5 standouts from Detroit Lions minicamp, Day 1

Pride of Detroit

The Detroit Lions took the field on Tuesday for their first of three minicamp practices. All but one of Detroit’s 89 players were accounted for, with the one exception being edge defender Austin Bryant.

Given that for most of these players this week of practices will be their last until training camp in late July, Tuesday’s session was important to make a good impression upon the energetic coaching staff.

There were a lot of chances for the media to evaluate play, as the Lions mixed in individual work, one-on-ones in the passing game, and a couple sets of red zone seven-on-sevens. With about 90 minutes of practice available to the public, here’s a look at five players that stood out to me on Tuesday.

Quintez Cephus

Last week, it was Victor Bolden who stood out among the Lions wide receivers reserves, and Bolden got a nice shoutout by Dan Campbell on Tuesday.

But on the field, it was Quintez Cephus who emerged as a big playmaker to start the week. Though he had an early drop on a hot and high pass from Goff during individual drills, he shined during both one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens.

Though he mostly worked with the second team, he cleanly beat Bobby Prices on a route to the back pylon during goal line drills, and Tim Boyle dropped a perfect pass in. Later, he made a diving catch in the end zone, and then he made it a trifecta by creating a step or two of separation opposite Quinton Dunbar and hauling in another score.

Red-zone defense

Cephus may have looked good in seven-on-sevens, but not much can be said for the rest of the offense.

During the final set of goal line seven-on-sevens, it took Jared Goff five attempts to even complete a pass against the defense. Granted, the shortened field gives a slight advantage to the defense, but I was still impressed by the Lions secondary’s ability to pass off receivers in zone or jam the wideouts effectively in man coverage.

During this period, we also saw the defense’s first interception in front of media this offseason. After his initial read was covered, Goff tried to fire the ball to a receiver in the back of the endzone, but he didn’t see the backside defender. That man, Will Harris, picked off the ball and was off to the races. Of note on that play, Jeff Okudah had completely blown up Goff’s initial read, earning himself heavy praise of defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant from the sideline.

Quick note on Okudah: Last year, many of us praised Okudah’s composure. Whether he was getting beat or knocking down a pass, he would remain focused and not let his emotions show. I can say with certainty that version of Jeff Okudah is dead, for better or for worse. He is now one of the loudest players on the defense, even when he’s on the sidelines cheering on his teammates.

Eventually the offense settled in, and Tyrell Williams actually had two clean beats on Okudah. On the first, he failed to find the ball and it fell incomplete. The second, he tight-roped the back of the endzone for a wide open touchdown to close the session.

T.J. Hockenson

When doing one-on-ones against linebackers, Hockenson looked like he was playing in another league. The only thing that stopped him from having a perfect session was when he slipped during one rep. Compared to the rest of the tight ends… there is no comparison. Hockenson is more athletic, smoother in his routes, and simply more of a mismatch against linebackers. It’s clear he and Goff have developed a chemistry, too.

However, it wasn’t all a great day from Hockenson. During seven-on-sevens he had two critical drops that likely would have resulted in touchdowns. He arguably had a third one, but Tracy Walker was also all over him and may have gotten a true breakup.

Julian Okwara

During those one-on-ones between linebackers and tight ends, Julian Okwara was a surprise standout. He looked like a natural backpedaling and cleanly broke up a pass. He was one of the few defenders during the five-minute session to get his hands on a ball.

Okwara won’t be asked to drop into coverage all that much in this defense, but it’s nice to see he has the athletic traits to potentially do it if called upon.

D’Andre Swift/Jamaal Williams

If these two don’t combine for at least 60 catches this year, they’re not being used correctly. Again, the Lions’ top running back duo dominated in the receiving game. During one-on-ones, Williams did rookie linebacker Tavante Beckett so dirty that the entire crowd of players and coaches erupted.

Swift, too, looked unguardable. During one of the first seven-on-seven reps, he cleanly beat Dean Marlowe for an easy score.

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