Lions camp observations: Goff, Hockenson bond, others brawl in last open practice

Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from the Detroit Lions’ training camp practice on Wednesday. It marks the final practice fully opened to the media this offseason.

► Fight!

For the first time since rookies Amon-Ra St. Brown and Ifeatu Melifonwu exchanged punches in the early days of training camp, there was a larger scuffle between dozens of members of the roster.

It was difficult to see exactly what caused tensions to boil over, and there were so many players in a pile so quickly that is was equally challenging to figure out the principle parties involved, but the coaches managed to quickly get things under control.

After practice, no one seemed bothered by the altercation.

“It’s a great place to do it,” offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “It’s between the lines, that’s when you want to let out all your frustrations and emotions, but when you walk off that field, you’re teammates.”

More: Lions’ cornerback Jeff Okudah balancing aggression, discipline in Year 2

Defensive tackle Nick Williams mused that the conditions, which have been sweltering the past couple days, played a role.

“Oh man, it’s just part of camp,” Williams said. “It gets toward the end of camp and it’s hot days. The big guys are tired as crap, sweaty and mad at the same time. You like to see it. You like to see a little feistiness, a little fight in some of the younger guys. It’s just part of the business.’

► The fracas occurred near the end of practice, when the team was running through some scout team work. The defense was dominating the segments, particularly in the back end, but it was at least somewhat awkward because the offense looked to be going three-quarter speed, by design.

The continued aggressiveness of the secondary, spurred by demands for better energy from position coach Aubrey Pleasant, appeared to irk some of Detroit’s receivers.

Asked if Pleasant had his guys going too hard, Lynn flashed a smile and pled the fifth.

► We didn’t file observations after Tuesday’s practice, but the chemistry between quarterback Jared Goff and tight end T.J. Hockenson is one of the most positive developments of camp.

Hockenson’s route running looks incredibly sharp and Goff clearly has unconditional trust in the third-year tight end. At this point, it would be shocking if Hockenson doesn’t significantly improve on last year’s pass-game production — assuming he stays healthy, of course.

► The one thing the Lions will need to be wary about is how defenses adjust to counter Goff’s potential reliance on Hockenson. I would anticipate seeing more and more teams throwing double-team looks at Hockenson on underneath routes.

In Wednesday’s practice, the defense did just that, with Will Harris dropping into a short zone across the middle, putting himself in position to make an easy interception on a slant pattern intended for the tight end. Unfortunately for Harris, he dropped the would-be turnover.

► Presumably, Randy Bullock remains the front-runner for the kicking job, but he sent two attempts wide left from approximately 45 yards out.

Backup quarterback Tim Boyle split holding duties with Jack Fox for the first time during a full-team segment of practice. Not only could a change be afoot there, but it could provide some insight into where the team stands with its backup QB competition.

► Tight end Brock Wright, who is pushing for the third job in a competition with Alize Mack, had a pair of miscommunications with his routes, seemingly getting out of his break and turning for the ball far too late on both.

► Jalen Reeves-Maybin came up with an interception off Goff when the quarterback rolled away from pressure during a red-zone drill and tried to loft a high pass for tight end Darren Fells in the back of the end zone. Because the throw was also behind the intended target, Fells couldn’t handle it and Reeves-Maybin was there to snag the deflection.

► Another player who looks primed to exceed last year’s pass-game production is running back D’Andre Swift. First and foremost, he needs to get fully healthy from the groin injury that’s bothered him all camp, but as the workload continues to ramp up, he’s essentially been uncoverable. Linebacker Alex Anzalone is typically solid in coverage and he’s been getting worked by the shifty, second-year back.

► In two-on-two and four-on-four special teams work, running back Craig Reynolds had a positive showing as he continues his unlikely run at a roster spot.

► I thought Meifonwu had a really strong end to camp. His best play was as much mental as it was physical. During a red zone rep, he followed his guy in motion, but as he weaved through traffic in the confined space, he communicated an assignment switch. The quarterback tried to attack the rookie on the adjustment only for Melinfonwu to be in perfect position for the pass breakup.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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