The Detroit Lions’ 11th training camp day presented some noteworthy moments, particularly on the defensive end. The defensive line stood out in most drills, setting the day’s tone by keeping the offense on their toes (and, more specifically, the offensive lineman on their heels).
Defensive Line Showcases Consistency and Potential
Rookie Aidan Hutchinson made his presence felt right from the start with a vicious bull rush against right tackle Penei Sewell. The second-year edge rusher exploded off the line and thrust both of his hands right into Sewell’s ribs. This play was only to be followed by a nasty juke-move from linebacker James Houston that nearly broke Sewell’s ankles. The clear path would have resulted in a sack if it were in a live game situation.
Defensive linemen Josh Paschal and Isaiah Buggs left a mark with their consistent power and disruption. Meanwhile, edge Charles Harris also performed admirably, letting his presence be felt in the backfield. He could be seen outmaneuvering Taylor Decker in team drills – the rare instance the star left tackle has been beaten this camp.
Defensive tackle Brodric Martin showcased explosive power in 1-on-1 drills and has seemingly improved his pad level. Martin’s extra work on flexibility was apparent. Working alongside DT Alim McNeill could potentially elevate his performance in the upcoming season. Watching how McNeill has transformed physically could certainly elevate his play throughout his entire career.
DT Benito Jones was strong throughout the day, showing improvements that could see him rising in value within the Lions’ defensive rotation strategy. Meanwhile, UDFA rookie Chris Smith is making a strong case for a roster spot. He was quick off the line all practice, and was frequently seen right in the middle of the second team’s defense. He even managed to slip through the offensive line for a sack on QB Nate Sudfeld in an 11-on-11 drill.
Further highlighting the defensive standouts, Julian Okwara had an big interception during an 11-on-11 team practice, showcasing his ability to anticipate and react quickly with the ball in the air.
It’s also worth mentioning that the third team’s defensive line featured Levi Onwuzurike, James Houston, and Romeo Okwara. This strategy was not an indictment on their talent, but one that speaks volumes about the team’s depth.
Secondary Players Shine Through in Practice
In the secondary, defensive back Brian Branch put up a strong all-around performance. His interception during the late-game practice session was particularly notable. Despite being beaten once by wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for a TD, his impressive performance in the slot with the first team indicates his potential. Cornerback Cam Sutton also managed to intercept Sudfeld, highlighting the secondary’s ability to play aggressive and force turnovers.
CB Chase Lucas had his best day of camp, recording multiple would-be sacks and intercepting a pass from QB Nate Sudfeld. It’s a good time for a player like Lucas to be hitting his stride. CB Saivion Smith, despite giving up a touchdown to WR Dylan Drummond, displayed excellent skills on special teams.
Offensive Highlights from Day 11 Practice
On the offensive side, WR Dylan Drummond continues to make a case for a roster spot with another strong day of training camp. His performance, which included a TD reception from QB Nate Sudfeld and a win against rookie CB Steven Gilmore, suggests he’s one to watch in the receiver room.
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown continued to impress with his advanced route tree, especially in red zone situations. He made several TD catches, showcasing his smooth footwork and physicality, which helped him create the space he needed.
Tight end Sam LaPorta also had a good day in the red zone, emerging as a favorite target for Goff and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. Alongside Brock Wright, who looked strong in pass-blocking situations, the two tight ends are proving to be more-than-reliable targets on the field. James Mitchell had a quiet yet productive day, signaling the team’s intention to get him more involved in the offense.
Antoine Green also had a noteworthy day, with a great TD catch and other significant receptions. He looked as fast as he was advertised coming out of North Carolina, and his route-running was more refined that earlier in camp.
Ground and Pound
Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs Coach, Scottie Montgomery, kicked off day 11 of training camp with a buzz, his animated spirit on full display. Running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs received the majority of reps, running full series’ with the first and second teams. Montgomery brought the typical hard-charging style fans expect. Gibbs exhibited his evolving skill set, snagging a touchdown pass from Goff after a slick move around LB Malcolm Rodriguez.
Gibbs’ versatility continued to impress as he made a critical catch on a poorly thrown ball by Sudfeld during pressure simulation drills. However, he did show a few signs of being green during pass protection drills, an area for future growth. Not to be overlooked, RB Craig Reynolds held his own with the third team, fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster in a loaded RB room.
On the offensive line, Germain Ifedi stood out in 1-on-1 drills. He successful fended off the defensive rush from Hutchinson and Houston after they both had just beaten Penei Sewell. His quick footwork and hands-on contact were impressive.
Quotes from the Camp
Dan Campbell reflected on the impact of the Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown’s unwavering dedication, stating:
A guy like Saint, he sets the bar…that guy, the way he comes out every day, he has not changed one bit since he was a rookie. I mean he does all the same things that has validated what he’s done and the production that has come by the way that he works. He just goes. And it’s every little thing, every little detail, he finishes. You see him pre-practice, you see him post-practice, he doesn’t change one thing. And there – when you do that, there’s no way he’s not going to have a big year. There’s no way. Because he’s not changed one thing. And I know this, if I’m a young guy, I’m watching him every play. I would be, they should be, so he’s unbelievable, he really is.
Regarding Lions Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Scottie Montgomery’s contribution to the team, Campbell had this to say:
Yeah, listen, Scottie’s a stud, man. I’m so fortunate that I was able to get him on our staff… You know how much I respect (Carolina Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach) Duce (Staley) and what I think of him as a coach, but man, to be able to get Scottie in here has been invaluable… Look, he’s been around. He’s seen some things and he’s a good sounding board for me… So, I just think he – and he’s excellent. The way he pushes those guys. He pushes those running backs, demands a lot out of them, he’s accountable and he’s high energy and he’s smart.
Sharing his observations on the gunner position competition in training camp, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp stated:
It’ll help us out this next week when we go against the Giants in practice, that’ll be a part of the practice format, getting those guys reps, competitive reps on the outside and then obviously, these preseason games… And really what happens is once the roster gets cut down, then it’s like OK now these are the guys we have, how are we going to play them and how can we make the best unit that we can make? And that doesn’t mean they’re always playing the position that would be best for the individual to play. It just means that with the eleven guys we have, this will make the best group that we can make. So, for me, right now, a lot of it’s like just trying to find out what can these guys do, what do they do best, what positions should we put them in when we end up being told, ‘These are the guys you got, figure it out.’
Training Camp Injury and Participation Updates:
- Both center Frank Ragnow and safety Ifeatu Melifonwu made their return to practice today.
- Jameson Williams and Jermar Jefferson were not present at camp today. No details have been made available as of now.
- Trinity Benson was unable to participate in today’s practice due to a sprained knee.
- Denzel Mims left practice early following a collision with safety Tracy Walker. Mims managed to rise after a short pause and limped off the field independently.
- Emmanuel Moseley remains on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. He was engaged in practice from the sidelines throughout the day. While there is no official update on his return timeline, indications suggest he could potentially be active for week one.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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