Notes and observations from 1st open Lions OTAs

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The Detroit Lions wrapped up the first week of 2021 OTAs on Thursday on a beautiful sunny day in Allen Park. And for the first time since 2019, I got to attend in person.

Here’s what I saw from my first in-person impressions of the Dan Campbell era in Detroit.

Campbell is a different style of practice coach than his Detroit predecessors, most notably Matt Patricia and Jim Schwartz. He is more of an observer and not a micromanager. To sum it up quickly, he lets his position coaches run their groups without interference. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to operate on that front, I’m just noting the difference.

On a logistical note, the Lions have reoriented the practice fields at the facility. There are just two practice fields now, down from three, and they are perpendicular to the old setup. For fans who have been to training camp in Allen Park, the area where you walk into the fields is now walking toward an end zone, not a sideline.

Player notes

The OTAs are not intense football. Contact is not allowed, the players were not in pads and the brief period of 7-on-7 was more of a walkthrough than hardcore football. As such, the observations here are more about physical first impressions.

Penei Sewell: The first thing to note with Sewell is that he’s not as big as expected, a comment echoed by several other Lions media. He’s certainly not small, but Sewell is quite a bit shorter on the field than Taylor Decker, Dan Skipper, Matt Nelson or even Logan Stenberg. It’s clearly visible. I’ll be stunned if Sewell weighs more than 310-315, too. He looks in great shape.

D’Andre Swift: Holy leg muscles! Swift has clearly not missed leg day in some time. The definition of his thighs, calves and even ankles jumped out. He’s very thick in the lower body, thick in a positive way. I haven’t seen Swift in person since the 2019 scouting combine and he’s definitely more developed and defined all over.

Breshad Perriman: The new wideout is wearing Kenny Golladay’s old No. 19. He’s got a lankiness to him even more so than when I covered his ill-fated season in Cleveland in 2018. As is the case with Sewell, I’d be stunned if Perriman is close to his listed weight (215). He looks good, but he’s not the bulkier guy who was a first-round pick once upon a time in Baltimore.

The Lions media got to see the full Perriman package I remembered from Cleveland in the one hour of open access. He looks spectacular running in a straight line and his acceleration for a taller wideout is fantastic. He made a beautiful one-handed stab on the sideline, carefully planting both feet down inbounds. He then dropped two of the next three passes thrown his way, one of them hitting him in both hands on a crossing route. As impressive as his acceleration is, Perriman has a very real issue decelerating to make a sharp cut, too.

Amon-Ra St. Brown: Wearing No. 14, the rookie wideout sure looks like a slot receiver. He had a rep where he caught a nice pass on a jerk route and exploded up the field with a sweet stutter move than caught the defense flat-footed. It would have been a long TD in an actual game, more than likely. His hands looked strong.

Sage Surratt: If Perriman’s weight is overestimated on the official listing, he might have given some of those pounds to Surratt. He’s every bit of 6-foot-3 but he looks bulkier through the shoulders and torso than 215. It’s not bad weight, just more of it than expected. He flashed nicely in a punt coverage drill.

Jahlani Tavai: The weight loss and body transformation with the third-year LB is legit. He looks like a different guy physically. I didn’t watch any LB reps in their grouping but his newly svelte body stood out as the players warmed up and stretched. He said in his post-practice media session that he’s lost 17 pounds since January.

Jared Goff: It was strange seeing No. 16 as the first-team quarterback. He’s a different personality from Matthew Stafford in practice, a little more engaging with his teammates upon first blush. Again, it’s just one first impression. He missed one throw (to T.J. Hockenson) badly but looked fine and had enough zip when asked to unload the deeper throws.

Todd Gurley

About five minutes after the practice session started, word circulated that free agent RB Todd Gurley was in the building. He did not make an appearance at practice, however.

My take: It’s a curious courtship from both sides. The Lions have an impressive 1-2 punch in Swift and Jamaal Williams, and they drafted big Jermar Jefferson, too. Two priority newcomers with potential are already in Detroit to pair with Swift, who could be a rising star in his second season.

For Gurley, it seems like he would find a better opportunity for more carries and a (likely) bigger paycheck elsewhere. It’s nothing beyond the visiting stage at this point, and he does have a relationship with the Lions front office from their Rams days together. I wouldn’t lose any sleep — be it excitement or bemusement — over the possibility of the Lions signing Gurley until it actually happens.