Lions minicamp notebook: Day 3 wrap up

The final day of the Detroit Lions three-day mandatory minicamp took place at the team’s training facility on Thursday. The team packed in some situational football and positional drills in a fast-paced session to wrap up the week.

Here are some quick notes on what we saw and heard on the final day of Lions minicamp.

Sudfeld grows again

Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld has looked better every day he’s been on the field dating back to OTAs in earlier weeks. While that is to be expected ass he gets more reps and more comfortable with the receivers, it doesn’t always happen.

On Thursday, Sudfeld made several impressive throws to all levels of the field. He hit a deep crossing route to WR Kalif Raymond that zipped into a small hole between closing safeties. On another rep, Sudfeld put great touch on a sideline route to rookie wideout Antoine Green in what was kind of a “turkey hole” throw.

It was also nice to see Sudfeld joking and interacting between reps with his offensive teammates. We didn’t get to see Sudfeld last offseason as he joined the team after the final roster cutdowns. He’s letting his personality show more and it’s working well to help build chemistry with the second-team receivers.

Rookie WR watch

The Lions have seventh-round draft pick Antoine Green as the most prominent rookie wideout, but he’s not alone on the roster. Undrafted rooks Chase Cota and Dylan Drummond are also putting their best feet forward to try and make the team.

Green had a good week, capped with his best overall day. The North Carolina product displayed a wide catch radius and good coordination. Green has some giddy-up on deeper routes, but he needs to work on getting himself into the route quicker. Defensive backs that can handle his initial burst can keep Green from showing off the wheels, something fellow rookie Starling Thomas did nicely on a couple of reps on Thursday.

Drummond sure has the look of someone who can play in the NFL. He’s a better route runner and bigger target than last year’s UDFA slot sensation, Kalil Pimpleton (who eventually made the New York Giants roster). Drummond’s ability to explode out of a tight cut while staying low is going to present real problems for DBs or LBs that rely on using their hands more than their feet in coverage.

Cota is an odd Duck, coming from Oregon as a 6-foot-4 slot receiver. His most notable moment in Thursday’s practice came on a play where he threw the ball as part of a gadget play. His arm strength was legit but the accuracy was not. Cota has been an early staple on special teams, and that appears to be his best path to make the practice squad.

The kicking was...interesting

Kickers Riley Patterson and John Parker Romo got equal chances to seize control of their battle while returning PK Michael Badgley remains inactive. Alas, neither performed well on what was a notably windy day.

Both kickers missed an extra point that would have ended practice. They proceeded to each go 6-for-10 in alternating reps from the same distances and hashes. This came after both struggled on the other field warming up while the offense and defense completed the team drills. On the warmups, using a holding apparatus, Patterson missed three in a row wide left. Romo blasted one dead solid perfect from what appeared to be about 55 yards but then missed the next two from a few yards closer; one of them was at least 20 yards wide right.

Romo ultimately won the end-of-practice competition by making a 55-yarder off the right upright after Patterson wasn’t close from the same distance. Romo clearly has the bigger leg, but his control and consistency are wild. Patterson’s kicks all tend to have the same rotation and tack, a slight draw. The ball comes off Romo’s foot differently all the time, with high screwballs, banana hooks and even a couple of random knuckleballs.

Surprise standout: Saivion Smith

Smith is a very easy guy to root for as he efforts to return from a scary neck injury last year. Now playing safety instead of cornerback, Smith saw a lot of first-team reps on Thursday and played like he belonged.

One thing that Smith does very well that serves him nicely at safety is his ability to go forward in a hurry without taking any steps back or bucket steps. He did just that to break up a Sudfeld pass to Jameson Williams over the middle. No. 23 also showed good field and positional awareness in the red zone, forcing Jared Goff to throw a ball away out of the end zone.

Smith shows no real sign of the traumatic injury that saw him leave the field in an ambulance. His vocal leadership and play recognition stood out on a day where several regular DBs sat out of practice.

Quick hits

–The ongoing air quality issues stemming from the Canadian wildfires were definitely noticeable in practice. Dan Campbell acknowledged that the team is actively monitoring the air quality and found the levels acceptable.

–Campbell was asked prior to practice about the seeming increase in responsibility that LB coach Kelvin Sheppard has taken on this spring. Campbell ended a longer response by stating that he sees Sheppard as both a potential coordinator and a future head coach.

–The starting offensive line all participated in practice together for the first time. Center Frank Ragnow showed no real sign of the toe injury that he is playing through. It was nice to see the starting five after their reserves did not look good on Wednesday.

–Starting DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson was back in practice after missing Wednesday with an illness. He met with reporters after practice and the veteran brings the intensity even in his press conferences. It’s a welcomed intensity.

–Rookie QB Hendon Hooker spent considerable time working with and throwing to WR Trinity Benson after practice. Hooker still isn’t cleared for practice as he recovers from December ACL surgery, but he shows almost no sign of being limited. He wears a full-length sleeve on his leg but not a brace, unlike CB Emmanuel Moseley. Hooker’s deep ball looked great. So too did Benson catching them.

–A little video on a light moment from the LB drills, where rookie Jack Campbell had his best day. So did UDFA rookie Trevor Nowaske, though I didn’t mention him in the short video:

–Calvin Johnson was at practice. He was gracious in talking to us in the media and joked that his gnarly hand has healed enough he can finally put his hand in his pocket. The Hall of Fame wideout spent considerable time early in practice standing with owner Sheila Hamp and her family and it was like watching old friends interact.

–Speaking of Hamp, she and her family watched the latter portion of practice atop Mt. Patricia, the infamous hill the former coach had installed at the north end of the facility. Several players went out of their way to hug and greet her.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire