Detroit Lions camp observations: Marvin Jones still sure-handed in 2nd stint with franchise

Detroit Free Press

Marvin Jones spent a good 10 minutes after the Detroit Lions‘ joint practice Wednesday with the Jacksonville Jaguars catching up with old teammates, and for Jones, the reunion wasn’t confined to after the final horn.

Jaguars coach Doug Pederson wandered over to Jones when both were free during a special teams period late in practice, and Jones said a couple Jaguars players — some of whom affectionately call him “O.G.” because of his longevity in the league — tried chopping it up on the practice field after plays.

“It’s hard not to be like, ‘Hey,’ after every play,” Jones said. “Everybody be like, ‘Hey, bro?’ They’re having full conversations, I be like, ‘Oh, I got to get in the huddle.’ But nah, it’s fun to see them. Obviously, we’ve been through a lot over there and ended great there and I’ve been here, too, and it’s the same. It’s just good to be around.”

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Jones had five good seasons for the Lions in 2016-20 then left as a free agent and spent the past two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He saw some of the worst in both places; he played his final three seasons in Detroit under Matt Patricia and his first in Jacksonville under Urban Meyer. But Jones also experienced Jacksonville’s revival under Pederson last year and is enjoying the new Lions vibe under Dan Campbell this fall.

At 33 years old and entering his 12th NFL season, it’s clear how much respect Jones has from people across the league.

“Oh man, can’t say enough great things about Marvin,” Pederson said. “What a great leader. Helped us get into the postseason last year. Came up big a lot during the year. Well-liked in the community and I know he’s been here and fitting in really well, and just wish him the best.”

Jones got plenty of work with the Lions’ first-team offense Wednesday — maybe more than he expected after Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams left with injuries — and seems to be settling into an offense that should have plenty of options this fall. He’s not as dynamic a receiver as he once was, but he’s still sure-handed; he showed it Wednesday, catching a slant from Jared Goff in one red zone period with Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell draped on his back.

Jones said he loved his time in Jacksonville and with Pederson, and he said going through the turmoil the franchise did helped build comradery and trust. But when a reporter asked if he was ready to play mediator should any scuffles break out between his new and old teams this week, Jones was clear where his allegiance lies.

“Uh-uh. Get it in. Y’all do whatever you need to do,” Jones joked. “I’m not going to get in the middle of it. I’m rocking with Detroit, so if something happens, this is my team.”

More observations from Wednesday’s practice:

Lions defense ‘dominated’ — according to CB Jacobs

This week’s joint practices are structured similar to those held with the New York Giants last week: The Lions offense works against the Jaguars defense on one field, and the Lions defense goes against Jacksonville’s offense on the other. As always, with so much going on, I spend my day watching one field and on Wednesday, that was the Lions offense. I did, however, ask Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs to give me his breakdown of how the defense looked.

“Dominated. Dominated,” Jacobs said. “Our motto is no explosive plays. We gave up one — we gave up actually three, the last two in the last period. But man, we’re just going to stay on our motto. But the defense was great. The run game, unstoppable. We had to make them force it in the air, which we did, and that was good, but we just got to get on the same page with things like that so we don’t give up explosives. But it was good.”

One Jacksonville player said Lions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson spent the whole practice chirping at the Jaguars offense, and Jacobs said he liked the fire he saw from his unit.

“I could tell we had more energy than them today, I could tell just coming off,” he said. “Not trying to say them guys weren’t prepared or nothing like that, but I just felt like we had more juice and it showed today.”

Jags have speed to burn

I came away impressed with what I saw from Jacksonville, a playoff team last year that could make a deeper postseason run this fall if Trevor Lawrence takes another step forward in his development as a quarterback.

The Jaguars have a track team at the skill positions on offense, two really good coverage linebackers in Devin Lloyd and Foyesade Oluokun – Lloyd, in particular, looked like a star Wednesday – and an active defensive front led by Roy Robertson-Harris, who had a couple nice run stuffs against the Lions.

Lions QBs get turnover-prone

Jared Goff didn’t have his best day throwing the ball Wednesday and the Lions’ first-team offense moved the ball mostly through the short passing game on an assortment of swing passes, slants and curls. Lloyd made a beautiful interception on a Goff pass to Kalif Raymond in team period, when he dropped expertly into coverage and shuffle-changed directions before stabbing the ball out of the air with one hand.

Lloyd dropped another interception later in the same period when Goff threw off his back foot over the middle to Sam LaPorta and didn’t seem to see Lloyd dropping into coverage after faking an A-gap blitz. And cornerback Darious Williams picked off Nate Sudfeld in seven-on-seven red zone drills when Sudfeld threw an ill-advised pass to rookie Antoine Green on what appeared to be his third read.

