Lions camp observations: Defense gets upper hand but Jamal Agnew continues to star

Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from Friday’s Detroit Lions training camp practice.

► After practicing in the rain earlier this week, morning thunderstorms pushed the Lions indoors for the first time this camp. Detroit’s indoor field is high quality, but there’s a reason coach Matt Patricia doesn’t like working on turf. Even with all the advancements in technology, the surface is still less forgiving than grass. 

Additionally, it’s difficult to be as efficient indoors. When outside, the Lions have two fields to spread out and run drills simultaneously. 

► The team wasn’t in full pads Friday and there was a greater focus on situational football, particularly work in the red zone. In those portions of practice, the day largely belonged to the defense. 

The play of the day came on a snap from the 2-yard line. Quarterback Matthew Stafford attempted to feed a quick slant to tight end Isaac Nauta, only to see safety Tracy Walker reach around the intended target and knock it away. Instead of the ball harmlessly hitting the turf, defensive end Romeo Okwara came up with a diving interception. 

Stafford and Nauta rebounded on the next snap, thanks to an outstanding play-action sell by the quarterback. That fake froze safety Will Harris long enough for the second-year tight end to leak open into the flat for an easy score.

More: Lions CB Mike Ford exits practice with leg injury, several others sit out

► On a later set of red zone downs, the coverage of the first-team secondary (Jeff Okudah, Desmond Trufant, Justin Coleman, Duron Harmon and Walker) was sticky.

On the first snap, Stafford had nowhere to go and threw the ball away. The second rep didn’t look much different and resulted in the quarterback firing a high incompletion out of the back of the end zone after holding the ball too long. 

Stafford had to hold it longer than he wanted on the third and final rep, as well, but eventually found rookie Quintez Cephus coming back toward the goal line for a touchdown. 

► The Lions transitioned to third-down work and Stafford connected with Danny Amendola on a crossing pattern for a conversion near mid-field. But when the reps shifted inside the 20, the defense was again up to the task, with Romeo Okwara coming through unblocked for a sack to end the battle between the starters.

The second-team offense had more luck in this segment. Similar to Amendola, Jamal Agnew got free on a crossing route to pick up a first near midfield, before scoring on a third-and-goal from the 5. Credit goes to quarterback David Blough, who delivered a perfect throw on an out pattern, over the coverage of safety C.J. Moore. 

Agnew is really putting an exclamation point on a strong camp, established himself as a shifty option out of the slot who is capable of keeping the chains moving. 

► The Lions got extra live work in with their punting competition and it was a better day for both Jack Fox and Arryn Sippos. 

Like Sam Martin used to do, Fox’s boots would regularly scrape the ceiling if the indoor facility. He has so much power in his leg and drove multiple punts beyond 50 yards, with a long of 61. 

Sippos had a slower start with a 39-yard effort, but rebounded with a 45-yarder pinned against the sideline, followed by bombs of 62 and 51 yards. 

The two also worked on pinning an opponent deep where Fox was more consistent. All four of his punts landed between the 8-11 yard lines. Sippos saw his first two bounce into the end zone before pinning one at the 6 and sending another out of bounds at the 11. 

Overall, the edge goes to Fox again, but Sippos showed some legit power and directional ability in the head-to-head matchup. 

More: Lions’ Will Harris ready to make big leap after suffering hard knocks as rookie

► Going back to Stafford, he had a couple incredible deep throws during this practice, hitting T.J. Hockenson on the back shoulder for a sizable gain to start the day and then delivering a strike to Kenny Golladay, working against Trufant, for another chunk pickup. Credit to Golladay, as well, after fully extending for the fingertip grab over his shoulder. 

Stafford did let one go too far, sailing it over the head of Marvin Hall where it was easily picked by Harmon, playing center field. 

► The Lions ended practice with a tough two-minute situation — ball at the 50, 46 seconds, no timeouts, needing a touchdown. 

And much like the rest of the practice, things didn’t look great for the offense. The first three plays saw a short completion that didn’t get out of bounds and two incompletions. But the drive was kept alive when Stafford found Agnew for the conversion. 

With the fresh set of downs, Stafford tried Hall deep, but Okudah’s coverage was perfect down the sideline. On second, Stafford tried for Cephus, but was nearly picked when Walker read the route, broke off from his assignment and undercut the throw. 

Down to two shots with 10 seconds remaining, Stafford tried Hall again on a corner pattern. Okudah was there in coverage, but wasn’t able to locate the ball. Somehow the throw got through the rookie’s reach to Hall for the 44-yard touchdown to end practice. 

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