the case today with Laken Tomlinson getting worked over by rookie Gabe Wright. He was lined up across from Tomlinson several times and took advantage of his chance to make a move for playing time at the top of the depth chart… Injuries have sidelined both starting corners Rashean Mathis (groin) and Darius Slay (undisclosed) ever since Day 4 of camp, but they are expected back soon. This could be a byproduct of training camp wear-and-tear and it could be that both players are just tired of doing battle with the wide receivers during practice each day. Or it may have something to do with Nevin Lawson who has looked impressive so far this summer as an inside corner… With Bill Bentley getting a bad case of the drops today during team drills while playing slot cornerback opposite Darius Slay, he might have given up his roster spot already. He had one drop in Tuesday’s practice session but dropped two more passes today against TJ Jones and Jace Billingsley in one on ones..

— While there was an odd assortment of defensive linemen across from each other for some reason, there didn’t seem to be much thought behind the scheme. The defensive line seemed a bit unbalanced with the first team with two weakside members on the outside (Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor) and only one strongside DE in Jason Jones. This resulted in some odd man rushes across various fronts that won’t be easy to execute for new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin… Second-year tight end Eric Ebron was back today after missing Tuesday’s practice session due to soreness/fatigue. He didn’t do much catching as he lined up mostly at slot receiver but when he got a chance, he had some nice eye-hand coordination on a pass thrown by Dan Orlovsky… Backup quarterback Shaun Hill seems to have found a groove here lately as he’s had consecutive solid practices. He found a nice target in receiver Lance Moore in zone coverage when defensive back Isa Abdul-Quddus left his position to double team wide receiver Corey Fuller with safety Don Carey…

— While the first unit offensive line got some work done on Monday ahead of their preseason opener, they all played rather poorly today against the defensive line. They had trouble adjusting to various blitzes and stunts that were thrown at them by both Teryl Austin and Jim Washburn who orchestrated drills on the goal line. It doesn’t seem like it will take much for Taylor Decker or Manny Ramirez to earn a starting job after Travis Swanson struggled during 11-on-11s today. One could make an argument that Swanson has had a poor training camp and that we should have more faith in his learning ability, but it’s also important to note the level of talent surrounding him. The young group at defensive tackle has been impressive and will probably get better over time…

— Offensive guard Laken Tomlinson continues to struggle against even the most mediocre pass rushers. He was overpowered by both Devin Taylor and Kerry Hyder who are no longer on the roster which likely means he needs some work when they get back from injury. Or else this could be just another indicator that Tomlinson isn’t quite ready for prime time… Nevin Lawson made a nice chance today at cornerback going up against Lance Moore in one-on-one drills. He jumped the route and made an interception while falling backwards into the end zone. It looked like a defensive back making a play on his own but he was also aided by safety Glover Quin who took away the throw from quarterback Shaun Hill…

— Linebacker Kyle Van Noy has had some nice moments over this training camp practice session but it’s hard to get too excited about even those at this point in time. He definitely makes attempts to play faster than he should be playing, as witnessed when he tried to chase down running back Ameer Abdullah downfield after catching a screen pass. While fans can appreciate him for wanting to chase the ball carrier or showing good hustle, his job is normally closer to the line of scrimmage, not 50 yards downfield…

— The Lions’ first-team offense huddled up at the end of practice today and had just one series against the defense. They ran two plays total but were able to get a field goal out of it for some red zone work. Graham Gano was able to connect on both kicks from 43 and 35 yards away respectively. It has been obvious throughout training camp that he is the better kicker between him and Matt Prater. He is more accurate with his longer range attempts compared to Prater who has hit many short field goals in warmups but missed from 48 during Thursday Night Football last night… Although he did well while using his hands at times during Tuesday’s padded practice session, running back Ameer Abdullah didn’t do well today in 11-on-11 work. He was met by Glover Quin at the line of scrimmage after what would have been a 24-yard run on this drill and then tried to bounce it outside but wound up tripping over his own feet as he fell forward for no gain…

— It’s impossible not so notice how much more often Miles Killebrew is playing now compared to when training camp first started. Don’t get me wrong, he still isn’t taking reps from safety Glover Quin or Rafael Bush who are rotating with each other every other series, but he’s busy enough for my liking. Although he has had trouble tackling at times during training camp, he has also made plays with his lengthy frame. He knocked a pass down on a slant route today and then provided good coverage using his hands to get in the way of the pass… Third-year linebacker Kyle Van Noy had himself an eventful day as he recorded three tackles during team drills, tipped two passes during 7-on-7s and intercepted a Shaun Hill throw which was intended for Lance Moore. The pass was under thrown but it still looked like good awareness by Van Noy to track it down…

