Detroit Lions observations: John Cominsky makes roster push in extended situational practice

Detroit Free Press

Dan Campbell advertised it as “our last really good Detroit versus Detroit practice we’re going to have for camp,” and the Lions‘ Tuesday evening practice did not disappoint.

Coming off a light player-run practice Monday, the Lions ran more than 80 plays of mostly situational football, pitting ones-on-ones and twos-on-twos in a spirited two-hour session that will serve as a key evaluation tool heading into final roster cuts next week.

“We did just about every situation,” defensive lineman John Cominsky said. “Four-minute, two-minute, backed up, red zone. Anything. So it really just teaches you to just get your mind into that mode where it needs to be when you’re in those situations. It’s just good to go over and over and over again. They talk about it all the time, games are won and lost in those situations so to practice them, it’s just good to get our minds in that space.”

Cominsky was considered on the wrong side of the roster bubble as a spring waiver claim on the defensive line entering training camp, but Tuesday was the cherry on top of what’s been a very good summer for him.

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Cominsky teamed with Jarrad David for one sack in a two-minute period against the second-team offense and Campbell probably should have blown another play dead when Cominsky was in the backfield.

Cominsky drew a holding penalty on Dan Skipper during another two-minute situation at the end of practice, and he was in the mix on several run stops.

The Lions have good depth on their defensive line, even with Levi Onwuzurike and Josh Paschal out with injuries, but Cominsky has done his part to earn a roster spot with one preseason game left Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, even if he wasn’t quite ready to admit it when I stopped him after practice Tuesday.

“I’m focused on the Steelers this week,” Cominsky said. “It’s really small windows of time. It’s a day at a time. Big picture, looking at it, yeah, I’ve worked my butt off and worked my way and earned some respect around here, but I’m worried about today, then I’m worried about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Real small windows of time.”

Along with Cominsky, some of the other usual suspects popped on a day where the defense seemed to have an edge but every unit had its moments.

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Demetrius Taylor tore through the offensive line for a big tackle for loss on a running play in one set of team drills. Bobby Price was his usual solid self in special teams work. Amon-Ra St. Brown ran a crafty route to score a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3 (one period after scoring on a third-and-goal pass from Jared Goff). Even Jeff Okudah had a nice diving pass breakup in the end zone.

“I feel like as a group that’s definitely what we needed,” linebacker Alex Anzalone said. “Last year, I don’t know how many games came down to the wire and that’s all just situational work. The more you do that, the better we are.

“That’s what football is. Football is not just playing a team run period, it’s playing football, seeing formations, seeing tendencies, seeing how much time is left on the clock, what does a team want to do. Once you start doing that, that’s when you really start playing football.”

The Lions have a day off Wednesday then return for their final two practices of camp Thursday and Friday before traveling to Pittsburgh for their exhibition finale.

More observations from Tuesday

• The Lions got a brief scare on the injury front Tuesday when Okudah hit tight end T.J. Hockenson in the ribs in a red zone situational period, leaving Hockenson hunched over on all fours on the ground.

Trainers immediately surrounded Hockenson, and Campbell walked over to check on his tight end, tapping him on the butt before Hockenson walked gingerly to the sideline. Hockenson downed a few swigs of water with trainers still by his side and three plays later was back on the field for a second-and-goal play from the 3.

From my vantage point a few yards away, Okudah did not appear to hit Hockenson that hard, he just seemed to catch him in the wrong place underneath his pads.

• Jonah Jackson left at the end of practice with what appeared to be exhaustion. Jackson spent a few moments crouched on the ground, heaving as he tried to catch his wind.

Julian Okwara, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Levi Onwuzurike and Kevin Jarvis remained out, and I did not see Eric Banks, who limped off the field late in last week’s preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Special teams ace C.J. Moore watched from the sideline with the other injured players with a walking boot on his right foot. Moore has not practiced in a week, since the Lions’ first joint practice with the Colts.

• Okudah made a diving pass breakup on a Goff pass to St. Brown in the back of the end zone, though St. Brown had Okudah beat on the play and Goff was late throwing the ball.

Okudah and Will Harris continue to alternate with the first-team defense, but I’d give Okudah a slight edge in the battle for the No. 2 cornerback job. Both players have more blended in than stood out this summer, but Okudah appears to be playing with more confidence at this point.

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Chase Lucas, who is battling for a back-end roster spot in the secondary, left another turnover on the field he’ll be kicking himself over when he watches film of practice. In a late-game situation with the offense clawing to erase an 11-point lead, David Blough overthrew Tom Kennedy but Lucas hesitated while going for the pick.

Lucas dropped a would-be interception late in the Lions’ preseason-opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons. If he’s relegated to practice squad to start the season, he might be left to wonder if plays like those would have made a difference.

• It was debatable, but I think Goff led the No. 1 offense to a touchdown in the first situational period of the day, a first-and-10 from the defensive 22-yard line, down 27-20, with 24 seconds on the clock.

Amani Oruwariye tackled St. Brown in-bounds on a crossing route to keep the clock running on the first play of the period, then after a spike to kill the clock, Goff stared down a blitz to find Hockenson streaking down the middle of the field. Two defenders met Hockenson around the 1-yard line, which would have made for a heck of a collision in a game.

• Isaiah Buggs, who is battling for a backup job with Cominsky and Taylor on the defensive line, tipped a Goff pass at the line of scrimmage to get the first-team defense off the field in the next team situational period, then D’Andre Swift broke a long run to set up Goff’s first touchdown pass to St. Brown.

I thought Jamaal Williams ran for a touchdown on second-and-goal, one play before Brown’s catch, but Campbell blew the play dead much to the dismay of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

• Wrapping up the periods that pitted starters vs. starters, St. Brown beat Oruwariye with a nifty out-and-up move for his second touchdown, on the same series that Goff tried two read-option keepers inside the 3, and Goff led a would-be field goal drive in a end-of-half situation that started first-and-10 from the offensive 19-yard line with 50 seconds on the clock.

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Goff completed three passes to tight ends Hockenson and Shane Zylstra on the drive to set up a would-be 51-yard attempt with 2 seconds on the clock. The Lions did not attempt any live field goals Tuesday.

The defense got a stop in a four-minute period after the first-team offense ran nearly two minutes off the clock, in a situation where the offense was up nine points, and Goff led one more field goal drive in a two-minute situation when the offense was down 11 points with 3:41 on the clock.

• For whatever role Tuesday’s practice plays in final roster evaluations, Tim Boyle worked ahead of Blough in the rotation and made more out of his situations. He scrambled for a first down in a four-minute situation at the end of practice, when the offense had 1:28 to kill while clinging to a two-point lead, and he threw a touchdown pass to Trinity Benson in a red zone situation after the offense was initially stopped on a three-and-out.

Blough had the near-pick to Lucas, threw short of the end zone on a third-and-goal from the 9, when Anthony Pittman made a good stop on Kennedy, and probably should have spiked the ball to stop the clock after Cominsky’s sack, when he instead rushed the offense to the line and threw incomplete to Zylstra.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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