Mini-Camp Notes and Observations, 6 June

From Jeremy Reisman, PoD:

The Detroit Lions wrapped minicamp on Thursday afternoon, but it wasn’t without some intrigue. There was a new face on the practice field, a prominent player missing and more shakeups on the offensive line. Let’s get into my Day 3 observations from Lions minicamp.

Trey Flowers was not in attendance on Thursday. And while it initially seemed like he may have taken a day off to rehab—he hasn’t been participating in full-team drills yet this offseason—the real reason turned out to be much less concerning. He’s getting his ring: Patriots looking forward to Super Bowl LIII ring ceremony Thursday night

WR near back to normal
While Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay remained with the group of players that sat out team drills and spent time with the trainers, both look remarkably close to being back to full participants. Today, while the rest of the players were doing team drills, they were running routes as close to full speed as they could possibly get. I would be shocked if either missed any time at the beginning of training camp.

Jermaine Kearse debuts with the ones
Just a few hours after the Lions made the signing official, Kearse made his debut with the wide receiving corps on the practice field.

Early in practice Chris Lacy, who had been taking reps with the first-team offense, suffered a leg injury and did not return. That gave Kearse the opportunity to get some playing time immediately with Matthew Stafford and company.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that on the first play of full team drills, Stafford went to Kearse and there was some sort of communication breakdown. Kearse cut his route short, and the ball went directly into the hands of Quandre Diggs. Stafford appeared to take blame for the play, but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the two weren’t on the same page minutes after taking the field together for the first time.

More offensive line shakeups
For the majority of practice, the starting offensive line was the same as it was on Wednesday. From left to right: Taylor Decker, Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow, Oday Aboushi and Rick Wagner.

But there was a small change on the second team. Graham Glasgow switched from right guard yesterday back to center today. Leo Koloamatangi move from center to right guard.

Additionally, during a 7-on-7 drill, the Lions shook up the offensive line completely. Detroit was constantly changing the lineup on a snap-by-snap basis, and I think I saw Graham Glasgow play three different positions in a span of 10 plays or so.

The Teez honeymoon is over
Teez Tabor was easily the most hyped player through the first couple weeks of OTAs, as he consistently made play after play. However, the past two practices have not been great for the young cornerback.

On Thursday, Tabor was beat by Andy Jones deep on three different occasions a couple of which would have been long touchdowns. Additionally, when lined up opposite Danny Amendola for one play, Tabor was beat by at least three steps on a crossing route.

That being said, Tabor did finish the practice strong. He had a nice pass breakup on a red-zone pass to Travis Fulgham, and he also notched yet another interception on a deep ball thrown into double coverage. Tabor was in perfect position and made the play. Still, there was a lot more bad than good from Tabor on Thursday.

Rookie notes
T.J. Hockenson - Hockenson has had a string of a couple quiet days. He’s actually been working with more of the second team lately, as Jesse James sees the majority of first-team work. In sets with multiple TEs, Hockenson and Logan Thomas are usually the first couple off the bench.
Jahlani Tavai - Tavai continues to get sporadic work with the first time, but mostly stays as the mike linebacker with the twos. You can tell he’s still working through some things. “Theo Riddick’d” him today, which is always unflattering, and he later blew his assignment on a running back who leaked out of the backfield for an easy catch.
Travis Fulgham - Spent some time with the ones given that Lacy was injured. He made a few plays, including a simulated fourth-and-goal 8-yard touchdown pass over Tabor.

Random notes
Martha Ford was at practice for the second straight day.
The Lions opened up practice by going down a line and clapping hands of a high school team in attendance. Working with the City Year program, the Lions invited Detroit-based Bethune Elementary-Middle School to practice. It was a nice gesture to kick things off.
Noted a couple good plays by Michael Roberts on Thursday. One, he earned a third-down conversion on a toe-tap down the sidelines. On another, he elevated over Malik Carney for a touchdown grab. It’s worth noting, however, that Roberts is mostly getting time with the second and third teams.

From Justin Rogers, DetNews:

Allen Park — On a day the biggest news coming out of Detroit Lions minicamp was the signing of wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, another player at the position was one of the brightest spots on the practice field.

