Hey Lions fans! It’s hump day for you working stiffs, but it’s another day in paradise (aka: Lions training camp) for me. Having nothing to do and all day to do it, I decided to buckle down, take notes that I can’t even read and type up my daily report.
Here we go!
Today, I was joined by Pete Ledesma and Ted Turner from the Mlive Telway Raiders. There had to be at least 2,000 fans in attendance. There’s a whole lot of love for our Leos lately.
Practice had been moved back to 10:00 AM due to weather concerns. We had a fine drizzle throughout most of the session that was actually refreshing for players and fans alike.
Spatial Orientation 101
I have to give those who have never been to the Allen Park Lions HQ and practice facility a brief virtual tour. There are two natural turf football fields that are set side by side. The end zones are situated at the North and South ends.
The indoor facility and HQ building is situated at the northeast end of the eastern-most field. South of the structure is the entrance. There are bleachers set up along the east side of the East field, and behind the South end zones for both fields.
Fans have limited access to the West field. It's SRO due to space limitations, and access is restricted to 35 yards at the South end of the field.
The North end zones for both fields are inaccessible to fans.
It’s important to understand this layout because today, the Lions used the West field. The good news is that the oft-used East field had a day to recover. The bad news is that views of the drills were severely limited by distances, and the crush of a record crowd.
Individual Position Drills
Unlike yesterday, there were no extracurricular activities prior to team warmups. After stretching and getting the heart rates up the players broke into their various units for some individual instruction.
The players were in shorts today so the only contact would be incidental, unlike a more intense practice in full pads. From the bleachers we could watch the DB and LB units, who were working on the East field.
The LB unit began with the slalom drill. The players had to execute proper techniques in lateral movement while negotiating the course at speed. UDFA Daunte Akra (Wayne State), the converted DE, navigated the slalom quickly and executed proper technique.
Doug Hogue was too slow, and his technique was very choppy. Not good.
The DB unit was performing a drill where they would backpedal five yards, then transition into run support. After returning to their starting positions, the players would backpedal once again. This time, they would “break down” to the outside (as if in coverage), and then to the inside. They were expected to catch balls whistled at them coming out of the last break.
You can really tell the difference between the corners and safeties in this drill. The corners have a lower, quicker backpedal and break down most efficiently. The safeties tend to be a little taller in the pedal, and are a bit slower breaking down. They all seemed to get it though.
The LB unit split into two groups. Five tackling dummies (no, not me) were aligned to represent offensive linemen. One group ran a series of running plays at the gaps. The other group practiced movement techniques and positioning required to seal and stuff the gap.
The QBs, centers and running backs worked on ball exchanges and hitting the gaps with the QBs under center. Once again, LG Rob Sims took reps at center. Hmm.
The receivers ran through their route repertoire while taking passes from the assistants.
As usual, the “Big Uglies” retired to their respective dungeons where all manner of evil-looking equipment awaited their pleasure. From a distance in the drizzle, they were really gorillas in the mist.
Four-on-Four Passing and Route Coverage
The tight ends and fullbacks were joined by the linebackers for some four-on-four pass routes and coverages. Will Heller, Matt Clapp, Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew all looked sharp taking throws from the assistants.
The receivers and defensive backs ran some four-on-four routes. Once again, Demario Ballard looked very good. The QBs cycled through various routes. Aaron Berry was a standout, breaking up two passes.
Man-on-Man Passing and Pass Coverage
This was primarily a route-recognition and execution drill for the receivers, while the DBs did their best to disrupt the routes. Nathan Vasher’s experience really stood out in tight coverage. Aaron Berry was looking better than ever. Those workouts with former college teammate Darrelle Revis really paid dividends. Berry is aggressively making his case for a prominent role on a Lions team that he’s certain to make.
Calvin Johnson once again looked unstoppable. I hope that the polished routes that he runs so effortlessly can be replicated by Ballard. Ballard still looks a bit rough in this regard.
Kickoff Coverage: The Jason Hanson Show and I Eat Crow
The coaching staff must have felt an urgent need to work on kick coverage. The front seven were instructed to maintain their lanes until they hit the opponent’s 40-yard line, where they would begin to close in on the ball.
Earlier, kicker Jason Hanson had gotten in about 100 FG reps of 45 yards in length—he was perfect. Someone asked me if Dave Rayner was going to win Hanson’s job. I opined that I thought so because Hansen has a $2 million contract and the Lions are over the salary cap. I went on to say that the new kickoff rule would change little. We would see more kicks run out of the end zone than ever with Hanson kicking.
Boy, that crow sure tastes yummy! Hanson boomed kick after kick past the end line. Pete and Ted had a good laugh at my expense. I had it coming.
Full Squad Vanilla and My Failure To Execute the Game Plan
We moved from the bleachers to the area behind the Southwest end zone. I had to get a look at the offensive line and who was doing what in the trenches. This was my top priority today.
I failed spectacularly.
The offense was working towards us. Between us and the offense was the defense, and a wall of uniformed humanity blocking the view. Shucks!
There was no place where I could see the O-line. Pete wouldn’t put me on his shoulders either. Stymied!
Seven-on-Seven Goal To Go Passing and Pass Coverage
We had to be alert here as we were standing immediately behind the end line. On the very first play, Levy jumped a Stafford-to-Burleson slant pattern for a nice INT. Woooo hoooo!
Stafford was sharp otherwise, but he really is holding onto the ball a long time. He seems a bit slow in his progressions. Now, I don’t know if this was planned or not. Where were the hot reads?
Calvin was Calvin. Best and LeShoure made some nice plays as well.
I think we all wish Zack Follett well in his life after football. He’s given everything that he could give until his body could take no more. Zack “The Pain Train” Follett will always be one of our pet cats. Thanks, Zack!
We also send our best wishes to Nick Fairley, who is recovering from surgery on his right foot. Get well soon, Nick!
Well, tomorrow is a big day. Practice was pushed back to 4:15 PM. The reason is that all of those free agents cannot be signed until tomorrow afternoon.
With the influx of some prominent players, we will see some familiar faces no more as the Lions begin to pare the roster down to the 90-player limit.
For those who are released tomorrow, we wish you well in your future endeavors.
Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll be typing at you tomorrow night.
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.