Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
It was the first day in full pads at Allen Park, and on a beautiful afternoon the Lions quickly got to work. So did I and Kent Lee Platte, who was kind enough to watch practice with me.
I tweeted out a great deal of observations, so for more additional notes please check my Twitter timeline @JeffRisdon from Friday afternoon.
Specific players notes:
–Andrew Peacock wears #1, but if he has more days like today he won’t be wearing it very long. He’s small at 5’10” and has to really shine with his routes and hands in order to make it as a wideout. The routes looked okay, but the UDFA from Appalachian State dropped four balls and couldn’t reach another one where a longer wideout could have.
On a side note, during one drill a heckler continually yelled “duck” every time Peacock tried to make a catch. Of all the people to heckle…
–Corey Fuller had an intriguing day. Early on I noted his downshifting into breaks and rounding his cuts, but that remedied itself somehow. He also got an earful during a special teams tackle drill for dropping to a knee before making a low hit.
Then he turned it around. During the session on the far field (there are two fields), Fuller really shined. On one rep he beat Nevin Lawson with a clean outside release and made a nice sideline catch that showed good concentration and footwork. Later, Fuller split a seam between Don Carey and Chris Greenwood and blew past them both, catching a long touchdown strike from Matthew Stafford. His routes were crisper and he ran them with confidence.
After practice, Fuller spent time working with a coach on improving his release from jams and hand placement. It’s easy to see his potential–when he hits full gallop there’s not many guys that can stay with him, and he’s filled out his frame since I last saw him in person at the ’13 Shrine Game.
–I’ve been a strong advocate for Nevin Lawson but today the fourth-round corner was awful. I don’t say that lightly either.
Before practice the Lions got a seminar from the officials on how they’re going to call holds and grabs outside. It must have really rattled Lawson because he looked tentative and lost when he couldn’t reach out and get his hands on the receiver. Form the aforementioned Fuller play to another rep where Kris Durham easily crossed his face and broke inside him, the Utah State rookie really struggled to control releases and tended to overreact when trying to get back into the play.
–Controlling the receiver release is a big point of emphasis with Teryl Austin and his defensive staff. They did a lengthy drill on it and it really stood out who could do it naturally and who could not.
The good ones:
Cassius Vaughn, Aaron Hester and Jonte Green
The bad ones:
Chris Greenwood, Lawson, Bill Bentley (mostly) and Darius Slay…at times
Vaughn impressed all afternoon. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he winds up starting some games this year. At minimum he appears to have the third outside CB role for the taking, and I’ve been told the coaches do not want to overwork Rashean Mathis. Vaughn did earn a holding flag on Durham on a rep, however.
Hester is very smooth in movement, but he showed he can throw his weight around. In one rep he dropped a shoulder and thumped the receiver (didn’t make my notes who it was). Another time Hester anticipated the double move and closed quickly on the route, shielding Golden Tate down the sideline and eliminating a throwing angle. That’s precisely the kind of play Austin wants from his corners.
Slay had a mixed bag of a day. As Kent noted, he’s thicker than last year and also more confident in coverage. His closing burst from when the QB releases the ball to the point of attack is handily the best on the team, and he goes after the ball hard. Yet he had some issues controlling releases, mostly to the middle of the field. That’s better than getting beaten outside, but it’s still not great.
He is quite proud of his hands, and he flashed them a few times. One was on a punt return rep, where he reached over his left shoulder with his right hand and made a catch with his back to the action. I heard him proclaim “I got hands, baby!” several times. He’s quite vociferous and his teammates seem to genuinely enjoy his playful nature.
One quick note on Jonte Green: special teams are going to be his key to making it or not. He had some impressive reps in coverage, but not consistently. During one punt cover rep he got chewed out for keeping his eyes glued to Reggie Bush signaling for a fair catch instead of locating the ball. “Don’t get played like that” was heard, meaning don’t believe in the fair catch and instead find the ball to make sure you can down it deep. It’s good advice, let’s hope he (and his teammates) heed it.
–Ryan Broyles got some looks at punt return, though nobody expects that to be an option. I saw him in person at Oklahoma, and my fairly trained eyes say he’s at about 80% of his old quickness. I’m not sure he’s ever going to get better than that. He walks with a visible limp and is constantly moving, stretching or fidgeting to not let his legs ever be still. One positive is that he catches anything near him, and catches low throws better than anyone on the team–including Calvin Johnson.