An under-the-radar contributor late last season, Andy Jones is making sure no one forgets he belongs in the mix for a roster spot.

It can be easy to forget Jones. He was the third guy with his last name on the receiver depth chart last season. He further drifted into obscurity when he missed last offseason with an undisclosed injury. But when his number was called in the second half of the year, he delivered in a number of ways beyond catching passes, including special teams and run blocking.

During Thursday’s practice, Jones was the only player with his surname playing receiver and his route running and hands proved worthy of praise. He hauled in a pair of touchdowns during red zone work and a couple deep balls during team segments later in the session.

“I think he got some opportunities in games for us late last year and he stepped up and made some really good plays,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "He puts a ton of work in, obviously.

“He’s a hard worker who has made some big plays and made some big ones today out here on the practice field, hit him for some really big plays. I’m happy for him.”

There’s a good chance the Lions keep five receivers going into the season, but the depth chart got more crowded with Thursday’s addition of Kearse, who figures to be the front-runner for the first guy off the bench behind the starting trio of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola.

With 13 receivers on the roster at this stage of the offseason, Andy Jones has plenty of competition. His ability to make an impact on special teams remains as good a way as any to set himself apart from that group, while flashing good hands, especially near the goal line, won’t hurt his cause.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Jones is entering his fourth season after going undrafted out of Jacksonville University in 2016. He appeared in eight games for the Lions last season, starting three. He caught 11 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Most of the damage came in the season finale against Green Bay, when he hauled in six balls for 50 yards.

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From Kyle Meinke, MLive:

ALLEN PARK – To borrow from Jim Schwartz, let’s not put Teez Tabor in the Hall of Fame quite yet.

The Detroit Lions cornerback has put together a strong offseason. That’s not usually major news, given that it’s still the first week of June and players are in shorts and there’s no hitting and whatnot. But Tabor is no ordinary player. He’s a former second-round pick who didn’t play much as a rookie and then played badly when he did see the field last year. Like, allowed-a-perfect-passer-rating-for-the-season bad.

He’s been targeted 44 times in his career. He’s allowed 32 catches and five touchdowns. Yeah, not great.

Now as he heads into Year 3, with new corners in the fold like Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin and fifth-round pick Amani Oruwariye, Tabor just might be facing a make-or-break offseason in Detroit. So of course it was news that he was practicing well throughout OTAs.

But the last two days of minicamp have been a reversion to prior form.

On Thursday alone, he was beat deep not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times on notable plays. Andy Jones got him twice on deep routes, and Andy Jones is known more for his blocking than his track speed. Danny Amendola got him for a big play over the middle. And when the Lions ran one fourth-and-goal play from the 8, a really difficult spot for the offense, well, you can probably guess where Matthew Stafford went with the football.

Rookie receiver Travis Fulgham lost Tabor in the back of the end zone, and Stafford found him for the score.

It’s difficult to watch a practice like this and come to any other conclusion than Tabor’s speed is always going to hold him back. It’s what dropped him in the draft, and some were surprised to see him go as highly as the second round.

It’s not over for Tabor yet. Quinn has repeatedly said he believes Tabor is getting better, and said it again as recently as three months ago. Coach Matt Patricia said just this week that Tabor has been getting better for a while now, noting his improved footwork and fundamentals and understanding of the mental components of the position.

But then Tabor has a day like today, and it makes you seriously wonder whether even this much progress is enough for him to overcome his athletic deficiencies. Because he struggled to keep up with Andy Jones today. And most receivers Detroit faces next season will be faster than Andy Jones.

Here are some more observations:

– The Lions were without Snacks Harrison and Darius Slay once again. Trey Flowers also wasn’t in attendance while he was off collecting his Super Bowl ring from the Patriots. He hasn’t been able to do any team stuff anyway, so his absence isn’t a huge deal. More concerning is the health of Chris Lacy, who has stood out while getting a bunch of first-team work with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay sitting out team stuff. Lacy went down with an injury early in practice today and never returned. That’s a tough break for a guy who has been helping himself in that bid for a reserve job at receiver.

