The Detroit Lions are five practices in their organized team activities, including two in front of the media. We only have a small glimpse of what this 2022 Lions squad may be like, but with two data points, we can deduce which players are going in the right direction and which are trending down.
This beginning of the process, however, is mostly positive. Players improve as they regain their sea legs and become more comfortable with their teammates and the scheme.
Today, I’d like to highlight 10 of the standout performances from Thursday’s practice, often compared to last week’s OTA session, to see who’s making progress and who isn’t. So here are seven players who are moving in the right direction and three who are struggling.
Thursday was one of the most confident sessions I’ve seen from Goff on the training ground. During individual drills, he threw 40-yard bombs with perfect spirals and hit every receiver in stride as the crowd of season ticket holders ooh’d and ahh’d. In a full 11v11, Goff had the confidence to make a few passes in tight windows.
There were a few occasions where he held onto the ball for too long, but much less than we were used to. He’s so much further along than he was at this point last year.
Defending her craft for Trinity BensonLions general manager Brad Holmes said he thought Benson was more of a developmental move that could pay off down the line.
“Knowing he was young, Trinity’s intention was not 2021,” Holmes said. “It was like, ‘If he could contribute, great. If he needs a little more time to learn a new system that’s coming a little late, that’s what he’ll do.
Benson had an impressive Thursday, displaying some of the short-area quickness we expected to see early on – and solid hands, to boot. He also had a few special teams looks. The highlight of his day, however, was a dive catch on an exit route that reportedly picked up 20-25 yards.
There’s no clear path to the 53 player for Benson, but if he can continue that upward trajectory it could land him in the practice squad and give him the opportunity to play if the bug hits. injuries plagued the team.
Last week, it was clear that Goff was developing some serious chemistry with DJ Chark. This week, her longtime chemistry with Reynolds was on full display. During team drills, Reynolds had at least three catches, two of which were receptions in tight windows of at least 20 yards.
The Lions may have to rely on Reynolds at the start of the season if Jameson Williams isn’t fully recovered from his ACL tear. But with the way Reynolds played with Goff last year and the way he started off-season practices, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Cornell had some time with the first-team defense last week because Michael Brockers was out, and he made a few good plays, including a smashing pass or two. This week, Brockers returned, and Cornell saw a few more first-team looks. Again, he managed to make an impression, this time picking up a sack against Jonah Jackson on a one-minute drill.
Cornell also has a realistic chance of making the roster. The Lions don’t have a ton of depth at defensive tackle beyond Brockers, Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike, and Cornell’s sneaky, explosive speed might actually be a pretty decent fit in that scheme.
With Ifetu Melifonwu injured in the leg, Joseph had some playing time with the second team defense and immediately took advantage of the opportunity. His footballing instincts were on full display when he leapt past a pass from Tim Boyle, and he nearly picked up another one later in training when a pass bounced off the hands of Shane Zylstra.
Board gets stock simply by getting plenty of time back with the first-team defence, mostly alongside Alex Anzalone. Perhaps the Lions plan to offer these opportunities to several different players…as part of the fiery competition in this room– but the fact that Board was in the front row behind Derrick Barnes seems significant.
His performance has been top to bottom on the pitch. On one play, he timed a blitz perfectly into the A gap and was untouched on his way to force an incompletion. On the cover, however, he struggled as Zylstra beat him cleanly on a seam route for a big win.
Harris continues to represent as a first-team cornerback while Jeff Okudah sits out team drills and, more than ever, he looked like he belonged on Thursday. His best rep was against Amon-Ra St. Brown, where he basically went all the way for St. Brown and was in perfect position to make the interception. If it hadn’t been for some good “defensive” play from St. Brown, he would have had it. Even the completed passes he gave up on Thursday mostly had to be perfect passes and tricky catches.
It looks like Harris could find a place on this list in the cornerback room. However, the competition is sure to heat up with Okudah and Jerry Jacobs returning to the court respectively.
Out of stock
We saw Boyle perform two one-minute drills. His stats in the two combined: 1 for 3 for 10 yards, 1 interception and two sacks. His accuracy is way off in both team and individual drills. He holds the ball too long. Simply put, he doesn’t seem to be progressing the way you would expect for a player who is still relatively young and has just had his first real experience in the NFL. To be fair, he’s dealing with new receivers and tight ends, but he’s still not as advanced as you’d like.
Bryant already has a very rough road to the 53-man roster after Detroit added several top defensemen this offseason. On Thursday, he sat out most practice due to injury. Bryant simply can’t afford to run out of time right now because it’s essential he makes the most of every moment he steps into training.
Lions tight ends
While Zylstra has caught a nice couture road, Detroit’s tight ends room hasn’t sparked much optimism so far. With TJ Hockenson and rookie James Mitchell out, it’s a golden opportunity for someone to step in and get a quick start at No. 2. Garrett Griffin and Derrick Deese missed Thursday’s practice, Zylstra had a bad fall and I didn’t see Brock Wright do a single take the whole practice.
Maybe Detroit’s tight room will be fine once Mitchell and Griffin return, but for now, it looks like the Lions need reinforcements.
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