Detroit Lions Training Camp: Week 2 Stock Report
There are some definite trends in terms of which players are having strong camps and which ones are struggling. While it's still premature to make any definitive conclusions for roster spots, some players are helping themselves while others are not.
Here are a few players falling clearly on one side of the camp coin. These are based on my personal observations from attending practice sessions, conversations with team sources and reports from trusted beat writers and camp observers.
Stock Up: Kevin Ogletree
There is a crowded battle for the wide receiver spots behind starters Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, both of whom look outstanding. Kevin Ogletree has done the most through the first week of camp to stake a claim to fill that third wideout role.
The fifth-year veteran from Virginia has consistently impressed throughout camp. Michael Rothstein of ESPN noted his strong play in the first couple of days, opining:
Ogletree has been one of the standouts of the first few days of training camp. He has consistently been with the first group along with Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, potentially giving him the inside track to not only a spot on the roster, but a decent role in an offense that should have a lot of passes to go around.
In Saturday's session, Ogletree took most of Johnson's first-team reps as Megatron got a day off. Moreover, he's handling himself with the strident confidence of a player who looks like he belongs out there with the big dogs.
He's had some positive blips in his NFL career, including a five-catch, 75-yard outing in the 2013 finale against Minnesota. Now Ogletree appears to be taking the next step of consistently playing at a higher level.
Stock Down: Kris Durham
Ogletree's ascension comes at the expense of the man who was the No. 2 wideout for much of 2013, Kris Durham.
On the heels of his disappointing season of opportunity, Durham really had to assert himself in camp to win over the new coaching staff. That has not happened.
He's made a few very nice plays here and there, but other wideouts—Ogletree, Corey Fuller and Jeremy Ross among them—are simply playing better and have more to offer. His biggest issue is his inability to string together positives.
Kris Durham with a bad drop after burning Bill Bentley. #Lions— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) July 31, 2014
Drops were an issue for Durham last year. On plays where he could get separation from the defense with his pedestrian footwork, it was still a battle for him to make the catch. That is still the case.
The Lions have seen where Durham's ceiling tops out, and it's a testament to the front office that they have brought in players with higher ones to challenge him. Thus far in camp, Durham has not been able to raise his roof.
Stock Up: Cassius Vaughn
The public needle barely moved when the Lions signed cornerback Cassius Vaughn back in April. After all, he was on the street after playing his way out of the Colts' starting lineup while earning a minus-15.3 rating from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) in 2012 and not improving much upon that last year.
Yet in the first few days of camp, Vaughn looks like a prescient find for the Lions. He has steadily progressed his way up the pecking order with his impressive jamming ability and eyes for the ball.
When presumed starter Darius Slay, who has been up and down in camp, left Monday's practice, it was Vaughn who slid into the action with the starters.
Cassius Vaughn in for injured Darius Slay with the first team. Rashean Mathis is the other corner, as usual.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) August 4, 2014
He also got some work with the starting unit in Saturday's practice as Mathis rested.
Preseason is going to be critical in sorting out the cornerback depth chart, where a tightly packed group of competitors is battling for every role behind Slay and Mathis. Right now, Vaughn has temporarily elevated himself to the top of that battle royal.
Stock Down: Bill Bentley
If Vaughn is moving up, third-year cornerback Bill Bentley is sliding down.
Receivers have figured out the book on the former third-round pick, and they're exploiting his biggest weakness: lack of positional discipline.
As noted by MLive's Justin Rogers from his practice notes last Friday:
Some of the Lions receivers have been using Bill Bentley's aggressiveness against him. The third-year corner reacts quickly when a receiver breaks and is great at making plays coming forward, but on a stop-and-go, he can get caught out of position. Kris Durham easily got behind Bentley yesterday, but dropped the open touchdown. On Friday, Kevin Ogletree pulled the same move for six.
In the practice sessions I watched, Bentley consistently struggled to stick with receivers after their break. One of the big coaching emphases for the defensive backs has been controlling the receiver's release. Bentley has major issues doing this without clutching and grabbing the jersey.
One important thing to keep in mind is that there hasn't been much full-fledged hitting or full team rep action, and perhaps Bentley's best asset is his tackling. Still, he needs to turn it up in the preseason or else he's in a lot more danger of losing his nickelback role than expected.
Stock Up: Larry Webster
Like many, I was critical of Detroit's decision to draft D-II defensive end Larry Webster in the fourth round.