– With Golladay, Jones and now Lacy all banged up, receiver Jermaine Kearse found himself in an interesting spot: Taking first-team reps on his very first day with the team. Of course, he played in this offense for five seasons in Seattle, so it’s not like it’s totally foreign to him. Still, there are differences with the language, and obviously the quarterback as well, and it didn’t take long to see that either. On his very first target during team drills, he broke off a route when Matthew Stafford expected him to go another direction and the ball was easily picked by Quandre Diggs. But just to repeat, this was Kearse’s first day in Detroit, so don’t read anything into this. The play said more about Detroit’s injuries at receiver than anything else.

– We already talked about Tabor’s struggles against Andy Jones, but let’s take a moment to acknowledge how good Andy Jones was as well. He’s received a ton of first-team work this week with all those injuries at receiver, and on Thursday, he looked like the best wideout not named Danny Amendola. He’s no burner – those long scores were more the product of his competition than anything else – but he is an excellent blocker. He just might be the best blocking receiver on this team. And if he can find a way to contribute as a pass-catcher too, there’s almost certainly a place for him on this roster. I’ll tell you this: There are a lot of people in Allen Park who are awfully fond of the physicality Jones brings to the game.

– Tight ends Jesse James and T.J. Hockenson are going to see a lot of time in the fall, there’s little ambiguity about that. You don’t spend all that money on James and then also spend the eighth overall pick on Hockenson – higher than anyone’s taken a tight end since Vernon Davis in 2006 – without expecting to run a bunch of tight ends out there on Sundays. But they aren’t the only tight ends on the roster, either. Detroit also returns Michael Roberts, plus selected Isaac Nauta in the seventh round and added Logan Thomas in free agency – and if I were a betting man, based on usage and performance to this point, I’d say Thomas is my favorite to be TE3. He’s a long athlete who moves really well. His ball skills still need some work, but there’s obvious upside there, and Detroit has been toying with all kinds of looks that involve him.

– For the second straight day, there were some drops. And for the second straight day, Hockenson was among the guilty parties. This one was especially bad too. He was in the clear for an uncontested touchdown. Matthew Stafford didn’t throw the best football, but it was within Hockenson’s airspace and should have been a score. Instead, Hockenson tried to catch the ball one-handed. The ball glanced off his hand, and while I’m not allowed to report what was said, let’s just say Matt Patricia didn’t like the play too much and let the rookie have it. That’s just Patricia being Patricia, though. He’s different from Jim Caldwell in that way, not afraid to get after guys for mistakes, especially when they’re of the mental variety. And just to be clear, Hockenson really does look good. He moves so well for a guy that is also that big, and he does a great job catching the ball away from his body. He also doesn’t have a track record for drops, finishing with just two in his career at Iowa. I’d chalk this up to a rookie processing a lot of information more than anything else.

– Jarrad Davis has never been known for his coverage skills, so it’s worth noting he’s shown some improvement there. He had a great pass breakup today on a ball intended for Jesse James.

– You know it was a good play when it gets players whoopin’ it up. On Thursday, Jamal Agnew delivered such a play when he evaded two gunners by reversing field with a neat little spin move on punt return. Agnew was an All-Pro return man as a rookie, but was less productive last year. The Lions have brought in some new competition, mostly in the forms of Danny Amendola and rookie Ty Johnson, but Agnew still looks like the best of the bunch to me.

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Oh, that’s nice to hear.

From Dave Birkett, DetFreeP:

Rookie moment.

Early in practice Thursday, the Detroit Lions are working on red-zone situations in what’s essentially a five-on-five drill. It’s running backs and tight ends mostly on offense against linebackers and safeties on defense.

A couple plays into the period, first-round pick T.J. Hockenson gets loose for what should be an easy touchdown.

Hockenson, the eighth pick of the draft, is wide open in the back corner of the end zone with no defender in the picture.

Matthew Stafford rolls right and lofts a pass Hockenson’s way. It’s not the sharpest pass, it’s a hair behind the tight end, but it’s one that should be caught 100 times out of 100.

Hockenson, though, tries to one-hand the catch and the ball glances off his fingers and falls harmlessly to the ground.

