Detroit Lions observations: Amon-Ra St. Brown dropped a pass and it ‘(bleeped) up’ his day

Detroit Free Press

You’d be hard-pressed to find many football players who’d be upset when a long training camp practice gets cut short, but that’s the situation Detroit Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown found himself in Monday.

After tight end Shane Zylstra took a low hit to the right knee in a team period near the end of the practice and limped his way off the field, Lions coach Dan Campbell ended the period and jumped straight to his end-of-practice situational script.

“We were supposed to have another period and he goes, ‘Two-minute,'” St. Brown said. “I go, ‘What? We have another period of live,’ which I wanted cause I had that one drop.”

One of the most reliable pass catchers in the NFL, St. Brown had one drop early in Monday’s practice that left him visibly frustrated on the field. He spent a few minutes on a knee stewing alone after the drop, and never really got a chance to atone for his mistake.

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St. Brown did not have a pass thrown his way in seven-on-seven drills or a team period that followed, and he had two more balls tick off his hands in the Lions’ final situational series. He did catch a 6-yard out on the same series, but the first-team offense failed to get the ball in the end zone.

St. Brown has 196 catches in his first two seasons and five drops, according to Pro Football Reference, a remarkable 97.5% catch percentage that would make anyone in the NFL proud.

His uncharacteristic showing Monday — his drop came on a third-and-7 curl route and would have gone for a first down — is hardly cause for concern. And the way he reacted to it is another example of what I wrote about last week, his unfailing desire to be great.

“I’m pissed off,” St. Brown told the Free Press after practice. “I mean, I shouldn’t drop anything but shoot, even the best ones drop them, but like for me I’m mad, it’s just the way I am. I know I’m going to go out there and the next one I’m going to make. But I’m so hot, a drop like that, it’ll ruin my whole day for sure, Definitely my whole practice, especially a practice like that where I don’t get a chance to make up for it. It definitely, it’ll (bleep) up my day.”

‘Oh no’

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Zylstra hobbled to the locker room under his own power after taking the kind of low hit from Khalil Dorsey you rarely see in training camp. Veteran cornerback Cam Sutton immediately threw his hands up and grabbed his helmet as if to say, “Oh no.” And C.J. Gardner-Johnson came over and spoke to Dorsey immediately.

Trainers helped Zylstra to his feet and off the side of the field as both offensive and defensive players took a knee.

‘You practice how you play’

The Lions had another physical practice Monday, their third of the summer in full pads, and Dorsey wasn’t the only defensive player to put a menacing hit on a teammate. Gardner-Johnson blasted Jahmyr Gibbs on the fourth play of the Lions’ first-team period, hitting the rookie running back so hard he dislodged the ball on a dump to the flat.

Gardner-Johnson’s hit was a clean football play, and no one seemed to bat an eye. But it was another reminder of how different training camp practices have been under Dan Campbell than some of his predecessors.

St. Brown shared a story of talking Sunday night with his brother, Equanimeous, a receiver with the Chicago Bears, that sheds some light on Campbell’s unique approach.

“I guess a lot of teams don’t do this,” he said. “I was talking to my brother, they started a little later, the Bears, and I think it was four days (of practice and) the next day we had off day and then we had pads. Coming off the off day, I guess that’s the first day most teams can put them on, I guess. So I asked my brother I’m like, he had his off day yesterday, I go, ‘You guys are putting the pads on tomorrow?’ He goes, ‘No, we’re not.’ I go, ‘Interesting.’ So not every team does it how we do it. And I told him like we’re out there hitting. He goes, ‘Man, we don’t hit like that.’ I guess every team’s different, but hopefully it pays off.”

As for his hit, Gardner-Johnson said to reporters as he walked off the field, “You practice how you play.”

Getting chippy

The Lions spent a good chunk of the start of Monday’s practice working one-on-one drills, which set the tempo for the chippy day. They opened with an angle tackling drill, where the offensive player stands 6 yards from the defensive player and tries to beat him upfield, and followed with a receiver blocking drill while the lines squared off in a combo run-blocking drill on the other side of the field.

I focused on the offensive skill positions and defensive back seven players Monday. In the angle tackling drill, Malcolm Rodriguez had a nice stop on Sam LaPorta, Derrick Deese Jr. beat Jack Campbell with a slick cutback, Kerby Joseph tried but couldn’t wrap Craig Reynolds up by the legs, Trevor Nowaske had a nice rep to stay with fullback Jason Cabinda and recently-signed receiver Trey Quinn slipped past Jerry Jacobs.

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The blocking drill was even more physical, with one receiver blocking a defensive back on what was essentially a smoke screen. Jacobs tossed Jameson Williams to the ground on an early rep in the drill, Denzel Mims locked onto Will Harris, Brian Branch fought through a block by Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond held Gardner-Johnson off just enough for his receiver to get to the edge.

There were a few bouts of pushing and shoving during the drill. The most notable came when Harris and an offensive player got into a small tussle and Williams came flying in to his receiver’s defense. Williams pulled off Starling Thomas’ helmet during the dust-up, and Thomas and Williams carried things over to one-on-one receiving drills. Thomas got a physical jam on Williams on their lone rep against each other, forcing Williams to stumble and drop the pass. Thomas had some choice words for Williams, who responded by shoving the undrafted rookie cornerback.

“I just look at it as football, physical play,” Williams said. “We got over it next play. Nothing too much.”

In the air

In one-on-one passing drills, Gardner-Johnson broke up a pass to Mims, though he might have been guilty of pass interference for tugging Mims’ jersey. Raymond is so good at the line of scrimmage and won his rep against Jarren Williams with ease. Sutton had a perfect pass breakup on a throw to Reynolds, playing through the receiver’s hands as he went up for the ball in the end zone. St. Brown beat Jacobs with a stutter-step for a touchdown. And Maurice Alexander made a one-handed TD grab with Dorsey holding onto his left arm.

Injury updates

LaPorta did not finish practice Monday. I didn’t see what caused him to leave, though I didn’t write his number down after the one-on-one tackling drill. Penei Sewell also missed his third straight practice because of a brain injury, leaving Matt Nelson to take first-team reps at right tackle.

Kicking and screaming

In the kicking competition, Parker Romo and Riley Patterson both went 4 of 5. Romo missed a 51-yard field goal wide right by a mile, while Patterson’s miss came from 45. Neither kicker has been especially consistent so far.

Defense picking up some wins

Both the first- and second-team defenses got two stops in the end-of-practice situational period, which started with the offense in first-and-10 from the 41 on the plus side of the field, trailing, 26-20, with 31 seconds on the clock and two timeouts.

Gardner-Johnson broke up one of the passes to St. Brown, but Goff completed a fourth-and-3 throw to Reynolds to keep the drive alive. Tracy Walker couldn’t pull down an interception on a pass to Raymond one play later, and after a short pass to St. Brown, Goff threw the ball away on third-and-4 in the back of the end zone as time expired.

The second-team offense did not pick up a first down in four plays. After a short pass on first down, Nate Sudfeld threw incomplete on second and third down and the entire defensive line, led by Alim McNeill and Romeo Okwara, collapsed the pocket for a would-be game-ending sack on fourth-and-5.

Day off

The Lions are off Tuesday, so the next set of observations will come when they return to the field Wednesday.

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

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