Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Saturday was family day at Allen Park. There were jubilant kids everywhere. It also meant a day off for veterans Calvin Johnson and Rashean Mathis, and only shoulder pads and helmets for everyone else. I’m having issues with the picture uploader, unfortunately, so those will have to wait. I got some good shots, as did Kent Lee Platte’s mom, who knows her some football!
After practice I got to hobnob a little with some trusted sources and they gave me some interesting info on the recent draft, which I’ll write up in an article later this week. Teaser: the Lions would not make the big jump Buffalo did for Sammy Watkins, period.
–Ryan Broyles is not being held back at all. In fact, he might be seeing more work than any other receiver. He ran with both the 1s and 2s during Saturday’s session. It was great to see him not limited in testing his fragile legs.
Unfortunately, he did not have a very good day. He slipped on a comeback route and had the ball bounce in front of him and up into his facemask early on. Later in a live team drill he couldn’t flag down tough but catchable balls from Dan Orlovsky, who was not sharp once again.
Broyles showed his work ethic by immediately going up to James Franklin after the second drop (which was a more legit “drop” by Broyles) and having the UDFA QB throw to him on the sidelines. Aside from giving Franklin his only real work of the day, it allowed Broyles to work out some frustration and master his craft.
He was the last Lion on the practice field, along with fellow wideout Quinton Payton. The duo were working on one-handed catches and extending way out to grab the ball for a good 10 minutes after everyone else headed to the autograph tent. Broyles made a beeline for a fan wearing his Oklahoma jersey and delighted several patient fans with a long signing session away from the crowd.
–Reggie Bush also put a catchable throw on the grass, this one a swing pass from Stafford just above his knees. The drop stunk, but seeing the play unfold from the end zone behind it was a beautiful taste of what Joe Lombardi’s offense will do to defenses.
On the play, the slot receiver (Andrew Peacock) motioned tight, while on the other side of the formation the tight end (sorry I forgot here) motioned out as soon as Peacock set. Ogletree on Peacock’s flank ran a sluggo, while Peacock ran about an 8-yard out. The action on the other side left Bush in the flat alone with only Devin Taylor sprinting out to cover him. Taylor gave a fine effort after quickly seeing his assignment, but Bush had two steps on him and a clean corner to turn up the field.
They ran a variant of this play later, where the RB took a play fake and then crashed into the outside LB as Golden Tate took the ball on a nifty behind-the-back end-around from Stafford. Again, Tate only had to beat the DE in space to get a corner and 15 yards of open room with the safety otherwise occupied.
It’s not always going to work with all those moving parts, but when it does we are in for a treat, Lions fans.
–I read what others had written about George Johnson, and today I got to see it. It’s only the first week of camp, but the widespread hype is based on reality. His first step for a guy his size is outstanding, and he knows how to use his hands already. On one rep he chucked aside a shoulder block from Brandon Pettigrew and exploded into the backfield for what would have been a tackle-for-loss. That was on the closed end. On the next set he wound up on the open end and embarrassed Riley Reiff with a shoulder dip move to get a QB pressure. His emergence–if he can sustain it–is bad news for bubble guys like Andre Fluellen and Xavier Proctor on the DL.
–It was nice to see Jason Jones in action, and it was easy to remember why the Lions coveted him as a free agent. He showed no signs of his knee injury in beating Larry Warford (pedestrian on this day) with a quick swim move. Jones has a great step-after ability as a penetrator; he can burst with a long stride once he succeeds with his initial move. He did most of his work that I saw playing tackle on the closed end side. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–he is the fourth defensive tackle, not Caraun Reid or anyone else.
–Theo Riddick met some of the fairly high hype. He appeared shot out of a cannon after catching one screen pass, though it’s worth noting Steven Miller was visibly faster and just as balanced in doing the same thing. Where Riddick has the edge here is the ease with which he catches the ball, and his lateral agility in traffic too.
The second-year back also made his mark on special teams. His excellent block, locking up Larry Webster, sprung Jeremy Ross for a long return. There was also a nice edge block from Mikel Leshoure on that play, perhaps a sign that maybe he will stick around after all. Backup RBs have to contribute on special teams and Leshoure got a lot of work there the last two days. If he’s battling Montell Owens, the veteran unwittingly helped Leshoure by lunging offsides on a kick coverage rep against air.
–Got more of a look at Jerome Couplin playing safety with the second unit. He just doesn’t see the play developing in front of him. He also got caught twice doing a Chris Conte, the terrible Bears safety with a nasty habit of continuing to backpedal even after the ball has been thrown in front of him. The William & Mary UDFA continues to take an extra step to go from backwards to forwards, a no-no at this level. Couplin did not stand out on special teams. Say hello to the practice squad…and maybe not Detroit’s.
–Fellow UDFA defensive back Mohammed Seisay has more of a chance to make the team. He’s still buried deep, but the greenhorn from Nebraska has a knack for jumping routes. He broke up a pass to Peacock with a great click-and-close, reaching around the gator-armed wideout and slapping the ball away. For a guy who was the Cornhuskers’ fourth CB last fall, it’s pretty eye opening that he’s doing as well as he is.
–One of the guys he’s chasing is Jonte Green, who put forth another strong day in his quest to stick for a third season. He’s definitely more comfortable in attack mode, something Teryl Austin’s defense demands from the outside corners. Heading into camp I had Aaron Hester ahead of him on my mental depth chart, but that has changed. For his part, Hester didn’t do much noteworthy on Saturday after a strong showing Friday.
