Lions camp observations: Austin Bryant makes a case to stick

Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from Thursday’s training camp practice.

► The Lions opened their competitive periods running seven-on-seven, with Will Harris replacing Jeff Okudah at one of the cornerback spots with the first-team defense, as well as having multiple linebackers rotating through the top group, including special teams workhorse Anthony Pittman.

The fact Harris was in raised questions about whether the team was dialing back Okudah’s workload after his return to competitive drills a day earlier, but that concern faded when Okudah handled the first-team reps during a full-team scrimmage segment later in the morning.

On Okudah’s first rep during that segment, he gave up a completion to wide receiver Josh Reynolds on a slant, but was able to force a fumble from behind after the catch.

Back to the seven-on-seven work, as usually occurs, the offensive weapons were able to find space without the threat of a pass rush bearing down on the quarterback. That said, Jared Goff opted not to work the ball to his outside options during his five snaps, throwing three passes to T.J. Hockenson, another to tight end Shane Zylstra and the final one to running back D’Andre Swift.

Goff should have gone 5-for-5, but Hockenson left one slip through his fingers on a comeback route working against Harris.

► David Blough ran the second-team offense during the day, but struggled to settle into a rhythm with the group, including an overthrow on a deep pass to Quintez Cephus, although cornerback Mark Gilbert had good coverage on the play.

Gilbert, who broke up a pass a day earlier, is a player worth keeping an eye on as camp progresses. He offers excellent length and above-average speed. A severe hip injury derailed a promising college career, which included six interceptions as a sophomore at Duke.

► Tim Boyle, working with the third-team offense, had a better day of the two backup QBs, including the best throw of the day, threading a needle into a tight window over the outstretched arms of safety Brady Breeze to receiver Tom Kennedy near the left sideline.

► There were no new absences to begin practice, but rookie running back Greg Bell went down early in the day while running a route, clutching the back of his left leg. Initial appearances suggested it was Bell’s hamstring. He had to be helped off the field and eventually back to the locker room.

► With fullback Jason Cabinda on the physically unable to perform list (ankle), tight end Garrett Griffin is handling some of the blocking duties out of the backfield.

► Working as a second-team edge rusher, Austin Bryant has found his way into the backfield multiple times the first couple of days. The path to a roster spot is an uphill climb for the former fourth-round pick after the Lions aggressively added to the position group this offseason, but with rookie Josh Paschal out recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia, Bryant is making a strong opening argument for his case to stick.

► We got our first look at the kicking competition with both Austin Seibert and Riley Patterson attempting four field goals, ranging from 29 to 43 yards. Seibert went first and buried all four of his boots down the middle with plenty of distance. Patterson, meanwhile, sent the first, and shortest effort wide right before settling down and making the next three.

► Rookie linebacker James Houston, who has mainly been lining up standing up on the edge the first couple practices, drew praise from teammates and coaches after making a quick read on a dump-off pass to Zylstra, delivering an immediate stop and limiting the damage that could have been done in the open field.

► It’s amazing how many “Hard Knocks” staffers are at the facility, filming for the five-part documentary series that airs next month on HBO. Standing out in their powder blue T-shirts, there’s seemingly between 20-30 crew members on or around the field during practices. Despite those numbers, they do a good job staying out of everyone’s way and blending into the background.

More noticeable than any crew member was a drone that hovered above the field for the majority of Thursday’s practice.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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