Monday’s practice was a pretty modest start to the week for the Detroit Lions, as they prepare for Friday’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. The Lions had their big scrimmage on Saturday and a day off on Sunday, but they followed it up with a practice that heavily featured special teams (punts) and had just a single set of 11-on-11 drills.
So observations will be a little light today, but we’ll be back on it again tomorrow.
In case you missed an of our previous observations:
Jeff Okudah was back at practice and a full participant on Monday. Coach Dan Campbell said his absence during the scrimmage on Saturday was simply a day off, and there are no physical concerns with Okudah’s Achilles right now.
“He looks good,” Campbell said. “He’s come back, like we have no concern about the Achilles. Physically he looks great, he needs reps, he needs to play, I mean that’s the thing that we can never lose sight of.”
Ryan McCollum was also back after missing a few practices.
As far as who was not out there, D’Andre Swift and Taylor Decker had their regular off days. Meanwhile, Julian Okwara, Levi Onwuzurike, and Quintez Cephus all remained out. The only update we have out of those three is that the team is optimistic about Cephus’ injury.
There were two new additions to the list of absences: safety Ifeatu Melifonwu and wide receiver Josh Johnson. Melifonwu was out on the practice field but was not suited up. It’s unclear what he’s currently dealing with. Similar deal with Johnson, who was out there in a hoodie and jersey, but not going through individual nor team drills.
Wide receivers continue to dominate
DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds have been stellar all camp. Through the first two weeks, it wasn’t so much that the defense was doing a poor job of coverage, just that these receivers were making great plays on the ball.
That was not the case on Monday. The wide receivers were dominating the defense from snap to catch.
To be fair, the Lions did a lot of one-on-ones, which heavily favored the offense. But for a guy like Amani Oruwariye—who didn’t win a single rep I saw—it was a rough series of plays.
Jeff Okudah fared a little better, going 1-for-3 against DJ Chark. Chark broke free on a post in the first, but Okudah evened the series with a physical battle on the next rep. The final rep wasn’t close, though, as a short double move had Okudah grasping for the jersey and he was still a few steps behind.
As per usual, during these one-on-one drills, Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown were particularly deadly for their short-area quickness. But one of the few stops during the entire drill came from rookie nickelback Chase Lucas, who stood up St. Brown and knocked the ball away.
Unfortunately for the Lions starting defensive backs, things did not get better during their one set of 11-on-11. Goff went 4-for-5 during that stretch, with his only completion coming on a contested ball from either Michael Brockers or Charles Harris. Three of those completions were for at least 20+ yards, including an amazing fingertip grab from Chark (again) on a route between Oruwariye and Tracy Walker.
Second team defense
The second teamers also got a shot at some 11-on-11 play, with the offense being led by Tim Boyle. David Blough and the third-stringers did not get any team reps.
The defense was much stronger during this segment, but the personnel was perhaps more notable. Okudah and Mike Hughes—who continues to get more outside work—were the two outside corners, with Lucas at nickel. At safety, with Melifonwu out, it was Kerby Joseph and JuJu Hughes, the latter of which almost got an interception. At linebacker, it was Malcolm Rodriguez and Shaun Dion Hamilton. Rodriguez got more love from Campbell before practice.
“Every day he gets a little bit better,” Campbell said. “His awareness and his instincts. He was already a physical guy. But he runs well, but his awareness and instincts for a rookie are pretty good.”
RBs/TEs vs. LBs/S
While the wideouts were going against the corners, the running backs and tight ends were facing off against the linebackers and safeties on the other side of the field. I tried to catch as much of both drills.
The safeties fared a bit better in these drills. I had Tracy Walker with two pass breakups (vs. TJ Hockenson and Devin Funchess) and DeShon Elliott with a pass defense against Hockenson as well—although the amount of contact on the plays certainly bordered on the line of legality. Hockenson had an easier time on an earlier rep against Elliott, simply elevating over him for an easy score.
Per usual during these drills, the linebackers had a rough time trying to cover running backs. Craig Reynolds looked especially shifty, leaving both Alex Anzalone and Josh Woods in the dust on separate reps. Chris Board missed an initial punch of Jamaal Williams, giving the spirited running back an easy win. A few reps later, Williams beat Anthony Pittman—and let everyone on the field know about it.
The Lions worked on punts for at least three separate segments on Monday but never ran with a full team. Instead, they spent most of the day working on one-on-ones for punt coverage and punt return teams.
Jermar Jefferson, who has been praised for making strides on special teams this offseason, kicked off one set of drills with an impressive pursuit of Kalif Raymond, making the “tackle.” Newly-added receiver Maurice Alexander continues to look like a natural as a returner.
Perhaps the oddest note of the day: The Lions cycled through about seven or eight players simulating a return while trying to get tackled by two players. Among the returners today was rookie cornerback Chase Lucas. He got a mouthful from the coaching staff, though, after he was taken down by long snapper Scott Daly. It was all in good fun, though.
Welcome back, Glover Quin
The former Lions’ Pro Bowl safety was at practice on Monday, chatting it up with a few former teammates, including Tracy Walker and Don Muhlbach. Quin is now the co-host of the Bleave in Lions podcast.