Lions training camp awards for 2021

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The 2021 edition of the Detroit Lions training camp concludes with the final practice session on Wednesday, August 25th. The Lions are off on Thursday before wrapping the preseason on Friday night at home against the Indianapolis Colts.

It was great being back at Allen Park for training camp after a year where neither the public nor the media had access. I was in the media throng for 10 of the practice sessions and paid rapt attention to trusted sources for the days I was not. The honors here lean heavily on the days I was in attendance but do expand out to cover the entire three weeks of action.

It’s time to unseal the envelopes for the 2021 Detroit Lions training camp awards!

Biggest positive surprise

Nominees

--Bruce Hector --A.J. Parker --Anthony Pittman --Kalif Raymond And the winner is... Bruce Hector A seeming afterthought when he joined the team off waivers from the Titans in late July, the veteran defensive tackle has been a force on the interior throughout camp. Hector blends a quick first step with a nice array of power moves and ball awareness. It might not be enough for him to make the final roster, but he's certainly opened some eyes and proves he belongs on someone's final 53-man roster.

Most impressive player

Lions

Nominees

--Tom Kennedy --Jeff Okudah --Amon-Ra St. Brown --Kevin Strong And the winner is... Jeff Okudah The jump in confidence from his injury-marred first season to this point has been remarkable. Okudah has quickly adapted to Aaron Glenn's defensive coverage scheme and has looked the part of a lockdown cornerback on the outside throughout camp. His leadership and energy have stood out, too.

Biggest disappointment: Veteran

Nominees --Victor Bolden --Tim Boyle --Quinton Dunbar --Corn Elder And the winner is...Corn Elder Dunbar should probably win on the merits of being axed quickly, but that only left more time for Elder to disappoint. Expected to quickly wrap up the starting slot corner gig after signing as a free agent, Elder instead fell behind Mike Ford in the slot and kept playing his way down the depth chart. He's missed a lot of time with injury, unable to prove himself. I doubt he makes the final roster.

Top highlight

Nominees

--Julian Okwara smoking Penei Sewell with an inside swim move for a "sack" in a pass rush/blocking drill. --Jared Goff hitting Kalif Raymond in perfect stride on a deep sideline pass that just barely sailed over the closing safety for a beautiful pitch-and-catch. --Jeff Okudah with a diving interception off Goff on a play where the CB ran the route for the WR and Goff tried to intentionally throw it short to avoid trouble. --Amon-Ra St. Brown leaping over a diving Jeff Okudah in a tackling drill and capping it with a celebratory punt. And the winner is... Amon Ra St. Brown. https://twitter.com/Lions/status/1424798884669247507?s=20 The reaction this drew from the awe-struck players, coaches and media made it an easy choice.

Most fan-friendly player

Lions

Nominees

--Derrick Barnes --David Blough --Jamaal Williams And the winner is... Jamaal Williams No offense whatsoever to the other Lions players, but running back Jamaal Williams is an easy choice here. His effervescent personality and willingness to engage with fans at every opportunity were evident from the very first day of camp. https://twitter.com/Lions/status/1425125537404657668?s=20

Biggest disappointment: Rookie

Nominees

--Ifeatu Melifownu --Penei Sewell --Sage Surratt And the winner is... Sage Surratt Neither Melifonwu nor Sewell have played up to their draft-slot expectations thus far, but each has also shown considerable promise at times. That leaves Surratt, perhaps the most prized of the Lions' UDFA class back in May. Consistently hyped as the undrafted rookie with the best chance of making the team, the Wake Forest wide receiver has instead proven on an almost daily basis why he went undrafted. Surratt hasn't really shown enough to even keep on the practice squad. There's just no twitch or spark to his game.

Top rookie

Lions

Nominees

--Derrick Barnes --Alim McNeill --A.J. Parker --Amon-Ra. St. Brown And the winner is... Alim McNeill Not only is the third-round pick going to start at nose tackle, McNeill has a chance to be a legit impact player right away. He announced his presence with authority in the first padded practice and has more than held his own in daily battles with Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow. The Lions look to have a pretty impressive rookie class overall, and McNeill is a big part of it.

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