Detroit Lions training camp observations, Day 7: Things get physical

Pride of Detroit

The Detroit Lions’ first team drill on Wednesday was a one-on-one tackling drill, setting the physical tone for practice. It’s not often you see live tackling this early in camp, but it’s clear the team is trying to build that culture as a tough, physical team, and they weren’t going to wait until Preseason Game 1 next week to get there.

And the live tackling didn’t end just there. Throughout practice, there were moments in which either live tackling was allowed, or the players took it upon themselves to lay some hits down.

Of course, physical practices come with bumps and bruises for players, and Wednesday was no exception. Several Lions players would sit out the last few reps, take an early trip to the locker room, or spend a minute or two with trainers.

Here’s a recap of the Lions’ seventh training camp practice.

Injuries

Here’s a list of players that did not participate at all beyond warm-ups

  • G Evan Brown (NFI)
  • LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (reserve/COVID)
  • LB Reggie Gilbert
  • CB Quinton Dunbar (personal issue)
  • CB Alex Brown (injured during Tuesday’s practice)
  • DT Michael Brockers
  • LB Derrick Barnes
  • OT Tyrell Crosby
  • RB Dedrick Mills

It’s a lengthy list, but only the last two names are new to the list. Neither Crosby nor Mills finished Tuesday’s practice with any noticeable injury. Obviously, it’s hard to ignore the trade talk looming over Crosby’s head, but at this point, no transaction has been made.

It’s also worth noting that while Levi Onwuzurike was dressed, he did not participate in any team drills. Likewise, Austin Bryant was fully dressed and even did his 40 up-downs during practice, but I only saw him participate in one or two team reps.

Here are the following players that appeared to be dealing with an injury at some point during Wednesday’s practice:

  • CB Jerry Jacobs walked off with trainers.
  • RB Jermar Jefferson appeared to be walking with a heavy limp and pointed to his left heel with trainers. However, he returned to team drills.
  • WR Kalif Raymond spent time with trainers to tape up his right ankle. He, too, returned. Other reporters noted that after practice he was struggling to walk.
  • EDGE Julian Okwara left practice early and returned without pads. As he walked off practice at the end, I could see a significant amount of ice wrapped around his left hip.
  • Both DTs Levi Onwuzurike and John Penisini returned from practice without pads. I did not see them go to the locker room, so it’s hard to know what happened there.
  • RB D’Andre Swift left practice late and did not appear to return. He jogged into the locker room, so it’s unclear what is ailing him. This isn’t the first time Swift has missed a session or two, but earlier in the week running backs coach Duce Staley said he was fine.

So, yeah, it was a physical day at camp.

Quarterbacks

It was another forgettable day for the Lions’ offense, and some issues are starting to become regular. Jared Goff looks hesitant to throw into coverage and is clearly more comfortable checking down. The best example came during a full-team drill. Goff got the safety on one side of the ball to drop into the box leaving Breshad Perriman deep in one-on-one coverage. He didn’t have a lot of separation, but it was a favorable look for the offense. Goff, instead, chose to check down to Jamaal Williams for a short gain.

Tim Boyle was in with the second-team offense today and was dealing with some uncharacteristic accuracy issues.

Skill position players

Amon-Ra St. Brown kicked off practice with a move that drew a roar from the crowd in attendance. During the one-on-one tackling drill, St. Brown hurdled the defender for an easy win. Sadly, no one caught the number of the defender, but we all kind of hope it was Ifeatu Melifonwu due to their current rivalry.

During one-on-ones, St. Brown lined up opposite Okudah on three different occasions. St. Brown caught all three passes, but two were short with Okudah draped all over him. The third, St. Brown had a crisp out-route that gave Okudah no shot at closing in on the route in time for a quick 8-yard gain.

Breshad Perriman had the best play of his camp on Tuesday, pulling off an out-and-up double move on Jeff Okudah that resulted in a big play. Overall, Quintez Cephus had a solid day, but he did have one significant drop after creating several yards of separation. A few minutes later, Cephus took his trip to the video screen to pull up that play and see what he did wrong.

It’s still hard to get a good read on the running back room with most reps not including live tackling, but it was another good day from Jermar Jefferson, who got plenty of opportunities with limited reps from Swift.

T.J. Hockenson continues to be a focus of the offense, and he had another big play during 11-on-11s. On a play-action rollout from Goff, the quarterback found Hockenson who beat Dean Marlowe on a crossing route, then tiptoed up the field for a big gain. Alize Mack also had a big play, though that was more the result of an all-out blitz that left him wide open. Boyle found him quickly with plenty of room to run.

Offensive line

With no Tyrell Crosby, the reserve offensive tackles looked a little different. Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper were the left and right tackle, respectively. While Skipper moved to the left side with the third team, Darrin Paulo took over on the right.

The offensive line spent much of the day on the opposite side of the field today, making observations a little tougher, but I tried to focus on Penei Sewell when possible. On one play, he let Romeo Okwara run right by him as the Lions sent a blitz up the middle. But on the following rep, he wrestled Okwara out of harm’s way. The Lions are throwing a lot at Sewell, and he continues to look like he belongs.

Defensive line

With Penisini out of most of the practice, rookie nose tackle Alim McNeill earned more playing time than any other defensive lineman. While McNeill shined during Tuesday’s practice with his first-step quickness, it was his strength that impressed me. During one full-team drill, McNeill absorbed a double team and was still able to maneuver his body into the intended rushing lane. He didn’t make the tackle, but he got a big assist on the tackle for loss.

Elsewhere, Nick Williams continues to have a very solid camp. Late in practice, he was able to completely shed a block to meet the running back at the line of scrimmage. Every day, it seems like he shows up on my notebook with at least two or three + marks.

I know everyone is looking for observations from Levi Onwuzurike, but he has still not participated in any team drills with the pads on.

Newbie Bruce Hector had the play of the day on defense, trudging into the backfield, blowing up Godwin Igwebuike, and forcing a fumble.

Linebackers

The Lions continue to try to generate a lot of pressure from the second and third levels, and on this day it was Shaun Dion Hamilton who was the benefactor. During one play, he blitzed up the A-gap, just completely trounced the running back, and was able to get in the quarterback’s face for a “sack.”

After a few very good days in camp, today was a small step back for Anthony Pittman. Twice during team drills, he was just a step late breaking on a route. On one play, he bit on play-action, allowing fullback Jason Cabinda to slip out of the backfield and catch a pass with room to run.

Secondary

There was a drill early in practice that had the offense and defense go up against each other, but with no receivers or cornerbacks. It appeared to be designed to work on the run game/run defense. Why I mention it here is because I found it interesting that at safety, C.J. Moore replaced Tracy Walker during this drill.

Where was Walker? With the other defensive backs doing one-on-ones with receivers. Just another sign that the Lions value Walker the further away from the line of scrimmage he is.

Ifeatu Melifonwu picked up his first interception of camp during those one-on-ones. During the rep, he waited patiently for Tyrell Williams to make his break. When he finally did, Melifonwu showed good reaction time and short-area speed to step in front of the Goff pass.

Special teams

If you’ve been dying for some punt talk, here it is! The Lions worked on pinning the opponents deep in the territory, and Jack Fox was nearly perfect in getting each punt to drop inside the 5-yard line. But here’s the catch: the Lions were punting from the opponent’s 42-yard line. I hope they don’t plan on punting from that spot on the field very often.

As for the gunners looking to pin the ball deep, Mike Ford once again proved that he may be the best on the team at doing that.

St. Brown and Victor Bolden both had muffs during punt return drills, but both looked otherwise clean.

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