Detroit Lions Minicamp Observations For Rookies Ft.Terrion Arnold & Ennis Rakestraw

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Terrion Arnold
I only watched Arnold during team drills, and unfortunately, he was never targeted a single time—which can make evaluating his practice a bit difficult. But I can comment on his movement skills, which were noticeably more fluid than anyone else out there.

In the final session of 7-on-7s, his receiver (minicamp tryout Kaden Davis) did appear to be the primary target for the play. But Arnold had him completely blanketed, forcing the quarterback to take a simulated sack.

Ennis Rakestraw Jr.
Most notably, Rakestraw was playing predominantly at the nickel in practice. The only team drills he participated in was an opening 11-on-11 session that did not feature any passing. So his coverage skills were tough to evaluate. That said, Rakestraw did display some blitzing skills and picked up at least one “tackle” for loss (no live tackling is allowed).

Rakestraw sat for the rest of team drills, which the rookie cornerback noted was planned ahead of time, as he recovers from offseason surgery.

“I’m fine from my injury,” Rakestraw said. “They just still want to–I tell them I’m fine, but they want to 100% know I’m fine, so I’ma stick to their plan moving forward.”

Also worth noting, among all the defensive backs, Rakestraw was the one I saw getting the most attention from defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Giovanni Manu
Despite telling media after the draft that he believed he was headed for a role at guard, Manu played exclusively at left tackle in Friday’s practice—where he played at the University of British Columbia. Yes, his size—6-foot-7, 354 pounds, according to the roster sheet—is the first thing you notice about him, but his movement skills aren’t too far behind.

He had a couple of really good battles with CFL star Mathieu Betts, who was clearly the most polished pass rusher at camp. Manu held his own, but Betts got him once with a perfect push-pull move.

Sione Vaki
Vaki spent all of his non-special teams work with the running backs. I came away impressed with his decisiveness and downhill running style. I’m not sure how shifty he’ll be at 5-foot-11, 213 pounds, but you can tell by the way that he runs that he’s not going to shy away from contact.

Offensively, I came away most impressed with his hands. The running backs got a lot of work as receivers, and I didn’t see Vaki put a single ball on the ground. There was a botched exchange with a quarterback on a rushing play, but the first day was noticeably sloppy for everyone. There were at least four botched exchanges between center and quarterback, which is not all that uncommon for Day 1.

The Lions spent a portion of practice on the new kickoff. Media rules prevent me from detailing where specific players were playing, but I’ll just let you know that Vaki’s special teams potential certainly shined during this portion of practice.

Mekhi Wingo
Interior line play is particularly difficult to assess, especially with no full pads on. And considering there was only one set of 11-on-11s (and no 1-on-1s), there just weren’t enough reps to draw any significant observations from his play.

That said, even though Wingo is billed as a severely undersized prospect (6-foot, 291 pounds), his lack of size didn’t really stick out to me all that much. He mostly worked at the three-tech alongside a nose tackle (typically Chris Smith).

Christian Mahogany
Like Manu, Mahogany played exclusively at the position he predominantly played at college: right guard. Again, interior line play is tough to asses, but it’s worth noting that Mahogany was sporting a brace on his right leg, the same leg of his torn ACL in 2022. His participation was not limited during the opening 11-on-11s.

Other notes
Lions coach Dan Campbell was not at practice due to a personal matter, according to a team source. No other details were given.
In my opinion, UDFA WR Isaiah Williams out of Illinois lived up to the early hype. He was always the first receiver to participate in individual drills, and his hands stuck out to me as the best in the group. They were so quick and soft that the ball barely made any noise when he caught it.
Agnew intimated that they view him as a slot receiver (he’s 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, so that makes sense), but noted he’ll have a chance to make the roster because he also brings potential as a returner.

“He’s a playmaker. A guy with the ball in his hands, a playmaker,” Agnew said.

Toledo WR Devin Maddox—a minicamp tryout player—may have been the smallest player I’ve seen on an NFL field. He’s listed at 5-foot-9, 159 pounds. He flashed some good hands early in practice, but he appeared sidelined for the final few sessions.
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