We’re not allowed to report conversations we overhear at practice, but let’s just say, even from my perch 80 or so yards away, Matt Patricia was none too happy.

Hockenson will be a fine player in time. There’s a reason the Lions took him No. 8 overall, and he had some good moments during mandatory minicamp this week.

But he’s also a rookie, one the Lions aren’t just going to hand a starting job to.

Hockenson spent most of minicamp working with the second-team offense. Oh, he got his share of No. 1 reps, but he usually came into drills after Jesse James and sometimes Logan Thomas and Jerome Cunningham and Michael Roberts, too.

The Lions have one week left in their formal offseason program (two for rookies) and I certainly expect Hockenson’s role to increase once training camp rolls around this summer. He’s too good a player, and the Lions spent too significant a resource on him, to predict anything else.

But as Patricia has tried to increase the level of accountability on his roster, know that, that goes double for this year’s first-round pick.

Lions minicamp is in the books and I wouldn’t read too much into anything that happened. Yes, there were too many flags, and the offense is clearly still figuring itself out. But we’re still three months away from games that matter and by that time – barring something totally unexpected – Darius Slay, Damon Harrison, Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay all should be on the field.

Here are some final observations from Thursday’s practice and this week’s minicamp:

• None of the aforementioned six players did any team drills this week, and Slay and Harrison remain away from the team in contract disputes. I didn’t see Flowers, who’s returning from offseason shoulder surgery, at practice Thursday – he was expected to attend the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl ring ceremony Thursday night – but Golladay and Jones looked fine running routes on air with trainers and Coleman once again did position drills. None of those players seems to be in any jeopardy of missing training camp.

• Newly signed receiver Jermaine Kearse didn’t do much team work in his first practice as a Lion, but he did work with the first-team offense during an installation period at the beginning of practice and should get plenty of run this summer as the Lions try and figure out what he has left. When Kearse wasn’t on the field Thursday, he was often by Stafford or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell trying to digest what was happening.

• I’ve mentioned Danny Amendola and Chris Lacy in past observations, but the bubble receiver who’s been the most consistent during open practices this spring has been Andy Jones. He made a nice leaping catch at the goal line in a seven-on-seven drill early in practice Thursday and seemed to be on the receiving end of a lot of Stafford targets. He’s a good blocker and better special-teams player, he can play gunner in punt coverage. If I had to pick a fourth receiver right now, he’d be the guy.

• Two other receivers who opened a few eyes at the end of practice Thursday were former Old Dominion teammates Travis Fulgham and Jonathan Duhart. In a team period late in practice, Fulgham, a sixth-round pick, scored a jump-ball touchdown when the first-team offense was on the field for one fourth-and-goal snap from the 8, then made a diving catch in front of Jamal Agnew later in the period. Duhart, who signed as an undrafted free agent, made back-to-back impressive grabs near the sideline, going over the shoulder against tight coverage from Marcus Cooper for one and then diving towards the sideline for another.

• Truthfully, I’m not sure the Fulgham touchdown would have counted in a game. Devon Kennard was in on Stafford pretty quick for what looked to me like a sack, but coaches let the play go and when the offense scored, the defense dropped down for a set of push-ups for losing the period.

• The Teez Tabor chronicles continue. Tabor continued to work with the first-team defense in Slay’s absence and bounced back after a rough Wednesday. He broke up a fade pass to Fulgham in the end zone and intercepted a long Stafford heave to the rookie a period later.

• Laying odds now, I’d say Agnew will be this team’s punt returner come fall (which of course means he makes the team). He showed his shakes in one special-teams drill Thursday when the Lions simulate a return as two gunners charge in from 20 or so yards away. Agnew pulled off a nifty spin and reversed field that had his teammates oohing and aahing.

• If not Agnew, Amendola is the your likely punt returner for 2019.

• We mentioned this on the wrap-up video we shot, but the Lions do seem to be forcing more turnovers this spring. I’m not sure if that’s due to the new offense being choppy or defenders being more comfortable in Year 2, but it’s definitely noticeable. In fact, Quandre Diggs opened practice with an interception of Stafford in a nine-on-seven pass period (no defensive tackles or offensive line). That pass was intended for James, and Diggs started the very next period by breaking up a pass to Logan Thomas. He could be in for a very nice season.

