No secondhand reports here. No “This guy reported” stuff allowed. No hogwash.
Just an observant analyst, his tattered notebook and his iPhone camera. That top row of the bleachers is all I need to see almost everything you want to hear about.
I’m not a slappy. I have no press credentials to protect with a Lions-friendly “fluff” report. If a player is dogging it, you’ll know about it firsthand. I don’t play favorites. I want them all to be winners.
I can’t attend press conferences. I don’t have a recorder. I can’t interview players or coaches. Many know me, though, and sometimes stop by for a quick howdy. We’re all way too busy.
I have no time for autographs. I observe. I scribble notes. I take horrible photos. I mean, really horrible photos, but they’re mine and you get only what I see.
But I can’t see everything every day. That’s why I appreciate your comments and questions. It gives me renewed focus on what you, my fellow fans, really want to know.
Keep those great, thoughtful questions and comments coming!
Man, I needed that day off! I got my “honey-do” list whittled down and my queen seems reasonably happy. I rested my hammies and worked on my bleacher-climbing agility drills.
I’m ready to rock, so let’s get to work!
Your Thursday Training Camp Report
A murky morning after a day of rain showers. It’s about 70 degrees with a 10-15 mph wind out of the South. A low ceiling gradually gave way to sunny skies.
Another nice crowd on hand, but not as large as previous sessions. I couldn't resist a photo-op with my newest best friends. Hey! It’s not all work and no play!
I see that former “Randy” winner S Ricardo Silva was released this morning. He was replaced by DT Xavier Proctor, a UDFA out of North Carolina Central. Proctor is 6’6”, 272 pounds.
Warm-ups: The Hammy Report
Hallelujah! These guys must be reading my stuff! Not a single player failed to get a good stretch. It didn’t hurt that head coach Jim Schwartz was prowling the rows of players.
Today the players did something I’ve never seen. The offense and defense were segregated with the QBs taking the center file.
I see that this is a full pads practice. Great! Practice is once again being held on the West field.
Position Drills: The Running Backs
I promised to keep an eye on the RBs today. They went through a battery of agility drills, followed by the gauntlet. In the gauntlet, assistants batter the RBs with pugil sticks while they run a slalom-like course.
Speed and form are of no importance. Holding onto the rock is paramount. Rookie Theo Riddick was stripped once—the only strip of the drill.
Next, it was a ball exchange drill with all the QBs. The RBs had to hit a designated gap template laid out on the ground. The gaps were designated:
E D C B A B C D E
The QBs rotated through the RBs, who got reps at every gap. Here’s where I wanted to see some explosion at the point of attack. I wasn’t disappointed in any of them, but Steven Miller was incredibly quick to the gap.
The RBs were joined by the TEs for a one-on-zero receiving drill. Once again, the QBs rotated. They went through three routes on the “tree.” They worked out-routes, out-routes catching passes thrown to the back shoulder and passes to the hash seams.
I have to say that QB Thad Lewis had consistently better zip on his throws than Kellen Moore.
The other thing that stood out was all the receivers were “grabbers” rather than “gatherers” of the ball on every rep. A first in my memory.
One-on-One Passing and Pass Defense
There was a little twist thrown in to this drill today. DBs played man-press exclusively with safety help over the top. Previously, the DBs were mano-e-mano in “off-man” coverage.
CB Darius Slay was solid, sticking like glue to his receivers. But it was CB Domonique Johnson who stole the show with two passes defended (he'd get a third later).
For the offense, it was Megatron being Megatron. WR Terrence Austin had some outstanding reps, putting a move on Louis Delmas that screwed him into the turf. Nasty!
What’s up with CB Chris Houston? He’s looked way too beatable lately. C’mon, Houston!
I concentrated on how the first, second and third team defensive players lined up for this drill. Call it a reality check.
The one’s had LOLB DeAndre Levy, MLB Travis Lewis and nickle DB Slay. They were joined by LCB Houston, RCB Ron Bartell, LS Don Carey and RS Glover Quin. Quin and Carey swapped positions on several reps for what I have to assume were matchup considerations. Slay and CB Bill Bentley switched up at the nickel.
The twos had LOLB Tahir Whitehead, MLB Lewis (again), and S Chris Hope in the nickel. They were joined by LCB Domonique Johnson, RCB Ross Weaver, LS Amari Spievey and RS Tyrell Johnson.
