Monday’s practice was a pretty modest start to the week for the Detroit Lionsas they prepare for Friday’s first preseason game against the atlanta falcons. The Lions had their big scrimmage game on Saturday and an off day on Sunday, but they followed it up with a practice that featured a lot of special teams (punts) and had only one 11-on-11 drill series.
So the observations will be a little light today, but we’ll do it again tomorrow.
In case you missed one of our previous observations:
Jeff Okudah returned to practice and participated fully on Monday. Coach Dan Campbell said his absence from practice Saturday was simply a day off and there are no physical concerns with Okudah’s Achilles tendon at this time.
“It looks good,” Campbell said. He’s back, as if we had no concern for the Achilles. Physically he looks great, he needs reps, he needs to play, I mean that’s what we can never lose sight of.”
Ryan McCollum also returned after missing a few practices.
As for who was No out there, D’Andre Swift and Taylor Decker had their usual days off. Meanwhile, Julian Okwara, Levi Onwuzurike and Quintez Cephus were left out. The only update we have on those three is that the team is optimistic with the injury of Cephus.
There were two new additions to the absentee list: safety Ifatu Melifonwu and wide receiver Josh Johnson. Melifonwu was on the practice field but he was not dressed. It is unclear what he is currently dealing with. A similar deal with Johnson, who was outside in a hoodie and T-shirt but not doing individual or team drills.
Wide receivers continue to dominate
DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds have been stellar throughout the camp. For the first two weeks, it wasn’t so much that the defense was doing a poor job of coverage, but that these receivers were making great plays with the ball.
That was not the case on Monday. Wide receivers dominated the defense from the moment they caught it.
To be fair, the Lions did a lot of one-on-one, which greatly favors the offense. But for a guy like Amani Oruwariye, who didn’t win a single rep that I saw, it was a tough series of plays.
Jeff Okudah fared slightly better, going 1 for 3 against DJ Chark. Chark broke free on a post in the first, but Okudah matched the series with a physical battle in the next replay. However, the final replay was nowhere near as a short double move had Okudah grabbing onto the jersey and he was still a few steps behind.
As usual, during these one-on-one drills, Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown were particularly deadly for their quickness from close quarters. But one of the few stops throughout the exercise came from rookie Nickelback Chase Lucas, who stopped St. Brown and deflected the ball.
Unfortunately for the Lions’ starting defensive backs, things didn’t get any better during their only 11-on-11 set. Goff was 4-for-5 during that part, with his only incomplete pass coming on a contested ball by Michael Brockers or Charles Harris. Three of those completions went for at least 20-plus yards, including an incredible fingertip grab by Chark (again) on a route between Oruwariye and Tracy Walker.
Second team defense
The second team players also had the opportunity to play 11 against 11, with the offense led by Tim Boyle. David Blough and the third did not get team reps.
The defense was much stronger during this segment, but the staff was perhaps more notable. Okudah and Mike Hughes—who continues to get more outside work—were the two outside corners, with Lucas as the nickel. In safety, with Melifonwu out, were Kerby Joseph and JuJu Hughes, the latter of whom nearly had an interception. At linebacker, there was Malcolm Rodriguez and Shaun Dion Hamilton. Rodriguez got more love from Campbell before practice.
“Every day it gets a little better,” Campbell said. “His awareness of him and his instincts. He was already a physical type. But he runs well, but his knowledge and instincts for a rookie are pretty good.”
RB/TE vs. LB/S
While the receivers went against the corners, the running backs and tight ends faced the linebackers and safeties on the other side of the field. I tried to capture as much of both exercises.
Safeties fared slightly better in these drills. I had Tracy Walker with two pass breakups (vs. TJ Hockenson and Devin Funchess) and DeShon Elliott also with a pass defense against Hockenson, though the amount of contact on plays certainly bordered the line of legality. Hockenson had it easier in an earlier replay against Elliott, simply towering over him for an easy score.
As usual during these drills, the linebackers had a hard time covering the running backs. Craig Reynolds looked especially sharp, leaving both Alex Anzalone and Josh Woods in the dust in separate replays. Chris Board missed a leadoff hit from Jamaal Williams, giving the energetic running back an easy win. A few reps later, Williams beat Anthony Pittman and let everyone on the field know.
The Lions worked punts for at least three separate stretches Monday but never ran with a full team. Instead, they spent most of the day working one-on-one for the punt coverage and punt return teams.
Jermar Jefferson, who has been lauded for making strides on special teams this offseason, started a series of drills with an impressive chase down Kalif Raymond for the tackle. Newly added wide receiver Maurice Alexander continues to look like a natural returner.
Perhaps the strangest note of the day: The Lions spent seven or eight players simulating a return while trying to get tackled by two players. Among those who returned today was rookie cornerback Chase Lucas. He did get a bite out of the coaching staff, though, after long snapper Scott Daly took him down. However, it was all a lot of fun.
Welcome back Glover Quin
Former Lions professional bowl The safety was at practice Monday, chatting with some former teammates, including Tracy Walker and Don Muhlbach. Who is now the co-host of the Bleav on the Lions podcast.