Bridgewater mostly an observer

Sudfeld spent most of Wednesday working with the second-team offense, ahead of new backup Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater took two reps at the end of the day’s first team period and completed his first throw to tight end Daniel Helm. He got some work in seven-on-seven and another nine or so reps in team drills, but was mostly an observer during red zone drills, presumably part of the Lions’ desire not to overload him with playbook stuff during his first few days of practice.

Bridgewater did go 0-for-2 in one red zone period late in practice, with one throwaway and one drop by Green on a would-be touchdown.

I will say it was odd to see Bridgewater wearing a red no-contact jersey with No. 50 — a number usually reserved for linebackers or centers. Bridgewater explained a little bit more about his number choice Wednesday, which he said was a tribute to the Starz series “BMF,” a crime drama inspired by the true story of two brothers from Detroit.

“It feels good (wearing it),” Bridgewater said. “It’s just a number, man. Like I said, I watch ‘BMF’ on Starz, and I like what the 50 Boys is doing, so I’m going to let that be known. (I’m) 50 Teddy right now, that’s all.”

Bridgewater will have to change numbers for the regular season. Currently, the Lions do not have any numbers available in the single digits or teens.

Quick hits

∎ Jalen Reeves-Maybin continues to work as the personal protector on the Lions’ top punt cover unit, with Tracy Walker and Jason Cabinda as wing protectors. Brady Breeze, who returned after missing Monday’s practice with an illness, was the PP with the second punt unit — he recovered a muffed punt Wednesday in his one coverage rep downfield — and Green and Dylan Drummond both got time on first-team punt return.

∎ Drummond has to be considered the favorite for the No. 5 receiver job right now, behind St. Brown, Raymond, Jones and Josh Reynolds, though the Lions have given Green, their seventh-round pick in April, plenty of opportunity on special teams.

Drummond had the catch of the day Wednesday, diving to secure a Bridgewater pass that was slightly underthrown along the sideline. He nearly made another nice grab on a third-and-goal halfback pass from David Montgomery, but he couldn’t keep his second foot in-bounds.

∎ I joked that the Lions showed that Montgomery pass Wednesday to give the Jaguars something to think about when the two teams meet in the Super Bowl, but the reality is, Montgomery was a high school quarterback. Knowing offensive coordinator Ben Johnson’s appetite for trick plays, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Montgomery throw a pass at some point this fall.

∎ I’ve been impressed with how the Lions tight ends, collectively, have blocked this summer. James Mitchell is a very good move blocker and Darrell Daniels and Brock Wright had nice blocks to spring Jermar Jefferson on a long run Wednesday.

Mitchell did not have a great day catching the ball, though, as I charted him with two dropped passes.

∎ Penalties were an issue for the Lions offense Wednesday. I didn’t chart how many they committed, but there had to be a dozen flags thrown on that field and the Lions had to re-huddle several times on offense for false starts.

On the line

Graham Glasgow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai split time at right guard with the first-team offense Wednesday, and the Lions continued to use Matt Nelson at right tackle and Germain Ifedi at left tackle with the second-team. Campbell said the competition for the swing tackle job is wide open.

“Nelson and Ifedi are just going back and forth,” he said. “I thought Nelson’s had a pretty good camp, and then, but I think Ifedi played pretty good in this game last week. And he’s played a lot in this league. And (Obinna) Eze’s really come a long way. He’s just, there again it’s about the consistency and getting reps and playing. So I think it’s very much open. It’s open and they’re competing for that spot.”

Rough stuff at the end

There was no situational period to end practice Wednesday, but both teams gathered around the same field for some best-on-best work. Lawrence completed easy passes on his first two throws, with Christian Kirk getting great separation from rookie Brian Branch on the first play of the period, and had a ball sail through Zay Jones’ hands on his third attempt. Gardner-Johnson and Alex Anzalone made a run stop on the Jaguars’ final play with their first-team offense, and some minor shoving ensued as Jacksonville players didn’t like Gardner-Johnson tackling Travis Etienne to the ground.

Goff was 3-for-3 in the period for the Lions, with two completions to Raymond, and had a fourth attempt nullified by a pass interference penalty when Jaguars cornerback Gregory Junior grabbed Jones.

In second-team work, Jaguars backup C.J. Beathard was 4-for-4 passing, and Tim Jones beat Steven Gilmore for a deep touchdown, while Sudfled was 2-for-4 with two short completions.

Strike it Rich (Strike)!

Last note of the day: Eric Reed, the former trainer for 2022 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, was among the notables in attendance Wednesday.

Campbell compared the Lions to the longshot thoroughbred last summer in an interview with Peter King, and that comparison caught Reed’s attention. On Wednesday, Reed met Campbell after practice and gave him a blue silicone bracelet that read: “80:1 Don’t be defined by the odds.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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