I was cleared medically for practice a day early so I’m back at Allen Park for another Lions training camp. I’m not in football shape yet and my hammies are barking at me. Nevertheless, I report through the pain.
It’s Lions training camp, or, as Captain Louis Renault said in Casablanca, “Round up the usual suspects!”
Waiting in line, we Lions fans got a glimpse of NFL Commish Roger Goodell and his entourage being greeted by Lions president Tom Lewand. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during their conversations.
It’s an Africa-hot morning with barely a breeze to be found. The sideline camera crane is set up on the West field and I humped over there for the best vantage point. As usual, the kickers, punters and long snappers have been working for some time before the start of practice. Let’s do this!
Warm-up Segment: Your Daily Hammy Report
Stephen Tulloch, Mikel LeShoure and Louis Delmas are the only notable players (that I noticed) on the sidelines today. I did bust safety John Wendling, who was beating on his left hamstring like a rented mule. C’mon, man!
For the rest of the team it looks like a yoga class for hippopotami as conditioning guru Ted Rath shouts orders like it’s Parris Island’s recruit depot.
Segment One: Field Goal Team and Position Drills
Special teams coach Danny Crossman is a busy man. He hurries the field goal unit into position at the 20 yard line, counting down from 13 seconds. Jason Hanson gets off four hurry-up FGs without a miss. Yes!
I’m closest to Shawn Jefferson’s WRs today during position drills. We exchange howdy’s and I asked him who’s going to hold his clipboard with everyone healthy? He said, “I’ll take it.” The clipboard was quickly discarded.
Titus Young stopped by to shake hands and say, "Hi." I reminded him to line up behind the TE this year and got the evil eye and a chuckle. Titus likes to interact with fans as much as Burleson and Delmas.
Meanwhile, Sam Gash’s RBs are taking hand-offs from the QBs and hitting their gaps. James Bryant looks like a keeper with size and explosion off the snap. Stefan Logan was also a standout, with outstanding acceleration and making great cuts.
The “Big Uglies” were way off to the far North end of the facility as usual. Working the sleds and working each other over with gusto.
Segment Two: Seven on Zero
The QB’s took turns running timing plays for the short and intermediate route tree. The defense and O-line are taking a blow on the sidelines. I gotta tell you that everything that we’ve heard about Patrick Edwards is true. He’s quick, runs the routes like an old veteran and has a nice pair of hands.
Ryan Broyles had a tough day. One pass eluded his outstretched hands off a miscue by Stafford, and later, Broyles had a pass batted away by CB Bill Bentley during one-on-one drills.
Calvin was Calvin. Nate was Nate. Titus Young, in his first full camp, looked outstanding. The usual suspects are who we thought they were.
By the way, we had a couple of game officials working at practice today. I asked number 76, a linesman, if he was going to do the Browns game. Fair question, right? He said no, that he’s just working the Lions' practices. We’ll see, won’t we?
Defensive end Willie Young came by while the seven-on-zero drill was going on. Dude is huge! I told him that he looks like he packed on some more muscle and he nodded. That scrawny kid I used to call “Wee Willy” is anything but these days.
Segment Three: One-on-One Drill
One of my favorite segments. This camp session is sans pads so it’s a pretty vanilla affair. In this segment, we get a real good idea how the quarterbacks, receivers and the secondary look in mano y mano matchups. The players work both sides of the field and you get a sense of whether a CB is more effective on the right, or left side of the formation.
The corners work both press and off coverages against a variety of receivers. Here is where Chris Houston looked so good as a LCB, but struggled a bit on the right side.
In Jacob Lacey’s first shot at RCB, he stripped WR Nate Burleson on a nice play. After that, it was all Burleson as he punked safety John Wendling and twisted CB Justin Miller into the turf with a great head fake.
WR Lance Long is turning heads (mine included), making layout grabs and getting off defenders effortlessly. He won every matchup (Miller, Silva and Houston).
In one of the few long passes of the day, WR Calvin Johnson split the safeties to make a sensational catch.
CB Bill Bentley showed very well on both sides. A good start for the rookie.
After being beaten in press coverage, it was WR coach Shawn Jefferson taking CB Jacob Lacey and CB Chris Houston aside for some tips. This proactive approach by Lions coaches is something I’d like to see more often.
Segment Four: Full Squad Drills
Here, the coaching staff sets up several different down and distance situations. Again, we had all the usual suspects playing with the first teams. Safety John Wendling got the bulk of the snaps with the absence of Delmas. Wendling intercepted a pass intended for Megatron over the middle on a nice read.
When the “twos” took the field, WR Edwards got a step on CB Bentley for a long gain down the right sideline.
DE Ronnell Lewis took snaps with the “threes,” but looked extremely outclassed by Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young.
The DTs were getting some fine push against the O-line. I saw Suh and Fairley together, with Suh playing the RDT. Suh came off the field in a foul mood after a snap at his usual LDT position. He attempted to break his helmet against the turf as he took a knee. His defensive teammates kept their distance and the trainers didn’t dare approach.
Could it be that RG Stephen Peterman done him wrong?
RB Joique Bell looked good and CB Justin Miller made a fine play. WRs Calvin Johnson and Maurice Stovall both made great TD catches, victimizing CB Chris Houston. It was almost unfair.
Segment Five: Special Teams Punt Coverage
There’s not a lot that you can learn from the sidelines. Players shuffle in and out of the squads at a dizzying pace. Suffice it enough to say that Titus Young looked good receiving balls out of the “Jugs” machine, while the punters watched from the sidelines.
Segment Six: Third Down Offense
The offense ran a variety of plays on third down from various distances. On third and one, Stafford sprinted right and hit TE Brandon Pettigrew on a crossing pattern.
On third and five, Stafford was intercepted by safety Amari Spievey. On third and 10, Stafford hit TE Tony Scheffler in stride on a seam route. Stafford also hit Stefan Logan out of the backfield for a big gain.
Jacob Lacey was told by the official to watch the contact downfield. Hell, I’d hold Megatron too!
Segment Seven: Red Zone
The defense seemed to get the best of the offense—especially on rushing plays. In the aerial attack, it was the offense that shined.
Bottom line, we need a running game right now.
Wrap Up and Tomorrow’s Plan
That’s enough for today, because I could probably write another 2,000 words on my observations. If you have any questions please drop a comment and I’ll reply as promptly as possible.
I suspect that the team will take the East field tomorrow. I plan on watching the DB position drills that will be held on the West field. I’ll be focusing on these guys with a critical eye for technique and performance as they go through their paces.
Now, I’m off to my pool and spa for some PT. Have a great one and I’ll be back tomorrow.
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