Lions camp observations: Offense crisp on lighter day, Houston seeing more off-ball work

Detroit News

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

▶ With the pads coming on for the first time in a few days, the Detroit Lions eased into a routine on the first day with a crisp practice that consisted of only a few team segments and no situational work.

Regardless, the offense got off to a strong start after some inconsistent stretches earlier in the offseason. Both starting quarterback Jared Goff and backup Nate Sudfeld looked refreshed and crisp with their throws.

Goff regularly worked the ball to top target Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was showing minimal issue finding space against Detroit’s revamped and improved secondary, while Sudfeld showed good accuracy and zip to different levels, including a perfectly placed post pattern to rookie Antoine Green.

▶ The biggest defensive play came when rookie receiver Dylan Drummond bobbled a pass from third-string quarterback Adrian Martinez, which was corralled for an interception by veteran linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Drummond could have done more after failing to make the catch to prevent the turnover. It should be a learning experience for the young receiver.

▶ Derrick Barnes continued to see extensive work with the first-team defense, ahead of Malcolm Rodriguez. When Barnes rotated off, it was for first-round draft pick Jack Campbell. Still, it would be foolish to count Rodriguez out of the competition. He’ll always have physical limitations, but he consistently showcases unmatched instincts, blowing up a swing pass to running back Craig Reynolds well behind the line of scrimmage.

▶ Unless he’s required to play an outsized offensive role in the wake of Jameson Williams‘ suspension, Kalif Raymond should continue to return punts for the Lions this season. Others who fielded them as potential alternatives were St. Brown, Maurice Alexander and rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

▶ Speaking of Gibbs, he continues to flash outstanding hands, hauling in a bullet from Goff on a slant route that most running backs wouldn’t be able to handle.

▶ Undrafted rookie corner Starling Thomas V got plenty of work with the second-team defense following a strong spring. He remains one to watch throughout camp and the preseason, given the team’s history of putting a UDFA on the final roster.

▶ Coach Dan Campbell said there’s an emphasis on being smart and not taking plays to the ground during these early, pad-less practices, but accidental collisions are going to happen. Running back David Montgomery took the brunt of one of those Sunday when he caught a pass and turned directly into Charles Harris, taking the defender’s helmet under the chin.

▶ Going back to something we saw last training camp, James Houston is splitting time between the defensive line and playing as an off-the-ball linebacker. Despite an outstanding rookie campaign as a pass rusher, Houston is facing a numbers game up front with Harris and Romeo Okwara returning from injury, plus the re-signing of John Cominsky. That’s left the team to explore other areas the second-year Jackson State product can contribute.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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