OLB Corey Greenwood worked the ROLB at times with this group.
The threes had LOLB Jon Morgan, MLB Travis Lewis and ROLB Alex Elkins joined by LCB Martavius Neloms (who was playing safety), RCB DeQuan Menzie, LS Trevor Coston and RS John Wendling.
Beyond tracking how they were lining up, I did notice that Domonique Johnson continued his great practice session. The other thing I noticed was Messina was making far better drops into coverage than last year.
Full Team Period: Buried Deep
Here, I needed to see how the O-line was lining up primarily. A day for reality checks.
Interesting. The coaching staff really shook things up today. It was Riley Reiff (LT), Rob Sims (LG), Dom Raiola (OC), Dylan Gandy (RG) and Jason Fox at RT. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler split TE duties.
The twos consisted of LT LaAdrian Waddle, LG Darren Keyton, OC Leroy Harris, RG Jake Scott and RT Corey Hilliard. The TE was Michael Williams.
Several combinations were observed. OT Austin Holtz played some RG and LT. Larry Warford played LG next to OC Jake Scott. Joseph Fauria got his work with the threes.
Offensive linemen shuttled in and out of the line at a dizzying pace! I’ll leave some individual observations for later.
Chinese Fire Drill
The 13-second countdown was on! Kicker David Akers was wide-left again from 32 yards. He made three subsequent kicks. The last looked like about a 52-yard attempt.
Havard Rugland fared no better. His first kick was so poor that I have to assume that the snap and/or hold was at fault. Rugland made the next two, but missed from over 50 yards.
A really bad day for the kickers.
Special Teams Segment: Punting From the End Zone
Thankfully, rookie Sam Martin had a better day than the kickers. Under a full rush, Martin got nice distance and hang time. Blake Clingan was very ordinary by comparison, but managed to get the ball out of danger.
I think we've got a good one in Martin.
Full Team Period: First and 10
The offense and defense switched sides so I decided to see how the D-line was lining up. Hey, in for a penny, in for a pound.
Today it was Devin Taylor at LDE, Ndamukong Suh at LDT, Nick Fairley at RDT and Ziggy Ansah at LDE. Travis Lewis (LOLB) joined MLB Stephen Tulloch and ROLB Levy.
This front-seven played every rep in the segment. That allowed me to really get a look at how they performed.
Taylor and Ansah were skunked trying to penetrate the tackle tandem of Fox and Reiff. On an inside move, Taylor was pancaked—hard—by center Dom Raiola. Ansah was caught cheating the hard-count again.
TE Williams flashed great hands and some devastating blocks. BOOM! CB Johnson intercepted a pass to go along with three passes broken up. BOOM! RB Mikel LeShoure made a hole where there was none between the tackles. BOOM!
Fourth and Goal From the One-Yard Line
RBs Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and LeShoure all scored TDs. Theo Riddick was stuffed and buried.
WRs Calvin Johnson, Kris Durham and TE Joseph Fauria snagged TDs. Johnson and Durham did it via the fade. Fauria’s was far more interesting. The ball was tipped first at the line, and also in the end zone. Somehow, Fauria managed to make the impossible adjustment and make the catch.
A highlight moment!
TE Michael Williams can’t play better than what he’s shown. Or, can he?
TE Joseph Fauria is growing on me also. He even got a couple of decent blocks made using a real sneaky holding technique.
LT Riley Reiff had a nice block lined up on a safety, but failed to maintain engagement. The safety was back in the play in no time.
CB Domonique Johnson’s great session has put him in the running for a roster spot.
Fox and Reiff were money pass blocking.
Dylan Gandy’s run blocking was superb today. Where has this guy been?
The “Randy” Award Update
The annual Randy Phillips UDFA Camp Stud Award is awarded by a blue-ribbon panel of judges (me) to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the undrafted player most likely to succeed in the NFL.
Former recipients S Randy Phillips (2010), S Ricardo Silva (2011) and WR Patrick Edwards (2012) didn’t disappoint, even if only Edwards remains on the team.
The winner receives an all-expense paid trip to the practice squad and an outside shot at making the 53-player roster.
The stakes are huge for the several UDFAs on the Lions’ training camp roster! Who has the right stuff?
Plans for Tomorrow
Let’s talk about it! I’ll let you decide who gets the lion’s share of attention tomorrow.
Weather permitting, I’ll be back tomorrow with another Lions training camp report. Stay tuned!