The Detroit Lions held the second day of their 2022 training camp on Thursday as the team continues to stack days. Both Jeremy Reisman and I were on hand to observe practice today, as usual, and we will have plenty of coverage for fans to consume.
If you missed Day 1 observations, you can find them here.
Coming into practice, there were no changes from yesterday, as Jason Cabinda, Romeo Okwara, Josh Paschal, and Jerry Jacobs remain on the PUP list, while Jameson Williams, Natrez Patrick, C.J. Moore, and Dan Skipper remain on the NFI list.
We did receive clarification on Paschal’s sports hernia injury, when Jeremy asked Campbell if the injury required surgery, and we have updated our piece from yesterday with more details. Paschal had surgery during OTAs and with an estimated 12-week recovery window, he will be out for a significant amount of training camp, if not all of it.
On the field, there was only one notable injury and that was to UDFA rookie running back Greg Bell. Bell went down in a 7-on-7 drill and was tended to by trainers. He was able to stand with assistance but had a hard time walking. The cart was brought out to transport him, but he appeared to have difficulty getting comfortable and opted to walk instead with trainer assistance. I don’t want to speculate too much on the injury but as Reisman noted on Twitter, it was a “tough scene”.
Jared Goff’s Offense
The Lions’ offense continues to cycle through the early stages of their playbook, and while I can’t divulge too many specifics, we have seen more pre-snap movement and creativity. They have yet to unleash too many deep shots, but with no pads and limited live-action drills, that is probably by design.
When in positional or team drills, Goff continues to get priority weapons to throw to, even altering the pass-catching order to align the starters with No. 16. It may not seem like a big deal to place the top targets with Goff, but it helps build chemistry and keeps things consistent. Goff held throwing sessions with several of the starters during the offseason and the carryover from that extra work is paying off.
Goff has always had a strong connection with Josh Reynolds—and it showed up again on Thursday—and Amon-Ra St. Brown, but it’s easy to see his connection growing with others, like DJ Chark.
“(I’m) getting used to the way he throws the ball,” Chark told the media after practice. “He’s very consistent with the way he throws. At this point, I kinda know where to expect the ball to be, the type of passes, as in philosophy and things like that. So I think getting a head start on it during those OTAs was very big.”
While the physical work is evident, Chark also pointed out that Goff is readily available for assistance with the mental aspect of the offense as well, as he was involved in the evolution of the offensive playbook with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson this offseason.
“JG (Goff) has more control on what’s going on, has more input,” Chark continued. “I can go ask the same question I would ask Ben (Johnson) or coach (Antwaan Randle) El, I can go ask him. That helps a lot when I can go straight to the source, the guy that’s throwing the ball, just on small routes, trying to figure out what he’s thinking, so when I’m lining up, I’m kinda thinking in the same way. We’ve still got a ways to go, but just today, a few plays I saw what he was thinking before he threw. I asked him if that’s what he was thinking and he said, ‘Yeah.’ Just things like that are really helpful when you have a veteran QB like he is.”
After Chark wrapped up his interview with the media, instead of heading inside, as is typical, he collected his helmet and gloves and headed back out to the Jugs machine to join St. Brown, Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond for some more catching drills.
Backup QB rotation continues
Amongst the backup quarterbacks, it was David Blough’s turn to work with the second team as the reserve rotation continues. Success is slow, but you can see progress as players become familiar with one another.
Reynolds taking hold of RB3 duties
The running back pecking order is starting to take shape. When the team split into two groups, Craig Reynolds stayed with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Then in team drills, Reynolds was third through the rotation. Even on special teams, Reynolds found himself in a priority spot. At this stage, he appears to have taken a hold of the RB3 spot.
Tight end battles see some separation
T.J. Hockenson continues to be a reliable weapon, but he hasn’t stood out as much as he had in previous years. Some of that is because pads have yet to come on, and we haven’t seen any red zone work through the first two days, but he did sell a screen that would have had huge results today.
Brock Wright continues to hold down the TE2 spot and he saw some expansion to his role in camp so far, expanding it to include some H-back responsibilities. The TE3 role is still up for grabs, but Shane Zylstra and Garrett Griffin seem to be ahead of the rest in the competition. With that said it shouldn’t be surprising that these three tight ends spent extra time together after practice working on blocking drills.
Offensive line replicates Day 1 rotation
Not a ton to report on the offensive line today. There were no changes in the depth chart since yesterday, while Jonah Jackson continues to get reps at center late in practice, with UDFA rookie Kevin Jarvis filling in at left guard.
“Just depth,” Jackson said about his reps at center. “That’s what we preach in our room. It’s depth and being able to have the next guy ready to play, whatever it is. They need me at left tackle, right tackle, center, quarterback. Just being ready.”
