Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from Thursday’s Detroit Lions’ training camp practice.
▶ Thanks to WWE’s SummerSlam and a Beyoncé concert at Ford Field, the Lions were forced to scrap their annual scrimmage at the home stadium. They replaced that with Thursday’s session, which focused on move-the-ball drives.
After some early practice kickoff work, the opening drive pitted the first-team offense against the second-team defense. Surprisingly, it was the backups who secured the early win, with linebackers Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez each making quality plays near the line of scrimmage to kick-start the series. Barnes expertly filled his gap, stuffing running back David Montgomery, while Rodriguez shed a block and smothered receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown after a quick pass to the slot.
The segment came to a halt when quarterback Jared Goff forced a ball into double coverage to tight end Sam LaPorta, who tipped the pass into the waiting arms of safety Saivion Smith for the interception.
▶ More in line with expectations, the first-team defense largely dominated the second-team offense. Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal combined on a third-down sack, Charles Harris ate up tight end Brock Wright’s block for another sack, and linebacker Alex Anzalone diagnosed and shut down a draw play to Jahmyr Gibbs on third-and-long.
But sometimes all it takes is one play to flip the script. Rookie linebacker Jack Campbell cheated up to the line pre-snap, feigning a blitz that left him out of position to pick up running back Justin Jackson on a wheel route. With Campbell getting screened by the slot receiver and nickel cornerback, Jackson got free down the sideline for the long completion and was able to maneuver around deep safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson into the end zone.
▶ The third units squared off against each other with that segment also ending in an interception. This time it was safety Brady Breeze coming up with the diving catch as quarterback Adrian Martinez lobbed one into an otherwise vacant spot in the middle of the field.
▶ Cornerback Jarren Williams went down with an injury while jostling for position with receiver Maurice Alexander near the right sideline. The young cornerback was on the ground for several minutes before being carted off.
▶ A couple quick special teams notes as we try to read between the lines with some of the back-of-the-roster competitions. Undrafted rookie cornerback Starling Thomas V was working with the top coverage groups, while wide receiver Denzel Mims was repping as an upback with the first kickoff return grouping.
Mims was also doing some work at gunner and suffered a thumb injury that required a tape job, but it wasn’t enough to sideline him the remainder of practice.
▶ After some work with punts, the offense and defense returned to the field with the top groups going head-to-head for the first time. Again, it was the defense getting the better of the matchup. Among the highlights were a run stuff by rookie defensive tackle Brodric Martin, a pass breakup by cornerback Cam Sutton, and safety Kerby Joseph shooting a gap to drop the running back close to the line of scrimmage.
The offense did settle down as Goff connected with Kalif Raymond to convert a third-and-short before delivering a beautiful ball to St. Brown over the outstretched arm of box safety Tracy Walker. But on fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Goff was forced from the pocket and saw his cross-body throw to Marvin Jones nearly intercepted by Anzalone, ending the scoring threat.
▶ Overall, it was a productive day for Detroit’s defensive line. Hutchinson and Harris regularly found paths into the backfield, and Romeo Okwara, working mostly with the second-team defense, was a handful for the backup linemen.
▶ Frank Ragnow was absent for the second consecutive day, leaving Graham Glasgow to handle the center snaps. It also appeared to be a prescribed light day of work for veteran guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, leaving many of the first-team guard reps to be shared by Kayode Awosika and rookie Colby Sorsdal.
▶ Both kickers had busy days, combining for 25 field goal and extra point attempts. And both were sharp with Riley Patterson and Parker Romo each missing just one kick. Patterson missed a 45-yarder wide right, while Romo clanged a 53-yard boot off the right upright.
▶ It was another good day for scrappy, rookie receiver Dylan Drummond, who continues to answer the bell as he faces stiffer competition. On Thursday, he beat Brian Branch on a crosser and also got the best of Sutton on a slant for a touchdown.
▶ Second-year cornerback Chase Lucas keeps catching my eye with his positioning in these practices. But even outstanding positioning isn’t enough sometimes. He was all over St. Brown deep in the red zone, but the Pro Bowl receiver still managed to come away with the hotly contested catch.
▶ Practice wrapped with some end-of-game scenarios. First, the offense got the ball at the opponent’s 37-yard line with 29 seconds remaining, needing a touchdown. St. Brown made things easy with two quick grabs down to the 6-yard line. Montgomery finished things off from there with a 6-yard scoring run behind the blocks of Glasgow and Vaitai, who opened a big lane against Detroit’s smaller, quicker NASCAR package up front.
▶ The second-team offense was similarly asked to get into the end zone from 27 yards out with 24 seconds on the clock. It took just two plays as Nate Sudfeld found Mims for a 23-yard gain on a post pattern before feeding the ball to Wright in the left flat for the score.