NFL bizarro world: Detroit Lions seem to be stable while Green Bay Packers are a circus

Detroit Free Press

Jared Goff dropped back to pass for the Detroit Lions — OK, wait a second.

Yes, that sounds weird.

And it looked even stranger, not seeing Matthew Stafford back there.

It’s going to take some time to get used to this.

Anyhow, Goff dropped back to pass during a seven-on-seven drill in the red zone at the end of Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp practice at Allen Park.

Goff floated the ball into the middle of the field and it was intercepted by Will Harris. The Lions’ defensive players went crazy, as Harris sprinted the other way. If nothing else, you have to love the spirit of this team. Coach Dan Campbell is trying to inject an intense, competitive vibe, and it’s working.

The drill continued and they kept the ball in the red zone. On Goff’s second play, he tried to hit Breshad Perriman in the end zone and it was broken up by Mike Ford.

Again, the defense started celebrating, as Campbell stood behind the offense, hands on his hips, just observing.

On Goff’s third play of the drill, the new Lions quarterback rolled to his left, strung out the play and threw incomplete to tight end T.J. Hockenson near the sideline.

Ouch.

Three plays, three blown opportunities.

And that defense couldn’t have been happier. Yes, it was shocking, just to see the Lions defense making plays. This defense didn’t make many last year, so that was new.

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Clearly, this is a work in progress. A new quarterback. A new head coach. A new front office. And a new vibe.

“Yeah, it’s a constant work in progress,” Goff said. “We obviously have work to do. And anytime you run a new offense with a new scheme, and new players and everything, there’s always work and there’s still a ton of work to do, but we’ve got our eyes on the 49ers (in the season opener Sept.12) and you want to finish up this week strong and get ready for training camp.”

Despite those three plays, everything feels right for the Lions for a change.

The front office and coaching staff seem aligned and have a clear plan. And the players are buying in — you can see it by how the defense was reacting to winning a single rep.

“Everything’s got to be about competition,” Campbell said. “We’ve got to win our reps. You’ve got to win those on-on-ones. When you get put in a scenario, this is not just going through the motions. This has got to be something that you’re playing for. You have to think that way every time you’re in practice. Every time you’re put in that situation, you’re trying to win. That’s what we’re trying to inject into these guys.”

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The grass isn’t always greener

Now, consider the disaster unfolding in Green Bay.

The big news on Tuesday was quarterback Aaron Rodgers skipping the first day of Green Bay’s minicamp because he is peeved off with the front office.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Rodgers is “as strong as hell on this.”

Which is just wild, right?

Green Bay has turned into a circus and the Lions seem stable and have a plan. Yep, the world has turned upside down.

“I think anytime you’re talking about any player on your football team, you’d love everybody to be here,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur told reporters. “So, you know, it’s certainly. … It is what it is, man. We’ll focus and we’ll control and work on the guys that are here and try to help them become the best to their ability and coach the heck out of them.”

The Lions might not be good this year.

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But give them credit for finding a way to trade Stafford without a lot of drama, pulling in an impressive haul and starting the rebuild.

And now, we see the second stage of that rebuild, as Campbell sets a new culture.

“There is no such thing as a ‘go through a rep’ or ‘just line up and do it,’” Campbell said. “No, you have to find a way to win on both sides of the ball. One day, you’re going to win that rep offensively or defensively. You’re going to find a way. Now, the next time that comes up the next day, you don’t want to be the one who loses again.”

It’s new for everybody

Now, let’s go back to the field for the end of the seven-on-seven drill.

Goff dropped back and threw to receiver Tyrell Williams in the corner of the end zone. But Williams appeared to turn the wrong way.

Another miscue.

So they set up again.

Finally, Goff hit Williams in the back of the end zone. It was a perfect throw and a fantastic catch, although Williams might have stepped out of bounds before the catch. But the throw was the important part.

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“I’ll tell you this, there are guys out there that we’ve been impressed with,” Campbell said. “We all have been as a staff just over these last two weeks, really. Tyrell Williams is going to be able to help us. There are things he can do. I see it. (Wide receiver) Breshad Perriman is going to be able to help is. There are things he can do.”

Goff went up to Williams and tapped him on the back of his helmet. This is a learning experience for all of them.

“Anytime you get a change of scenery it is always kind of a fresh start and a breath of fresh air,” Goff said. “The coaching staff is brand new, it’s a whole bunch of new players. I’m obviously a part of the new player regime. Now a lot of young players as well. And it’s a lot of fresh start. So that kind of energy is kind of all around the building.”

So while it seemed strange not to see Stafford, and there will undoubtedly be growing pains with so much change, you can see where this is headed.

And it looked encouraging — shoot, it sounded encouraging, as the defense made plays — even when the new quarterback was struggling.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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