That leads me to a depth chart prediction for the secondary…
1. Rashean Mathis
2. Darius Slay, who once again was up and down but more up
3. Cassius Vaughn, filling in capably for Mathis with the first unit
4. Jonte Green
5. Aaron Hester
6. Mohammed Seisay
7. Chris Greenwood
1. Bill Bentley, though another shaky day makes me nervous
2. Nevin Lawson, better than Friday but still unimpressive
3. Green, who wasn’t awkward when pushed inside for a couple of reps
1. Glover Quin, the most impressive Lions defender that I saw
2. DeJon Gomes, only because he wasn’t awful
3. Don Carey, who was indeed awful
1. James Ihedigbo, good within the first 12 yards and quickly emerging as a leader
2. Isa Abdul Quddus, good at times but tentative. Better on special teams.
Someone asked me today if I thought that Mathis could maybe move to safety if Vaughn can handle starting at outside CB. After initially rejecting this notion, I still do after more thought but not because I don’t think Mathis couldn’t do it in a pinch; I believe he’d be better than Carey, who is reminding everyone why both Cleveland and Jacksonville quickly dumped him.
It’s more about Quin’s emergence and sticking with what works. Mathis was underappreciated last year for his cover skills, and he doesn’t look over 30 when he’s moving around. Keeping him fresh is a key, and Vaughn affords that ability. I expect we’ll see Vaughn play a series or two every game in place of either Slay or, more likely, Mathis. There’s no sense in robbing Peter to pay Paul in the secondary. Ihedigbo understands his own game very well, and so does Austin. They know how to deploy him. Now if he or Quin get hurt, I’m not sold the third safety is currently in Detroit. Frequent readers know I’m a fan of Abdul Quddus but he’s ideally a fourth safety and special teams guy. I don’t have enough to go on to say if Gomes can do it, but I’m not overly optimistic.
–Fellow Ohio University Bobcat Jordan Thompson flashed some soft hands on a couple of catches. He also is working as the second long snapper. An informed birdie tells me the Lions are keeping either him or fellow UDFA TE Jacob Maxwell on the practice squad, but not both. Maxwell is definitely a better athlete and he made a nice in-line block on Devin Taylor during a rep, but Thompson’s long snapping might give him the edge.
–I don’t see any way Reese Wiggins makes the team at wideout, but the kid has some potential. He made a nice extended-arm catch on a crossing route and immediately turned it up the field with some jets.
–Others I respect deeply have written about Peacock playing well, but that’s not what I’ve seen in my two days at camp. He’d be the easiest cut on the entire roster if it were up to me. As Marty Schottenheimer once told me, the primary function of a wide receiver is to catch the football. If he can’t do that, there really isn’t much else to talk about. I had Peacock for five drops in two days, but he also doesn’t attack the ball in the air whatsoever.
–Both T.J. Jones and Ziggy Ansah stretched and warmed up with the team. Ansah looks very close to ready; he could play next week vs. Cleveland. The word on Jones is that the team is being careful with someone they like very much but don’t necessarily need right away. That’s an almost direct quote from a team employee, to be taken for what it’s worth.
–Brandon Pettigrew is in very good shape and looked impressive in drills. I asked a more informed source about him and was told he’s in a very good place with his new role and ready to make it work. Let’s hope so…
–There were three fumbled snaps, all from center Travis Swanson. The second one was not his fault but on Kellen Moore for pulling out too quickly, but the third one was a critical error. Swanson launched the ball over Moore’s right shoulder by a good 10 yards. Larry Webster sprinted after it and plucked it off a bounce with one hand and was off to the races, so at least that aspect brought out a positive.
–My good friend Scott Bischoff pointed out that Webster appears much bigger in the upper body since we saw him in St. Pete for Shrine Game practices. My semi-trained eye says he’s added about 10 pounds of good bulk to his shoulders and chest. He’s still pretty raw but the aforementioned play demonstrates what he can do athletically. The coaches have been working with him on developing a go-to pass rush move. If he gets one by the end of preseason, he could see some action as a rookie.
–For those who think that Darryl Tapp isn’t making the team, think again. He’s been the most effective edge rusher both days I saw, and he’s in the best shape I’ve seen him since his Virginia Tech days.
–Just in general, I feel very strongly positive about the defensive line. The starting four (Suh, Fairley, Ansah, Jones) and the top reserves (Mosley, Taylor, Tapp) are a legit top 5 collection, and the young depth behind them (Webster, Caraun Reid, Johnson) all look like they have legit NFL skills too.
–My position of most concern is the quarterback behind Stafford. Orlovsky is just so meh, and neither Moore nor Franklin appear worth even a practice squad spot, let alone the third QB role. I hope the coaches are seeing the same things. This is one spot where the team could be active in the near future unless there is dramatic improvement in the first couple of preseason games.
–Because I like to end on a positive, I was really impressed with the folks around me in practice the last two days and how much they knew the team and the game of football. I’ve been to other camps in recent years (Houston, Chicago, Washington, Cincinnati, Cleveland) where the overall football IQ of the fans just wasn’t very high. Cleveland definitely doesn’t fit with that, but there the fans were surprisingly ignorant of the players in front of them. Detroit fans by and large hit both bases pretty well in Allen Park. Here’s hoping this talented team rewards them!
Tags: Andrew Peacock, Don Carey, George Johnson, Glover Quin, James Franklin, Jason Jones, Jerome Couplin, Jonte Green, Jordan Thompson, Kellen Moore, Larry Webster, Mohammed Seisay, Reese Wiggins, Reggie Bush, Ryan Broyles, Steven Miller, Theo Riddick, Training Camp Notes, Travis Swanson