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Wednesday marked Day 2 of Detroit Lions mandatory minicamp. The Lions players rolled through an energetic, solid practice session on a partly sunny and breezy afternoon in Allen Park.
After a more general view on the first day, my focus on Wednesday turned more to the depth players. With the second and third-team units getting a lot of prime action, it turned out to be a very informative practice session.
Here’s what I observed from Wednesday’s action at Lions minicamp.
(Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Three players from the secondary stood out in Wednesday’s practice session.
Cornerback Saivion Smith had quite a few wins in reps at outside cornerback. He showed quick feet and good awareness of how to use the sideline to his advantage. Smith also quickly recognized a delayed handoff and would have had a big TFL if hitting was allowed, a play that earned him considerable praise from DB coach Aubrey Pleasant after the reps in that set concluded.
One thing I really liked about Smith was his adaptability. He and rookie safety Kerby Joseph had a miscommunication on a deep coverage responsibility and it led to a TD. On the very next rep he played, the offense tried a similar tactic and Smith used his length and savvy quite nicely to force an incompletion. Being able to quickly move on from mistakes is a critical skill for defensive backs and Smith showed it on Wednesday.
Seventh-round rookie Chase Lucas got some good work in the slot. On one rep against nifty UDFA WR Kalil Pimpleton, Lucas nicely mirrored and was patient in his process before quickly bursting Pimpleton’s release and forcing an incomplete throw. Lucas does ride up a little high in his backpedal at times and it seems like something he’s consciously working on improving. Later in the reps, Lucas made a great diving PD in front of WR Corey Sutton.
Mark Gilbert also had some solid reps playing outside CB. Gilbert is more physical in style and that worked well against some of the bigger receivers. He did get beaten on a corner route TD and couldn’t match Kalif Raymond’s speed on the outside, however.
Bobby Price is in his third year in Detroit and facing his likely last chance to stick with the Lions full-time. He was one of the better outside CBs in red zone drills and also made a couple of really athletic catches in position work.
On the flip side, third-round rookie safety Kerby Joseph struggled some. It’s easy to sense that he’s thinking too much about his assignments in the defense and what/where he’s supposed to be on most reps. The athletic ability is definitely there, but he’s not natural in the defense yet–which is completely understandable from a rookie with limited starting experience who is learning on the fly. That’s what practice is for.
AJ Parker was a nice story as an undrafted rookie who played his way into being the starting slot CB for a time. Wednesday was not his best day, alas. He and safety Juju Hughes had a bad miscommunication that led to an easy TD and it sure appeared (can’t say for certain though) to be Parker who was in the wrong. Parker really struggled with the quickness of Pimpleton and Tom Kennedy in the session.
One of the players who is excused from participation is second-round pick Josh Paschal. He’s also the only unsigned rookie, which leads to some questions and unease around Detroit.
Campbell was asked about Paschal’s status. He commented that Paschal is dealing with “a lower extremity injury” and the team was just trying to play it smart with the defensive lineman.
Paschal missed Kentucky’s bowl game and the Senior Bowl week after suffering a leg injury late in the Wildcats season. While Campbell didn’t address the nature of the injury, it certainly makes sense that Paschal is still dealing with the same injury.
No word on the contract yet, but there are zero signs of acrimony from either side.
There were no new additions to the “not participating” list from the first session. There was one subtraction from the “not on the field” list, however; undrafted rookie CB Jermaine Waller was placed on the reserve/retired list just before practice began.
We covered Paschal and the Lions being cautious with the rookie earlier. The only other player not seen at all was NT John Penisini. Campbell did not offer any update on his status, nor was he asked about it. The head coach said on Tuesday that he was meeting with Penisini that evening and was aware of what was going on with the third-year DT.
Guys who were on the field but not active participants in team drills:
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
A day after David Blough turned in a commanding performance as the No. 2 QB, the tables turned a little. Tim Boyle performed much better on Wednesday after an erratic Tuesday, while Blough couldn’t keep the big momentum rolling so well.
Not that Boyle was perfect, but his accuracy and timing looked better. He did have one very rough gaffe, an interception over the middle by safety Brady Breeze early in practice where Boyle was clearly heard saying “I didn’t see him” on a play where Breeze moved exactly one step from the moment of the snap to make the pick. But overall, Boyle was more confident and improved.
