Lions OTA observations: Linebacker Derrick Barnes getting first-team reps on defense

Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from Thursday’s OTA practice, the first of the offseason open to the media.

▶ The Lions didn’t leave the day unscathed as two key contributors exited with early injuries. Running back David Montgomery came up hobbling with a lower left leg injury after a jump cut during individual drills. And later in the afternoon session, linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez also suffered a lower-body injury and had to head into the locker room, prematurely ending his day.

The extent of either injury wasn’t immediately known.

Among the players not on the field Thursday were center Frank Ragnow, guard Jonah Jackson and defensive tackles Isaiah Buggs and Benito Jones. Coach Dan Campbell said ahead of practice all the veterans who were absent had been in communication with the team, while noting several players were dealing with recent or impending child births.

▶ Defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike was in attendance, but not participating. He could be seen doing some minor stuff on the side, such as aligning and coming out of a three-point stance. It’s a small step, but a positive sign after the third-year lineman missed all of 2022 with a back injury.

▶ Safety Tracy Walker isn’t quite full go after tearing his Achilles last season, but he was able to do some of the non-team drills. He was replaced by C.J. Gardner-Johnson in 11-on-11 action with Will Harris manning the nickel.

▶ Even before Rodriguez suffered his injury, Derrick Barnes was getting most of the run with the first-team defense. The coaching staff has been very pleased with his progress heading into his third season. If he’s able to build on that momentum through the preseason, the team will find a game-day role for him, even after the addition of first-round draft pick Jack Campbell.

▶ Given he wasn’t added to the roster until just before the season last year, this was the first time we got an extended look at backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Honestly, he was pretty sharp. He puts nice zip on the ball across the middle and had a well-placed deep ball to Jameson Williams that the receiver wasn’t able to corral.

Sudfeld did have a big mistake, not seeing safety Brady Breeze sitting in an underneath zone. The quarterback tried to hit Kalif Raymond on a post pattern, but Breeze was there for the interception, managing to hang on despite an unintended but hard collision with the receiver.

▶ Not that there’s anything to worry about at this stage of the year, but starting quarterback Jared Goff’s deep ball needs some calibration. He overshot Williams early in practice, missed long when Josh Reynolds got a clean release on a go route working against Cam Sutton, and then overthrew a wheel route to rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

Gibbs also had a drop later in the practice, while running an angle route.

▶ Amon-Ra St. Brown looks ready to play a game today. It didn’t matter the defender, they couldn’t hang with Detroit’s most productive receiver threat. Tom Kennedy, who can now safely be called a veteran, also proved to be a tough cover for Detroit’s second- and third-string defensive backs.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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