— I wrote yesterday that Ameer Abdullah is struggling in the passing game this training camp session after I witnessed him dropping two throws from satellite backs Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner over two days. Today, Abdullah dropped two more passes which happened to both come from quarterback Dan Orlovsky. The first pass was a quick slant route caught by fullback Nick Bawden who was running downfield as he tried to work his way open for the catch and Abdullah was in the right spot at the right time except he didn’t secure it and it fell through his hands. During 7-on-7s, Abdullah jumped early during a play but then got over aggressive on another play and tipped an Orlovsky throw instead of catching it cleanly…

— It seems like every play tight end Eric Ebron hears a whistle near him so he can lob up a prayer or exaggerate being touched in order to get some calls but safety Glover Quin let him know exactly how he feels about it when he walked by. Quin had some words and made a few gestures with his hands that I can’t remember what they were but Ebron didn’t seem to too happy after that happened…

— Quandre Diggs is my favorite player on the Lions defense because he plays the game like a fan would if they could suit up for an NFL game. He loves hitting the wide receivers, tight ends and running back in practice which makes watching every play with him more fun than someone who just goes through the motions and gives up on tackles or being overly hesitant… Rookie cornerback Alex Carter got himself into a sticky situation early in practice as he was trying to jam Anquan Boldin at the line of scrimmage on a pass that was intended for Golden Tate. Boldin broke off his route and Carter gave up tons of space before lunging at him which allowed Boldin to easily shed his arm and tip the pass down for an incompletion. Later in practice, he got burned by Lance Moore who ran right past him for an easy reception from Dan Orlovsky…

— I have been very high on linebacker Kyle Van Noy since we all learned drafting him in 2014 was Detroit’s best pick throughout that year’s draft class and he is making me look good even though he hasn’t done anything spectacular during training camp. He has been very consistent as a run defender while also showing solid coverage ability underneath and he has been among the leaders in tackles each of the last two days. He looked to be moving a little quicker today while covering Ameer Abdullah on an end around and later in practice was working with the first team at strongside linebacker…

— It was another solid day for cornerback Nevin Lawson as he had good coverage on Anquan Boldin during red zone work. Earlier in practice, he broke up a pass intended for TJ Jones over the middle in tight man coverage… One would think that going against Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson every day would make Eric Ebron a better player but that doesn’t seem to be the case. As of right now, it looks like Jalen Collins who is currently behind Slay on the depth chart is ahead of Ebron and he could even be fighting his way onto the 53-man roster. Collins had a solid practice today that included a pass breakup on Calvin Johnson during 7-on-7s…

— Another day, another nice catch by Lance Moore who continues to impress in training camp so far this year. He caught two passes from Dan Orlovsky, one of which was an out route on which Moore initially looked like he would tip it up for grabs before securing the catch for positive yards. Later on, he got open over the middle against Quandre Diggs because he faked inside before breaking outside but Diggs turned around just in time to see him make the grab for a big gain…

— With Nevin Lawson being the third cornerback, it seems inevitable that Alex Carter will be moved to the practice squad at some point this season. As a rookie, he stands little chance of beating out Lawson for playing time but his play has been rather poor and you have to wonder if he would even be able to beat out Bill Bentley or Jonte Green on the roster… Jim Caldwell was disappointed in Ebron after seeing his effort level drop during one-on-one pass rush drills which led him to call him over. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hear what was said but my guess is that Caldwell must have called Ebron out on something non football related like not trying hard enough or working hard enough in general because Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate also talked to him after practice…

— Another day, another good showing by the Lions’ tight ends. Tim Wright made a nice catch over the middle against Tahir Whitehead who nearly came up with an interception but dropped it in his hands for what would have been a really nice play otherwise. He later had a pass bounce off of him that was intercepted by Rafael Bush, although he did not appear to be at fault there as he may have gotten hit by Khaseem Greene before it happened… Brandon Pettigrew has yet to stand out this training camp so far but I don’t think we will see much of him until Week 1 either so I am not worried about that.