• Two final notes to end it: Miles Killebrew had a nice pass breakup on a Connor Cook pass to Brandon Reilly early in practice, and the offensive line rotation was largely the same as on Wednesday, with Joe Dahl playing left guard and Oday Aboushi right guard with the first-team offense. Graham Glasgow played some center with the second-team offense after repping at guard most of the spring.

The Lions have four OTAs left, and one more open practice next week for us to view.

Tabor: He’s toast. I dislike to bad-mouth a Lions player, but he just doesn’t have it. At least not in the Lions defense anyway.

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Is it stupid that I like hearing about Patricia getting after guys, especially the young guns?

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Why they haven’t at least tried him at safety is weird to me. From every account, it seems to be his biggest issue is speed.

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Twentyman and O’Hara,

Competition key: A lot of the offense vs. defense periods the Lions ran at minicamp practices were all about competition. In most cases, the penalty for the losing side in the drill was having to do pushups. That was the case in a goal line group period pitting the running backs and tight ends vs. the safeties and linebackers on Thursday.

Jesse James had a couple touchdowns in the drill, Ty Johnson scored, and Zach Zenner got in, but the winner for the offense was a touchdown catch by Jerome Cunningham on the last rep of the period. It meant the defense did the pushups today. – Tim Twentyman

Sideline discussion: Quarterback Matthew Stafford had an extended conversation with Danny Amendola, one of his new receivers, during a period when the No. 1 offense wasn’t on the field. There was give and take, which is expected when teammates new to each other are working to get on the same page. – Mike O’Hara

Thrown into the mix: Veteran wide receiver Jermaine Kearse was signed Thursday morning and by noon he was on the practice field catching passes from Stafford. The Lions weren’t at all shy about throwing Kearse into practice. With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. out with injuries, Kearse got first-team reps in the final minicamp practice of the week. – Tim Twentyman

Taking advantage: Wide receiver Andy Jones made a nice catch on a deep sideline route to finish off a good minicamp. With Jones and Golladay out, it opened up opportunities for other receivers and Jones took advantage of his all week. – Mike O’Hara

Always teaching: Head coach Matt Patricia has said multiple times that coaching is a lot like teaching. That was evident in a 7-on-7 drill Thursday. Patricia was standing in the deep middle of the field behind the defense. Every rep he had teaching points, and not just for the defense. He could be seen complimenting a route and finish to a receiver, or reminding a running back about ball security, or showing a corner the proper technique for knocking a ball out of an outstretched receiver’s arms. Patricia never stops teaching throughout the course of practice – Tim Twentyman

No idea, it makes no sense to me not to try a guy somewhere else if he’s failing at his original position.

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Where is Ty Johnson in this scenario?

Also, Tabor sounds like a candidate for first round cuts.

maybe tabor was playing smart expecting stafford to throw it behind amendola :slight_smile:


I was thinking it’d be Ty or Agnew. I’m really rooting for Agnew to return to form. I really like that dude, but his injury was pretty serious.

I’m thinking Agnew sneaks onto the CB rotation and they use someone else to risk their necks on returns.

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Yeah, but I don’t think I want Amendola to be that person risking his neck on a punt return.


Not to be completely ruthless, but 34 yo WRs are a dime a dozen. Even ones with cultural standards to demonstrate…

I like to see talent doing it. D. Sanders, Hester from Chicago, Metcalf & Cobb in Cleveland, Hill from KC, etc. I believe in having a game-changer at that position, even if it means risking a decent player.

Really helps the battle of field position.


I tend to think that if you have a great returner, teams just kick away from them and take them out of the game.

I’d risk a WR before a corner.

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I think I read that Patricia commented on Dahl getting stronger and in better shape. I was getting ready to write the guy off, but if he can play well enough at the 3 IOL positions, plus some at FB and on ST, then he’s got a good shot at making the roster. Not saying anything about being a starter, IMHO he’s gotta prove he can stay healthy and consistently get it done on the field, but if Crosby and Pope develop into usable assets then this team starts to look pretty deep on the OL.

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