After watching him in person during Shrine Game practices back in January, it seemed like a monumental reach by general manager Martin Mayhew. Webster very much looked like a basketball player (which he was at Bloomsburg) with his lean build and extremely rudimentary football skills.
Much has changed in a little more than six months.
The rookie has quickly taken to Detroit's coaching, quickly absorbing the technical aspects of playing defensive end. As noted in a nice feature by Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News:
The first thing the Lions changed was Webster’s stance. During his two years in college, Webster said there wasn’t any emphasis on how he lined up, but the Lions coaches showed him he needs to have his heels straight...
The defensive end looked quick Thursday when he beat right tackle LaAdrian Waddle on two one-on-one plays. On the first, Webster used an in-and-out swipe with his hand to go underneath Waddle and tackle the bag. On the second, Webster was in the backfield so quickly that Waddle had to hold him.
One of the more impressive developments is that he's filled out his physique but has not lost any of his quick-twitch burst or excellent speed. No. 79 put those on display when he plucked an errant snap off a bounce and took off on a dead sprint to the end zone in Saturday's session.
He's also looking capable on special teams, a necessity for making the active roster. Webster has a long way to go, but he's driving down that road quickly.
Stock Down: Caraun Reid
He's quickly become a fan favorite for his erudite personality and impressive physical potential, but right now rookie defensive tackle Caraun Reid has yet to live up to expectations in camp.
In the practice sessions I attended, Reid had exactly one good rep, a bull rush that caught LaAdrian Waddle by surprise. On every other rep, he was a non-factor...at best.
It's not from lack of effort, but Reid just isn't a very effective player at this point.
Caraun Reid has a long way to go. That will be an unpopular thing to say, but he was well behind at times and streaky. Learning curve.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) August 2, 2014
Despite being compactly, powerfully built, the fifth-round pick from Princeton really struggles to anchor or create much movement along the line. It's clearer now why he "fell" to the fifth round when many projected him much higher.
He has the benefit of time, as the Lions do not expect Reid to be an immediate contributor. That's good, because if the first week of camp is any guide, he's not ready for prime time in 2014. It's okay to be optimistic about his long-term prognosis, but don't expect him to make the active roster unless there's a rash of injuries above him on the depth chart.
Stock Up: Glover Quin
With all the question marks at cornerback, it's imperative for the Lions to get strong play from the safeties. After a solid initial season in Detroit, Glover Quin looks even better in his second season.
The defensive-scheme change plays to Quin's strengths. He's a converted cornerback, a move the Texans made a few years ago in part because Quin struggled to turn and run with faster receivers.
In Teryl Austin's new-look Detroit defense, Quin is seeing a lot more dedicated action as the free safety instead of the hybrid, interchangeable roles he and Louis Delmas played under Jim Schwartz last season. Quin is lining up deeper and has less run-stopping responsibility.
His freedom to focus more on coverage has shone in practice sessions.
Glover Quin just made an outstanding read and break to the ball. Awesome PD on Broyles— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) August 1, 2014
As noted by Tim Twentyman on the team's website before camp, the ankle issue that bothered Quin throughout last season is a thing of the past.
He and free-agent acquisition James Ihedigbo are quickly developing chemistry and learning how to play next to one another. In an article by Paula Pasche of The Oakland Press, both safeties talk about their roles and preventing the big plays that dogged Detroit's defense in recent years.
Through one week of camp, Quin is easing concerns about the safety position.
Stock Down: Don Carey
It might be time to rethink the assumption that Don Carey will hold onto the third safety spot, a role he underwhelmed in last year.
Fans might recall his shaky performances against the Steelers and Giants in 2013, the two games where Carey saw his most extensive action. In those outings, Pro Football Focus graded him a combined minus-7.9, weighed down heavily by an aggregate minus-8.1 rating in pass coverage.
That was very much the Don Carey on display in the first week of camp, unfortunately.
While he's often touted for his versatility, including in this piece from June by Twentyman, he more closely resembles a player that doesn't have a firm grasp at either coverage or run support.
He was downright awful in Friday's session:
Don Carey just beaten for TDs on consecutive reps. 2nd was ugly, great route by Ross though #LionsCamp— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) August 1, 2014
There just isn't any innate feel for what the offense is trying to do, a key attribute for quality safety play.
His veteran status and new three-year, $2.93 million contract, according to Spotrac, likely give Carey enough buffer to stick on the roster. It also helps him that none of the other reserve safeties (Isa Abdul Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin) are playing very well either.
Still, depth at safety was supposed to be an asset with Carey. Now that perceived strength is looking more like a weakness after the first part of training camp.