–Johnson made a couple of catches today that prove he’s not really human. There was one rep where it looked like the ball was badly underthrown to Tate blowing past Greenwood on the right sideline. From out of nowhere, Johnson comes sliding across and snares the ball just above the ground. Nobody even saw him in the play until he suddenly made the catch. Later he exploded from a break and flagged down a rocket from Stafford that appeared headed for a goalpost. Ihedigbo gave up on it because it looked like there was no chance for a catch, but Calvin.
I didn’t get to see a lot of the linemen, hope to remedy that tomorrow. Some quick notes:
–Darryl Tapp flummoxed Corey Hilliard with a jab step move and motored inside him for an easy backfield pressure. Later, Tapp quickly read a swing pass and swatted it down. He lined up at open end every rep I saw him.
–Hilliard ran with the 1s at right tackle. After practice he was working on running 5-10-5 drills on the far field, like he was trying to loosen up a groin or something.
–Caraun Reid quickly got into LaAdrian Waddle’s pads and bulled him backwards on one rep, lined up at RDE. On his next two reps, however, Reid was rather easily erased.
–Waddle played both RT and LT and I’ll once again insist his brighter future is on the left side. He’s very good at shifting his weight and mirroring speed guys, which are more often coming on that side. As Reid proved once, and so did Devin Taylor, he can be bulled with a quick power rush. Nobody got a sniff trying to go around him, though he did badly hold Andre Fluellen (!!) once.
–Kyle Van Noy lined up in nickel over the slot twice, once vs. Ebron and once vs. Tate. Neither went well for the rookie.
–Ebron had another drop. It’s worth pointing out that it came quickly after he had been working with the blockers, something some savvy readers have noted on other days too. He also telegraphed a route and got lucky that Mohammed Seisay dropped the INT. Other than that, and yes there was a lot more of him, Ebron looked fine. It’s just that the negative plays tend to be very dramatic with him.
–My first look at Quinton Payton and my immediate reaction was “it’s Dorin Dickerson in a different number”. He’s a widebody for a WR with some build-up speed. A little birdie told me his time in Detroit will be short, but it’s easy to see the physical intrigue with him. Calling my shot: I bet he winds up a Green Bay Packer at some point.
–It is a real treat to watch Matthew Stafford throw the football. It’s the literal definition of the word awesome. I’ve seen hundreds of quarterbacks in person, from Jeff George (when he was at Purdue) to Mike Vick to Carson Palmer to Jay Cutler to every Senior Bowler since 2008, and Stafford has more velocity on his throws than any of them. His tight spiral doesn’t move one iota, it’s an absolute laser. There were two different reps where Dan Orlovsky threw the ball before Stafford and on a 15-yard route Stafford’s ball handily beat Orlovsky’s to the targets. It’s like watching Lebron James run the floor on the fast break or Mark McGwire turning on a flat fastball, something truly rare athletically.
–The flip side of that is that if the Lions are going to keep three QBs, the third QB is not currently here. Neither Kellen Moore nor James Franklin looked at all like NFL talents. Moore was clearly ahead of Franklin, and that’s more about how raw, indecisive and “aim-y” Franklin is than anything positive for the soft-tossing third-year lefty.
–I spent quite a bit of time watching the punters and kickers. Neither kicker missed any today, which was a welcome development. Nate Freese has more oomph on his kicks, though it looks like Giorgio Tavecchio (who looks something like a young Johnny Manziel) has a little more control.
As for the punters, Sam Martin has nothing to worry about. He was consistently more precise and deeper in the punt drills, and during the time-kill drill (running around in the end zone to kill time before taking a safety) Martin burned 18 seconds. Butler got surprised by a rusher (Greenwood?) and would have been quickly thumped, leaving open the potential of a fumble. Coach Caldwell shouted at him “that CAN NOT happen” three times and disgustedly turned his back on him.
For his part, Martin is a truly engaging guy, quick to chat up fans and not terribly serious when he’s not working. He should be a fan favorite for years.
Tags: Aaron Hester, Andrew Peacock, Calvin Johnson, Caraun Reid, Cassius Vaughn, Chris Greenwood, Corey Fuller, Darius Slay, Darryl Tapp, Eric Ebron, Jonte Green, Kyle Van Noy, LaAdrian Waddle, Matthew Stafford, Nevin Lawson, Quinton Payton, Ryan Broyles, Sam Martin, Training Camp Notes