Detroit Lions observations: RBs Swift, Williams fun to watch; kicking battle heats up

Detroit Free Press

I do not know how good the Detroit Lions will be this fall, but I do think their running backs will be fun to watch.

D’Andre Swift has had two impressive days of practice, though that comes with the obvious caveat that the Lions still are not in pads.

Swift has looked more explosive than I remember him as a rookie. On the third play of team drills Thursday, he took a handoff at full speed, made one cut in traffic and darted 70 or so yards downfield. He seems poised for a big year if he can stay healthy because he should get plenty of touches — both carries and receptions — in the Lions offense.

[ Everything feels different at Lions training camp, and that’s a good thing ]

Jamaal Williams is not as dynamic a runner as Swift, but he can be just as enjoyable to watch. Williams has endless energy on the field, dancing (even when the music is turned down to barely audible levels) and engaging in nonstop banter with his teammates.

On Thursday, Williams danced his way through an entire special teams period, bringing some life to a late-practice drill when fatigue was beginning to set in.

I spoke to Williams this spring and asked about his vibrant personality and the dance moves he went viral for last year. He said he had fun playing the game as a kid and saw no reason to change as an adult.

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“We’re still playing, man,” Williams said. “People wish they could still play. Most people be talking about back in their high school days right now. And we still get to play it right now. Not a lot of people can say that. We just got to keep going and be blessed with the opportunities that we got and don’t take these things for granted, and that’s what I’m not doing. I’m taking all this for a blessing.”

As for his dancing, Williams said in April, “I ain’t no TikTok account.” He doesn’t dance on command, just when he feels like it — which seems to be almost always when he’s on the field.

“For me to be this comfortable, I got to know what I’m doing,” Williams said. “And if I don’t know what I’m doing yet, you ain’t going to see none of this dancing, you ain’t going to see me doing stuff. Cause ain’t nothing worse than a clown who ain’t doing their assignment. That’s the worst thing cause a lot of people be dancing and stuff, but if you ain’t doing your business then people gonna be on your head like, ‘Why are you dancing?’ But if you’re doing your stuff, you get left alone.”

Clearly, Williams knows his stuff because he danced the day away Thursday.

More observations from Thursday

• On Wednesday, we made note of Dan Campbell’s impressive set of up-downs. On Thursday, there were up-downs worth mentioning again.

After a half-hour walk-through to start practice, the Lions stretch then break off into two groups, with the offense going to one field and the defense to the other. Defensive players gathered in the middle of their field before starting drills as defensive tackle Bruce Hector, who was claimed off waivers from the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday, did 40 up-downs in front of his teammates.

[ Campbell explains why Lions have one open spot on 90-man roster ]

Players counted Hector’s reps in unison, and after about the 26th up-down, Tracy Walker dropped to the ground and joined Hector in doing the exercise. As Hector huffed his way through his last dozen or so reps, most of the rest of the Lions defense followed Walker’s lead and joined in the exercise.

It was one of those cool team-bonding moments that we see occasionally during camp, and something that Campbell said before practice was defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s idea.

“He tells them (in our meeting Tuesday night), ‘We’re starting a tradition here, guys. We’re doing 40 of them things,'” Campbell said. “So I’m watching like, ‘Oh, crap.’ My first thought was, ‘I’m glad I’m not them.’ My second thought was, ‘Maybe I need to be in there with them since it’s my defense, too.’”

[ Lions stand with Simone Biles: ‘If your mind isn’t right, you can’t really do much’ ]

• It’s far too early to declare a winner, but based on Thursday’s practice I’d give Randy Bullock the edge on Matthew Wright in the battle to replace Matt Prater as Lions kicker.

Bullock made all six of his field goal attempts Thursday, the first time I can recall seeing live kicking going back to spring. Bullock’s kicks ranged from 27 to 45 yards and came from both hashes. He made his 45-yarder with room to spare, but the ball does not rocket off his leg like it did Prater’s.

Wright made kicks of what appeared to be 27, 33, 36 and 39 yards, but pushed his final kick, a 41-yarder from the left hash, wide left.

Don’t expect the Lions to pick a kicker until later in camp.

• One more kicking note: The skinny goal posts that Prater favored kicking on are gone. All four end zones at the Lions practice facility now have regulation goal posts. Previously, the Lions had two sets of goal posts that were about half as wide as normal goal posts (18 feet, 6 inches).

• On the flip side, none of the Lions’ three quarterbacks had a particularly crisp day passing the ball. Jared Goff was 3 for 6 passing, by my count, over three periods of 11-on-11. He nearly threw an interception on his first attempt of the day, overshooting his receiver, and was forced to scramble from the pocket another time when none of his receivers got open.

David Blough took second-team reps ahead of Tim Boyle for the first time and completed 2 of 4 throws. Boyle completed all four of his passes that I charted, though I missed one of his snaps.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s easy to see why the Lions pursued Boyle in free agency. He has the best arm of the Lions’ three quarterbacks, and while he can be a bit erratic, he threw an easy bomb that Chad Hansen made a nice over-the-shoulder catch on, on Thursday.

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• The Lions mostly kept their starting units from Wednesday together again on Thursday, though backup safeties Dean Marlowe and Jalen Elliott got reps with the first-team during install. Tyrell Crosby showed his versatility again, working at both left tackle and left guard during the installation period, when Jonah Jackson also made a brief cameo at center.

• Final note: Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp made her first appearance at training camp Thursday, a day after her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, watched practice from the field.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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