Detroit Lions observations: Jared Goff throws 2 INTs, almost 2 more as offense struggles

Detroit Free Press

Jared Goff probably won’t take another live snap this preseason, though judging by practice Thursday, he and the Detroit Lions’ first-team offense could use the work.

Goff threw two interceptions and just missed two more as the Lions held their final tune-up for preseason game No. 2 on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Goff’s first interception came in a team period against the first-team defense when he appeared to panic in the face of a double slot blitz. Cornerbacks Jerry Jacobs and Nickell Robey-Coleman were coming off the edge. Goff saw Jacobs making a beeline in his direction and threw a careless pass over the middle, intended for Amon-Ra St. Brown, that Jamie Collins intercepted with ease.

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One period later, in a red-zone team drill, Austin Bryant tipped a Goff pass at the line of scrimmage that Charles Harris circled under for an interception.

That pick came one play after Goff forced a wobbly pass into the back corner of the end zone as he rolled to his right. Jeff Okudah deflected the pass into Tracy Walker’s hands, but Walker appeared to have stepped out of bounds before securing the ball.

Amani Oruwariye also had a near interception early in practice on a Goff pass downfield.

“It’s training camp. It happens,” Lions quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell said. “And what do you do? Like I said, you learn from those mistakes. As we go in training camp, we’ll find ourselves down in the red zone again. I’ve always said that, and maybe a lot of people would disagree with this, but I don’t think in a practice anything bad happens on the football field. We don’t like interceptions, we don’t like turnovers. It’s the worst thing, but you learn from it so the next time you’re in that situation, as long as you don’t make a mistake, then I’m pleased.”

Brunell, a successful NFL quarterback in his day, championed Goff’s decision-making, among other things, when he met with reporters after practice.

He compared Goff to Drew Brees when it comes to his “passion for the game, the work ethic, the leadership.”

And he sounded pleased with where Goff and the offense are three weeks into camp, and with three weeks to go until theseason opener Sept. 12 against the San Francisco 49ers.

“I’ve been impressed with Jared from Day 1,” Brunell said. “This is very important to him. Let’s start with the person. He’s a hard worker, he has a great attitude. He’s a very good leader. As far as his on the field, you guys have seen it, he can throw that ball. He makes good decisions with it and he’s really grown into this offense to the point where he’s doing a good job with it. And as a quarterback coach it’s important to stress how critical it is to take care of the ball, to make good decisions. If you don’t, you find yourself in trouble. But he’s been very smart with the ball and so it’s been fun coaching him. He’s great to coach because he’s coachable. When he does make a mistake, he responds well, he learns from it and that’s all you can ask for in your quarterback room.”

If you’ve read my observations to this point in camp you know that I don’t share Brunell’s optimism for the offense and what it’s shown so far.

I always qualify that by saying it’s early, Goff is new to a system, getting used to new receivers and it’s tough to get a full view of the offense without a real running game.

I think Brunell is right in his approach that nothing bad happens in practice. But even with that in mind, Thursday still was a bad day.

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More observations from Thursday:

•  It is possible that Goff is a little banged up. At one point during individual drills, Goff was caught on camera grimacing noticeably as he jogged downfield and ended his jog with a hop on one foot. He appeared to be favoring his right foot at the time, which could explain some of his throws — and Lions coach Dan Campbell’s care in holding him out of the rest of the preseason.

• A few other injury notes: The Lions are starting to get some of their key players back on the field as both T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift took a smattering of reps Thursday. Third-string quarterback David Blough  didn’t practice, John Penisini remains out of team drills and Tyrell Crosby (hamstring) and Da’Shawn Hand (foot/ankle) remain out.

Tim Boyle got most of the backup reps in Blough’s absence after missing practice Tuesday with a sprained ankle, with Jordan Ta’amu sprinkled in. Ta’amu is a long shot to make the roster after signing this week, but he’s a good athlete who looked like he could make something happen on one bootleg pass he ran Thursday. I wouldn’t mind seeing him play a quarter or so against the Steelers.

• Campbell said Goff and other veterans who might not play in the final two preseason games will continue to get their work in, situationally, during practice. The Lions ended Thursday’s workout with an end-of-game situation, putting their first-team offense against their first-team defense, with the offense trailing 14-10 and about two minutes on the clock.

Goff moved the Lions downfield with a couple short completions to Hockenson and a scramble on the first four plays, but the offense stalled once it reached the red zone.

The Lions got a first down on a short pass over the middle, then had to spike the ball with about 20 seconds on the clock. Tyrell Williams dropped a well-placed ball by Goff on second-and-10 along the left sideline, then Oruwariye made a nice play to deflect a pass to Williams in the end zone on third down.

The Lions  didn’t run a play on fourth-and-10 even though there was 8 seconds left on the clock, this after the offense struggled in situational football in Tuesday’s practice.

• It was a little odd watching the first-team offense run scout team cards to help the defense get ready for Saturday’s game. Judging by what we saw on the field Thursday, I would expect the Lions’ starting secondary — Oruwariye, Okudah, Walker and Will Harris — to see some action against the Steelers, while most of the rest of the starting defense sits.

A.J. Parker continues to work with the first-team nickel defense, with Robey-Coleman playing slot with the second-team defense alongside Mike Ford and Ifeatu Melifonwu at cornerback.

• Bobby Price gave up another long pass, this one to Quintez Cephus, when the No. 1 offense was working cards. Price has had plenty of ups and downs at his new position — more downs than ups so far — but he still is repping opposite Ford as a first-team gunner, which makes me lean towards putting him on my 53-man roster when I make my first prediction of training camp this weekend.

• A couple plays that stood out: Bruce Hector continues to pop every practice, and he did so when he stuffed Jamaal Williams on a misdirection dive on the goal line Thursday. One play earlier, I believe it was Bryant off the edge who bottled up Swift. And St. Brown took a bubble screen from Goff for a 50-ish-yard touchdown two plays before Goff’s first interception.

• Final word of the day: Just when I thought Randy Bullock was pulling away in the kicking battle, he missed a pair of field goals Thursday. Bullock was wide left from about 47 yards in the first set of field goals the Lions attempted and missed wide left from 42 yards later in the day. He was 3-for-5 on the day, while Zane Gonzalez was 4-for-4.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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