Joint practices can be a bit overwhelming to an observer. With approximately 160 players spread across two fields, it is simply impossible to catch everything that’s happening. And with the setup for the Indianapolis Colts vs. Detroit Lions practices this week—with the offense and defense playing on separate fields spaced out end-to-end—the only real way to catch the action is to pick one field and stick with it. That’s what I chose to do on Wednesday, keeping my observations limited to the Lions’ offense.
But the neat thing about joint practices is that while they are double the players, there are also double the media members covering the event. And as luck would have it, most Colts writers chose to stick with the Indianapolis offense, giving us not only a fuller view of Wednesday’s practice but offering an outsider’s perspective of how the Lions performed.
So let’s take a look at what Indy writers are saying after the first day of joint practices between the Colts and Lions.
If you want to read fuller thoughts from Colts’ writers, check out these links:
Lions’ first-team pass defense struggles
As you can tell from the headlines alone, the Lions’ defense struggled against Matt Ryan and the Colts’ underrated cast of receivers. How bad was it? Well, this tweet from The Athletic’s Zak Keefer pretty much covers it.
Matt Ryan is dealin’ today.
10-12 today in team work, including TD throws on three of four snaps in red zone work (Pierce with an incredible corner grab, Pittman, Dulin in traffic).
Best day Ryan’s had in camp in my opinion.
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) August 17, 2022
It sounds like the Lions’ duo of starting cornerbacks—Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah—struggled mightily throughout the entire practice. Michael Pittman Jr. is a deep threat who burned Okudah at least once deep, and rookie second-round pick Alec Pierce had a tremendous day. Here’s Atkins breaking it down succinctly:
The most impressive receiver was not any different than any other day. Michael Pittman Jr. consistently owned his matchups, from beating No. 1 Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye along the sidelines to when he beat Jeff Okudah so badly on a slant across the middle that the former No. 2 overall pick fell to the grass and Pittman Jr. ran for more than 30 yards.
Pierce had the most impressive grab of the day, with Oruwariye draped all over him in the red zone, the rookie somehow came down with this:
It wasn’t all bad news from the Lions’ first-team secondary. Okudah did pick up this impressive pass breakup:
Kerby Joseph shines against Colts’ second-team offense
While the Lions’ starters struggling on defense is certainly concerning, there is some hope in the reserves playing much better against the Colts’ second-team offense. From Bremer:
Backup quarterback Nick Foles was not as sharp as Ryan. He finished 5-for-9 and was intercepted by Detroit safety Kerby Jackson [sic] on a throw that sailed over the middle.
Thankfully, the Lions’ camera crew caught the rookie Kerby Joseph’s interception:
Going back to local coverage, per The Detroit News, Joseph nearly picked off the play just before this one, so those ball skills he displayed in college are starting to emerge.
Lions defensive line dominates
While the Lions’ secondary got picked on all day, multiple Colts’ writers took note of how Detroit’s defense dominated the trenches. This is noteworthy because the Colts’ offensive line is no pushover. They’ve got one of the best guards in the game in Quenton Nelson and finished 2021 ranked 12th by PFF.
But here’s what Detroit’s defensive front was able to do to the Colts on Wednesday.
Going back to the starting offense, it did appear to be a struggle for the run game to get much going against the Lions. Now, this was not a full tackling in practice, but numerous run plays were whistled as down for Jonathan Taylor with little gain.
The Lions challenged them most on the interior, as rush lanes swallowed quickly for Jonathan Taylor. Taylor finally ripped off one first-down run on a stretch play, where he was able to get outside of the massive left side of Matt Pryor and Quenton Nelson.
Lions defenders Hutchinson and McNeill looked particularly good in these drills. Hutchinson was the second-overall pick in this year’s draft, so he looked the part. He’s explosive, has high energy, and is able to put counter moves on blockers already. McNeill looked incredibly powerful, backing Colts blockers back into their own “zone” throughout the 1-on-1s.
Lions offense misdirects Colts defense
Joel A. Erickson is the one main Colts writer with extensive notes on the Lions’ offense, and it’s a very interesting read. His notes certainly match what we’ve seen in Lions camp: that Detroit has been heavily focused on misdirection and tempo as big weapons for their offense.
Detroit’s use of misdirection and play-action in the 11-on-11 work appeared to give Indianapolis some trouble.
Working mostly against the Colts’ No. 3 cornerback, Brandon Facyson, second-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown did most of the damage, hauling in three passes and a touchdown from Goff in the red zone on a play when he got a step on Facyson off of the line of scrimmage and made a nice grab.
He even noted Jared Goff’s impressive stat line during full-team drills:
Lions starter Jared Goff finished 8 of 10 in 11-on-11, and Detroit’s running backs had a handful of nice running plays, busting through creases for gains.
Of course, Erickson also notes what I mentioned in my recap: Detroit really struggled in the opening 1-on-1s and 7-on-7 drills.