Defensive linemen settling into depth roles
The Lions’ rotation on their interior defensive line continues to feature Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill, and Levi Onwuzurike, with Jashon Cornell typically being the fourth option on the field. But today we saw newcomer Isaiah Buggs get some second-team reps at nose tackle.
On the edge, we are starting to see two types of edge rushers present themselves.
First is the defensive end with the strength to kick inside. Players like Aidan Hutchinson, Austin Bryant, and John Cominsky have shown up in these roles and produced. Hutchinson has also been able to create pressure from both the outside and in, and is being placed in spots with varying purposes. Bryant is also seeing some positive results and for the second day in a row made a play that likely would have resulted in a sack.
The pass-rushing role on the opposite side of the line has seen some cross-over with the hybrid pass-rushing linebacker group. Charles Harris is the clear starter but Julian Okwara has seen a lot more time working behind both defensive end spots. After Okwara, the Lions seem to prefer to lean on lighter players like Anthony Pittman and James Houston to supplement time. All four players in this group saw time rushing and dropping into coverage today.
Linebacker rotation at the top continues
The Lions continue to rotate Alex Anzalone, Chris Board, and Derrick Barnes through their starting linebacker spots. Anzalone is at the MIKE when he is on the field, Board, typically at the WILL, and Barnes flexes depending on his pairing. When they reduced to one linebacker in subpackages, Board was often the preferred choice, as expected with his speed and skill set. Barnes is still a work in progress but the skills are evident. His ability to close is exceptional, but as we saw today, he is still learning how to finish.
When the Lions leaned on a fourth linebacker, we often saw Anthony Pittman, who was also taking reps on the edge. Slowly but surely he appears to be climbing the depth chart, and his flexibility on defense, along with his special teams contributions have put him in a very favorable spot.
The rest of the linebacker depth chart was Jarrad Davis and Shaun Dion Hamilton with the threes, and Josh Woods and Malcolm Rodriguez with the fourth line. Rodriguez is still learning, but he quickly blew up a swing pass to the running back that illustrated his potential. He’ll likely have to stack more plays like that before he climbs the roster though.
Roles in the secondary still up for grabs
Jeff Okudah and Will Harris continue to rotate through a starting corner spot and each of them found themselves on the positive side of several plays on Thursday. Both players had pass breaks ups during 11-on-11s, while Okudah also forced a fumble, dislodging the ball from Josh Reynolds. To be fair, if it was a padded drill, Tracy Walker may have gotten there first, as he read and closed with bad intentions.
Yesterday, Saivion Smith saw most of the reps on the second team opposite the player in the Okudah/Harris rotation, but today it was Bobby Price’s turn to work with the second unit. This spot could easily be a rotational position moving forward as coaches look for players to separate themselves. Mike Hughes also got some looks on the outside today—he also saw a few inside at nickel early—and continues to show his positional value.
At nickel, AJ Parker continues to start, with rookie Chase Lucas rounding out the group. Even though Lucas is working with the threes, he’s very vocal, and looks very sticky in coverage, even hanging in there with the shifty Kalil Pimpleton. If Lucas continues to flash, and the Lions can’t land on an outside CB4, it’s entirely possible Hughes sees more time outside.
At safety Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott continue to start, and the reserves are settling into spots. Behind Walker is JuJu Hughes on the second team and Brady Breeze on the third. Behind Elliott, Ifeatu Melifonwu is repping with the twos, and rookie Kerby Joseph is with the third team.
Like most rookies, Joseph is going to have to earn his playing time, but as we have seen in camp so far, most of the Lions’ newcomers have shown an ability to work for it. On an incomplete pass that saw the ball skip across the field, most defenders began to trot back to the huddle, but when defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant called out “ball”, it was Joseph who was the first to react and track down the football in the fumble simulation.
The kickers got some work in for the first time in camp with both Austin Seibert and Riley Patterson getting a chance at field goals from 29, 35, 38, and 43-yards. Seibert was perfect on all four, while Patterson missed his attempt from 29-yards to the right. It’s been a while since the kickers have kicked at practice so maybe he rushed it or he simply had a break in concentration, but after the miss, his kicks were perfectly down the middle.
Both kickers also rotated kickoff duties, which was where most of the special teams drills were focused today. For the most part, there was a lot of blocking and shedding drills today, but we did get to see a bit of them returning kicks as well.
The Lions used four players as kick returners, including Godwin Igwebuike, Trinity Benson, Kalil Pimpleton, and Josh Johnson, but it’s worth noting that they rotated Igwebuike and Benson as the primary options.
One final note, Kalif Raymond and Craig Reynolds were the primary upbacks (the players just ahead of the returner) on kick returns, which are important roles for players not holding starting jobs.
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