Welcome back for another look at the Detroit Lions reinvented. A rather appropriate characterization considering the new faces, competition for jobs, coaching changes and the altogether different vibe in camp this year.
I’m getting a lot of great suggestions, and I’m getting a feel for where your concerns lie. I’ll try my best to get you some answers.
We’ll be covering a lot of ground today, so let’s ruck up!
Your Friday Training Camp Report
Another huge throng of fans on a cool, mostly sunny morning. There’s a 5-10 mph wind out of the east. I hooked up with Mike, who’s on his last day of leave from the Air Force. A good guy who enjoyed his first camp experience.
While waiting to enter the facility, I had a chance to exchange good mornings with Tim Twentyman and Mike O’Hara of DetroitLions.com.
Practice was moved to the East field today. Mike and I rushed to my favorite East field perch to enjoy the show.
The Kick Return Specialist Gong Show
Before warm-ups began, we noticed all of the big uglies lumbering down to the South end zone. The usual would-be return specialists were finishing up their reps.
What happened next was almost too funny for words. The offensive linemen took punts out of the JUGS machine! Or tried to. Apparently there lurks within every big ugly a speedy and elusive gridiron terror hankering to be the next Mel Gray.
There were fumbles and stumbles galore, and we fans cheered the occasional Heisman pose after gathering in the oblong spheroid.
Not willing to be so easily outdone, DE Devin Taylor joined in the fun. Let me tell you, folks, Taylor’s got a shot!
Warm-Ups: The Hammie Report
During stretches, head coach Jim Schwartz stalked the rows of players. I can imagine him barking at the players, “And I better not see your name on a Hammie Report!”
For the second straight practice there were no slackers. No shirkers. Those Lions' hammies can be used for banjo strings!
RB Devin Thomas (hammy), S Amari Spievey (hammy), CB Chris Greenwood (hammy), DEs Jason Jones, Willie Young and Izzy Idonije remained out along with MLB Carmen Messina.
Position Drills: The Running Backs
I really wanted to scope out the linebackers today, but the move to the East field stymied me. So it was back to the RBs for another look.
They went through the usual battery of high-stepping agility drills and ran the slalom course. Since this was an unpadded practice, there was no ball harassment from the assistants.
Then, it was time for ball exchange and gap drills with the QBs. In the deep background, we spotted the O-linemen in two lines. They were throwing medicine balls at each other with malice aforethought. Go figure.
There was an interesting nearby drill by the receivers. From a prone position, they had to pop to their feet and catch a low-thrown ball. All in the span of one second. Great drill!
The offense rotated through some walkthroughs of a few running plays. Meanwhile, the DBs and LBs were continuing drills. With nothing better to do, the D-linemen mauled the sleds.
One-on-One Passing and Pass Defense
It was CB Chris Houston’s time for some payback. He successfully defended the first rep to Calvin Johnson. Next, he showed rookie WR Cody Wilson who the sheriff was…twice!
CB Domonique Johnson broke up another pass (ho hum) and took WR Mike Thomas off his route.
Nice moves were put on defenders by RB Reggie Bush, TE Tony Scheffler, TE Brandon Pettigrew (who continues to impress), RB Mikel Leshoure and WR Kris Durham.
Durham was just getting started on one of the more memorable days by any player that I can remember. More on him later.
CB Ross Weaver mauled WR Patrick Edwards. A personal foul would have likely been called. It looked kind of personal to me.
WR Corey Fuller and FB Shaun Chapas had the only drops. QB Matt Stafford was very erratic today.
An abbreviated period where I wanted to go for some impressions that might address some of your questions.
OLB Tahir Whitehead looked much better than I’ve seen him previously. It didn’t translate into impact plays, but at least he’s in the same zip code as the play as it unfolds.
This was by far RB Theo Riddick’s best day as a Pro. He was a one-cut, decisive runner and flashed some good hands.
DT Nick Fairley had a couple of easy QB sacks with some speed and power. In addition to being a dark-horse return specialist, Taylor also had a no-brainer.
A bad day at the office for tackles Riley Reiff , Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard.
Special Teams Segment: Kickoffs
There was no Chinese fire drill today. In fact, I didn’t see K David Akers take a single rep. He was dressed, but was probably getting a day off, also known as a “Delmas Day.”
Kicker Havard Rugland was another story entirely. He was booming kicks to the back of the end zone and well beyond in a stiffening crosswind. Wow! And I thought that was thunder.
The lane discipline was evident on the coverage unit, and the players closed nicely on the ball. The kick returners didn’t bother trying to field Rugland’s kicks; rather, they pretended to gather the ball and started running.
Full Team Red-Zone Offense and Defense
On the first rep, Johnson was double-teamed by CB Ron Bartell and MLB Stephen Tulloch. All three went crashing to earth in a tangle of arms and legs. All three got up slowly and returned to action.
A scary moment where you could hear a pin drop.
Bartell would go on to break up two passes intended for Megatron, but the real star was Durham. On back-to-back plays, Durham made two circus catches. The finale was a one-handed snag.
Good news! Leshoure’s explosion is back. He had an outstanding practice in every way.
An Important Message from the Randy Award Academy
In a late night session, the Academy unanimously agreed to make the Randy Phillips UDFA Camp Stud Award a peoples' choice style award. You, the fans, will decide the winner.
I have opened the polls and will tally the votes.
Plans for Tomorrow
I’m off tomorrow. The CBA prohibits me from extended contact with the team.
OK, I lied. Tomorrow’s practice is a family day affair that will commence at 3 p.m. I’ll be home way too late to publish before getting up at zero dark 30 the next day.
I’ll be back Sunday with another Detroit Lions 2013 training camp report. Stay tuned!