The Detroit Lions had about half the squad present for the first of four practices in the final week of team activities held on Monday morning. The Lions coaching staff has sent most veteran players home for the rest of June as the team prepares for training camp at the end of July.
With roughly 45 players in attendance, it was definitely a slower paced workout, with more emphasis on individual and positional drills than competitive 11-on-11 drills. So here is an abbreviated version observations from Monday’s final practice open to the public before training camp.
Remember, OTAs are voluntary, and last week the Lions excused most of their veteran players to take a closer look and coach their younger players more intimately. Here is an overview of the players who were not to practice:
- jamal williams
- Jason Cabinda
Slightly surprising that D’Andre Swift is still around.
- Chark DJ
- Josh Reynolds
- Amon-Ra St. Brown
Jameson Williams was in training, but absent. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to lock St. Brown out of the building.
Derrick Deese and James Mitchell were in practice, but not in practice.
- Evan Brown
- matt nelson
- Taylor Decker
- Dan Skipper
- Halapoulivaati Vaitai
- jonas jackson
Despite his importance to the team, the Lions opted to keep Penei Sewell for an extra working week.
- Alim McNeill
- Michael Brockers
- Levi Onwuzurike
- Bruce Hector
- Josh Pascal
- Eric Banks
- Jason Cornell
- Romeo Okwara
- Julien Okwara
- Charles Harris
Basically, the only defensive linemen in attendance were Demetrius Taylor, John Cominsky, and Aidan Hutchinson (also James Houston). It’s really surprising that Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike didn’t hang around, but with Levi, they may have chosen to be too careful with his back. Josh Paschal was likely held off due to injury.
- Austin Bryant
- Alex Anzalone
- Jarrad Davis
- Chris Consulting
- Shaun Dion Hamilton
- Josh Wood
Natrez Patrick was in training, but not in training.
- Mike Hughes
- Amani Oruwariye
- Bobby Price
- Marc Gilbert
- A.J. Parker
Jeff Okudah was always kept away from team drills, but did a lot of individual drills. Ifaatu Melifonwu and Jerry Jacobs also attended but did not practice. AJ Parker’s absence should certainly come as a surprise.
- DeShon Elliott
- Tracy Walker
- Will Harris
- Ju Ju Hughes
- CJ Moore
No surprise here.
Rookie intelligence shines
Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard has bragged all offseason about how sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez is one of the smartest young players he has known. Rodriguez showed that intelligence early in practice, recognizing a screen pass almost immediately and blasting Godwin Igwebuike behind the line of scrimmage.
“There are things I can do with Malcolm that you might have to cut back on a third-year player, to be honest,” Sheppard said before practice. “I saw him immediately at rookie training camp, being able to take command of the caucus.”
The other draft pick who continues to flex his mental muscle on the field is seventh-round pick Chase Lucas. Detroit continues to work hard on pre-snap movement from a defensive standpoint, communicating assignment changes as the offense moves at a rapid pace. Not only is Lucas the quickest to recognize this assignment change, but he’s also the most vocal of the bunch, showing no fear in barking assignments at the rest of the defensive backfield.
“You see Lucas, great quickness in the short space, great agility, some positional flexibility and he’s very vocal,” Lions defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant said Monday. “He’s a leader there.”
Pleasant also clarified that the nickel cornerback is Lucas’ “home” right now. With AJ Parker and Mike Hughes ahead of him on the depth chart, it seems unlikely he can make up that ground by the end of training camp, but early feedback is still positive.
The defense goes into the red zone
The offense scored only once from a total of six red zone snaps. Coverage was particularly impressive as Brady Breeze had a very good rep covering Kalil Pimpleton and throwing him to the ground once the quarterback left the pocket. Her piece earned her a hug from Aubrey Pleasant afterwards.
The best play during this part of practice came from defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor, who continues to make the most of his early opportunities. He deflected a pass down the line, then caught the ball in the air for an interception.
The defense’s only error came from Anthony Pittman, who had a tough day of coverage on Monday. Tight end Shane Zylstra, who stood out among the remaining tight ends, beat him cleanly on a break route.
To complete the practice, the Lions placed a blocking dummy on a cart and slowly drove it along the goal line. Quarterbacks David Blough and Tim Boyle took turns trying to hit the blocking dummy as it moved left to right, then right to left. Blough beat Boyle six (on about 14 assists) to four.
Then it was time for the non-quarterbacks to try the drill. Bobby Price, who had a surprisingly strong arm, was beaten by a more modest Tom Kennedy. Kennedy only connected twice with the dummy, but after winning he landed an impressive punt.
The Lions beat the writer
I won’t spoil the results, but Erik Schlitt and I were on hand for a post-practice “beatwriter” combination, which really felt more like a skills competition. Your only spoiler: Erik and I entered the final event tied for the lead.
Drills included 17-yard field goals, catching a Jugs machine punt, longest punt, quarterback accuracy, 55-yard chipping on the green and a three-way contest points.
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