Hey, Lions fans! It’s time for some football! I’ll be reporting from the Lions’ Allen Park HQ and training facility as long as weather permits.
Renewing old friendships and making new acquaintances with fans and players are great ways to kickoff the 2013 season. Everyone's sporting their Lions gear and having a blast!
For those of you who are considering your first training camp visit, I’ve put together a training camp primer here.
Your Monday Camp Report
A very cool, overcast morning with a chance of showers. The winds were negligible.
This was the largest crowd for a first day of training camp by far. Lots of kids and lots of fun. The local media was present in record numbers as well.
I was handed my roster and something stood out immediately: guard Leroy Harris was one of two players wearing No. 64. This isn’t uncommon on a 90-player camp roster, but it usually means that one or both players should keep their bags packed for a quick exit.
There were so many fans present that the staff passed out small cards of various colors. If your color was chosen you had the opportunity to queue up for autographs. The autograph lottery has arrived in Allen Park.
Practice was held on the west field. This makes it kind of tough to get good views along the rail. The smell of skunk was in the air and it was Detroit's receivers coach Tim Lappano who warned us fans that evasive measures might become necessary.
Warmups: The Hammy Report
Today, I have to call out defensive tackle Nick Fairley and defensive ends Israel “Izzy” Idonije and Willie Young for dogging those hamstring stretches. Add tight end Michael Williams as well. Williams tried to fake it, but he caught my evil eye. Gotcha!
You can fake a stretch, but you can’t hide. I'm talking to you, Williams!
Taking balls out of the JUGS machines were Cody Wilson, Michael Spurlock, Terrence Austin (who had a great day all-around), Joique Bell, Mike Thomas and Patrick Edwards.
All were receivers except for Bell. This would be the only segment in which Thomas participated.
The offense did some walkthroughs while the D-linemen, O-linemen and linebackers went into the deepest, darkest reaches of the facility to battle the sleds and hurl curses at each other.
They are quarantined in order to spare fans the salty language.
The receivers “put on the bags” for some pass blocking drills. A first in all my years of training camp.
The quarterbacks and running backs worked on ball exchanges and segued into some basic route tree work.
How odd. There wasn’t a one-on-one segment. This camp has a whole different feel to it.
Seven-on-Seven Red Zone Passing
What really caught my eye today was the way head coach Jim Schwartz took every rep personally. He was actively coaching the defensive secondary and linebackers, calling out coverages and keying on individual players away from the ball.
This is a refreshing change from the Schwartz of training camps past, where he was mostly a detached spectator at midfield. He coached like there was no tomorrow.
This was a harbinger of other noticeable changes. Players seemed more energized, whether they were active participants or waiting for their reps.
Team executives kept a modest distance from Schwartz and didn’t interact with him in any way.
This appears to be not only a Lions team rebuilt, but a Lions team reinvented.
During the seven-on-seven, Reggie Bush lined up in every receiver position and was flawless. As if it were Bush who wrote the Lions’ playbook, he didn’t have one busted route.
News flash! Calvin Johnson is human after all, dropping an easy pass for a touchdown. Maybe the pass was too good?
Quarterback Kellen Moore looks smooth and polished; a quantum improvement over his rookie 2012 campaign. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis held nicely. That No. 3 QB role looks like a preseason game decision.
Special Teams: Field Goal Teams
The previous segment ended with a bang. Without warning, both field goal units were called onto the field while special teams coach John Bonamego counted down from 13 seconds.
The Chinese fire drill!
Kicker David Akers was money from about 37 yards in only 11 seconds! Akers continued to impress on every rep. Havard Rugland appeared to miss one, but my point of view was too severe to be certain. Rugland has an NFL leg.
Special Teams: Kickoff Return and Kick Coverage Squads
I can’t remember the last time the Lions ran two special teams practice segments back-to-back. They did so today.
Unlike previous camps, there was no harangue from irate coaches about maintaining lane discipline. Instead, the coverage team converged on ball-carriers maintaining angles.
I’ll watch these segments closely for some insights into this paradigm shift.
A portion of this segment was devoted to blocking out on the edges—a drill I’d never seen in a Lions camp.
11 on 11: First Down and 10 Yards to Go
Well, it appears that rookie DE Ziggy Ansah will be the bell cow for encroachment penalties in 2013. He was way too jumpy on the hard count. To Ziggy’s credit, he stuffed a Shaun Hill pass at the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of the D-line, only DT Nick Fairley played the same position (RDT) on every rep. The others were mixed and matched in a seemingly random fashion. LDT Ndamukong Suh and LDE Willie Young switching pre-snap is an example.
On the O-line, we had all the usual suspects playing their usual roles. I’ll focus on them in a future camp report.
I can report that G/C Rodney Austin and C Darren Keyton looked solid in run, and pass blocking. A great job by both!
Safety John Wendling snagged an interception, as did cornerback Ross Weaver. Safety Louis Delmas made a brief appearance.
A great practice session! Reggie Bush is everything as advertised. Cornerback Bill Bentley had a great day, breaking up a certain TD coming from the slot. Runningback Mikel Leshoure was very quiet, almost invisible. Little Steven Miller has some primo wheels and might be the fastest player on the team by a wide margin.
I, for one, hope that this type of defensive line play carries on into the regular season.
My game ball goes to Schwartz, who brought his lunch pail and rolled up his sleeves. He had the best camp of all.
I’m going to watch the DB position drills and try to get some insight into the O-line unit.