Lions minicamp observations: Retooled defensive backfield continue to impress

Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp practice, the first of the three-day offseason event.

▶ The Lions put the offense in a difficult situation Tuesday, giving them the ball at their own 25-yard line with 28 seconds remaining, down one, needing a score to win. It wasn’t all bad though, since they were provided all three timeouts to aid getting in position for a game-winning kick.

The first-team offense found trouble almost immediately, facing fourth-and-4, before quarterback Jared Goff connected with receiver Jameson Williams across the middle for a 32-yard gain. It wasn’t the best throw, coming in behind the receiver, but the second-year speedster was able to make the adjustment and the grab with eight ticks on the clock.

A quick slant to Josh Reynolds set the offense up for a 43-yard field goal for the win. More on that in a moment.

The second-team offense was a bit more efficient. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld completed 4 of 5 throws (the fifth was batted down at the line by Romeo Okwara), with a slant to Williams putting the team in range for a long, 53-yard attempt with three seconds remaining.

▶ The gusty conditions were unkind to the place-kickers at the end of that two-minute drill. The left-to-right winds pushed Riley Patterson’s first attempt, a 45-yarder, off the right upright. He settled down to make his next four kicks, including a hurried effort from 43 yards with a running clock.

Parker Romo, who made a strong first impression last week with his big leg, had more troubles than Patterson, sending both a 53- and 45-yard well right. He did convert from 43 twice, including once with a running clock, as well as a 38-yarder.

▶ Rookie safety Brian Branch displayed excellent anticipation and movement skills in the back end, breaking up passes in two different red-zone segments. The second was particularly impressive, as he recognized a crossing pattern as Sudfeld rolled out of the pocket, beating receiver Maurice Alexander to the spot for the authoritative PBU.

▶ While practice isn’t quite the same without Jamaal Williams‘ daily antics, incoming safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson brings some of that same energy to the field. Last year’s interception leader can often be seen dancing between snaps, and no one on the roster talks more trash. Of course, no one minds the talk if you back it up.

Gardner-Johnson brings back some memories of watching Louis Delmas on the practice field. The current safety reacts quickly and is like a homing missile, getting from point A to point B. During red-zone work, he blasted through the line and into the backfield to make a quick stop after a handoff. Then, on the next play, his tight coverage played a role in Amon-Ra St. Brown not being able to handle an over-the-shoulder throw.

To top off his fit, Gardner-Johnson is a vocal leader. While on the sidelines, he can often be heard chiming in with directions and offering encouragement to the second- and third-team defenders.

▶ Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta appears to be making his way up the depth chart, seeing some reps with the first-team offense. He’s still prone to some of the mistakes you’d expect from a first-year player, but he’s also continuing to be a tough cover working against Detroit’s top defenders. He even managed to get open for a touchdown while covered by Gardner-Johnson.

That wasn’t even LaPorta’s best catch of the day. He went up and over big, physical safety Ifeatu Melifonwu to make a contested grab on a fade route into the end zone.

▶ Obviously, no one wants to get posterized, but Melifonwu deserves some recognition for his positioning on that play, as well as several others. The third-year player seems to be in a much better place with his understanding of the safety position after converting to that spot last offseason. Obviously, injuries have played a major role in hindering his development, but if he can find a way to stay healthy, he could provide some solid depth in Detroit’s back end.

▶ Cornerback Cam Sutton has been relatively quiet in these early offseason practices that have been open to the media, but the free-agency addition had a pair of quality pass breakups in seven-on-seven red-zone work at the end of Tuesday’s session.

On the first, he got a hand in on a sideline throw to St. Brown, prohibiting the receiver from securing the pass before stepping out of bounds. Then, a couple of plays later, Sutton made a diving effort to knock away a comebacker to LaPorta near the goal line.

▶ A pair of players recovering from ACL injuries flashed promising signs of progress with training camp around the corner. Defensive back Emmanuel Moseley, still wearing a brace on his injured knee, showed some lateral burst while going through some movements during walk-through snaps early in practice.

And rookie quarterback Hendon Hooker, under supervision of a trainer, was able to throw some flat-footed throws to a receiver after practice.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

Articles You May Like

Lions Elevating OL Dan Skipper & S Brandon Joseph
Lions rookie thought he was ‘going to drop’ first career touchdown
Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (toe) day-to-day
Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons odds, tips and betting trends | Week 3
Lions hopeful C.J. Gardner-Johnson, James Houston can return in 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *