Lions training camp notebook: Day 3 notes and observations

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Day 3 of Detroit Lions training camp is now in the books.

Friday saw the arrival of Lions’ friends and family in the stands, the first day where anyone besides Lions employees and media was present at camp. Alas, pads will not come on for the players until Monday, but we still got to glean quite a bit from the sun-soaked morning session.

Here’s what I saw, heard and noted in Friday’s practice in Allen Park.

Top observations from the first day of Detroit Lions training camp

Lions training camp notebook: Day 2 top observations

Red zone offense

Much of Friday’s session was spent in positional work, meaning a limited amount of offense vs. defense reps. The primary focus of those more competitive drills was in the red zone.

Jared Goff was sharp throughout the session. Early in the session he hit wideouts Josh Reynolds and DJ Chark on the same quick-hit seam route just between the underneath LB and safety closing from up high. It takes a confident and accurate throw and Goff delivered, much to the chagrin of defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Goff to D’Andre Swift was effectively unstoppable inside the 10. The duo connected on a great corner fade where LB Chris Board was in great position in coverage but couldn’t quite get a finger on a perfect pass.

Amon-Ra St. Brown struck paydirt by torching AJ Parker with a nasty inside jerk move. St. Brown celebrated by pretending he was surfing.

The defense did get some wins, notably a fantastic PD from safety DeShon Elliott on a great, quick read. Cornerback Will Harris made two straight breakups on the exact same route, a quick-out to the goal line. The first time he got a little lucky when Goff was a count late pulling the trigger to Josh Reynolds. The next attempt went to TE T.J. Hockenson and Harris was all over it.

The reserve offense was well ahead of the backups on defense throughout the drill. There were two noteworthy exceptions: a sack by rookie DT Demetrius Harris on a gorgeous under-and-up move, and a well-executed A-gap blitz from LB Derrick Barnes. The receivers and tight ends consistently won their battles on just about every rep.

2-minute drill

Practice ended on the field with the starting offense on a 2-minute drill against the starting defense. The defense was the better unit in this one.

Goff had some issues finding open receivers, with the defense rolling coverage nicely to take away his primary option. Standing behind the defense, it was interesting to see all the pre-snap chatter between CB Will Harris and safeties Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott, and LBs Alex Anzalone and Chris Board reacting off it too.

The offense sputtered. A couple of short, quick completions did little to move the sticks. Goff missed a well-covered (by Board) D’Andre Swift up the sideline, then had to throw the next pass away when the defense got quick pressure. The drive–and practice–ended with slot CB AJ Parker picking off a bad throw by Goff, who had little time and no real open options either.

The rise of the reserve TEs

(AP Photo/Bart Young)

The depth at TE hasn’t stood out much in the first couple of days. That changed on Friday.

With Devin Funchess sidelined, two youngsters took full advantage of the extra reps. Second-year Shane Zylstra was money in the red zone drill. Zylstra showed off his old wide receiver skills in racing away from the coverage on crosses and drags. No. 84 hauled in three TDs, one at the expense of CB Mike Hughes–who could not keep up with Zylstra on the shallow drag.

Derrick Deese Jr. also caught three TDs in drills and looked comfortable using his wide frame to present a big target for backup QBs David Blough and Tim Boyle. He made an impressive snag over CB Bobby Price along the sideline on a perfect strike from Blough.

Brock Wright didn’t get much action as a receiver but he made a fantastic open-field block to spring RB Craig Reynolds for a TD run.

It wasn’t all positive. Undrafted rookie Nolan Givan had another rough day. After dropping two passes on Thursday, Givan was guilty of an easy-to-spot illegal block in the back that wiped out a nice Boyle-to-Kalif Raymond catch-and-run. Criag Reynolds also bullied Givan on a special teams drill.

Quick hits

–Campbell led off his morning press conference with thoughts and prayers for William White. The former Lions safety passed away from ALS on Thursday.

As noted before practice, Devin Funchess and Greg Bell were sidelined after suffering injuries on Thursday. Funchess was on the field (in workout clothes) and in the huddles and appeared to be walking without any issue. Bell was not spotted on the field.

–Safety C.J. Moore remains on the PUP list but he was doing all the warmup drills with the DBs and worked hard with the trainers off to the side with no visible setbacks.

–Rookie DE James Houston continues to be way too quick off the line for the reserve offensive tackles. That statement should read as both positive about Houston, who has some legit juice, but also an indictment against the likes of Matt Nelson and Obinna Eze–both of whom play way too tall to handle the compact Houston.

–Former Lions QB Mike McMahon stopped into the media room prior to Campbell’s press conference. He’s now coaching high school ball in Pittsburgh. McMahon was rocking a “Detroit vs. Everybody” hat that clearly wasn’t new.

–It is Brad Holmes’ birthday. Practice closed with the players and coaches singing happy birthday to the Lions GM, who turned 43 today.

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Story originally appeared on Lions Wire