Blough still made some nice throws but didn’t have the “wow” factor we all felt on Tuesday.
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The HBO crew from the “Hard Knocks” series was in Allen Park to capture the action. It was part of what will be a sizeable camera contingency, though they blend in easily with the Lions’ own film crews that record multiple angles of every practice rep.
When asked about the whole Hard Knocks experience and the buzz that comes with Detroit being perceived as a team on the rise, Campbell expressed ambivalence.
“I really don’t have a thought on it,” Campbell responded when asked about Hard Knocks before practice. “I’m neutral on it. We’ve got a job to do. Anything (buzz-wise) at this point is irrelevant until we win games. We’ve got to win games, set ourselves up to win games”
Photo by Jeff Risdon/Lions Wire
The quarterbacks were quite sharp in the positional drills before the team session. One drill in particular was very encouraging.
The net in the picture above was the target set in the back of the end zone. QBs Jared Goff, Blough and Boyle all had three reps at hitting the target called out on the fly (1,2,3 from top right to bottom left) while throwing on the move from inside the 5-yard line. Blough and Boyle were perfect, while Goff hit 2-of-3 and the one he missed rattled around the center square he was assigned to hit like a jump shot that just wouldn’t fall despite being really close.
In another set, the trio was throwing to wide receivers on some timing patterns. The first set of reps was Goff and Boyle and not a single throw hit the ground. Goff rotated to a different drill and Blough replaced him. Other than one throw where Kalif Raymond wasn’t the proper depth and another where rookie WR Josh Johnson dropped an easy one, they stayed perfect through another 8 throws before each had a misfire.
Reserve defensive lineman Jashon Cornell had a strong practice. Almost exclusively playing the 3-tech DT spot, Cornell showed he hasn’t lost any of his quickness despite both some added (by design) pounds and the recovery from a torn Achilles that cost him all of the 2021 season.
After practice, Cornell spoke with the media and talked about the importance of having the right mindset as he returns to the field. There was a genuine sense of appreciation from Cornell, who is absolutely on the roster bubble in his third season. He’s had a nice two days of camp and could be a good fit where the Lions do have a need on the defensive interior.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
–Spent some time watching recent acquisition John Cominsky. The defensive lineman bounces around the formation–nearly everyone up front moves across multiple positions–but he was at his best on Wednesday working at LDE in a speed-rush package where No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson played to his inside shoulder.
–Not every player can have a great practice every day, unfortunately. One who did not impress on Wednesday: WR Josh Johnson. The UDFA from Tulsa really struggled to catch the ball in drills. He put two on the ground and double-caught two others.
–RB Craig Reynolds took some reps as the No. 2 RB and looked the part. It was just a look, nothing for Jamaal Williams or D’Andre Swift to be concerned about. Reynolds caught the ball cleanly and showed off his blocking by driving DE Austin Bryant a good 15 yards down the field on a TD catch-and-run by TE Garrett Griffin. Reynolds is pretty clearly RB3.
–On the flip side, 2021 seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson was behind UDFA rookie Greg Bell in reps on the other field and in one positional drill I caught. Bell caught the ball well out of the backfield but doesn’t have a natural hip-flip to turn it up after the catch right away.
–Didn’t see a lot of rookie James Houston, but one particular play was tough to miss. Aligned at RDE against UDFA rookie Obinna Eze, Houston deftly ducked under the block and notched a quick would-be sack. Houston showed quickness in the DE drills which is important because he’s pretty handily the smallest of the group.
–Shane Zylstra made a couple of nice catches and also really sold a fake in the red zone that freed Goff to hit Trinity Benson on a crossing pattern just behind him. It’s a play that requires exceptional attention to detail and both Zylsrtra and Benson–who had another impressive day after a great Tuesday–pulled it off very nicely.
–Longtime long snapper Don Muhlbach was working with the kickers, Riley Patterson and Austin Seibert. Muhlbach retired last summer. He’s still got a great throwing arm, for what it’s worth.
–Speaking of throwing arms, don’t expect any WR option passes from Jameson Williams. The lanky rookie is still idled as he recovers from knee surgery, but he’s omnipresent with the first-team offense as the guy catching the ball after a drill to give it back to the offense. He caught many of them one-handed with minimal issue. But when he had to throw a couple of balls to someone else, let’s just say it’s not his forte…