Every year I try to attend at least two practices and then share my thoughts… I’m probably going to attend 3 this year but I wanted to share what I have seen so far and what my thoughts are. Keep in mind I’m forming these opinions based off just two practices. So things could change with more practice time.
I’ll start with practice feel and tempo.
Practices are much more laid back. The physicality we saw under MP is gone…. The practices are much more soft similar to how Caldwell ran camp. For example they ran a ton of punt practices today. In those practices the players explode off the ball, make initial contact and then stop. The punter receives the snapped ball and acts like he’s going to punt it but doesn’t. Nearly every snap was done like this. I’m talking 20+ snaps like this. Personally I’m not sure what they gain from practicing like this. Maybe their worried about the exchange but why have the complete unit out there to just go through the motions? They did a lot of snaps like this. It seems like a waste of practice time to me. Under MP they would have practiced like it was game time and the intensity was clearly higher under MP.
One thing they did that I liked was the 1st team took one end of the field why the second and 3rd team took the other. They executed plays on each end simultaneously. This seemed smart to me because it means everyone is getting more snaps. Instead of the 2nd team sitting on the sidelines watching the first team, both are getting near equal snap time doing it this way. Smart.
Roger Goodell was present at the practice today and he made himself available to fans who wanted an autograph and picture. He was swarmed by fans much to my surprise. I was invited to sit on a conference call with him and chosen Lions fans on Monday but I couldn’t take that offer…That should be interesting to hear about on Monday.
Let’s talk QB’s and the offense.
Watching the offense has been a priority for me. I’m concentrating on WR’s, RB’s and QB’s mainly to try to get a feel for Goff and the offense as a whole.
I think it’s obvious Goff is our starter, Boyle is our #2 and Blough the #3. However the drop off from Goff to Boyle is significant. All this talk about how good Boyle is from GB fans is a joke. This guy is clearly a backup who has a lot to work on.
Boyle - Boyle and Blough split time with the second team but Boyle got the majority of the snaps. He’s clearly not as accurate as Goff. Often his throws were slightly off the mark forcing WR’s to adjust. His WR’s had a lot more drops as well and I think some of the blame fell on him. My biggest concern with him is how often he went to his first read. In fact I only saw him go to his second a few times. He often stared at his primary target and if it wasn’t there he would force the ball to his secondary target. Often forcing the ball into tight coverage for an incomplete pass. Needless to say I wasn’t that impressed with him. I do think he has potential and I think he moves well in the pocket but he clearly has a lot to work on.
Goff - I was impressed… I think fans and the media are really underrating him. There’s a very notable difference between Goff and Stafford and I’d like to discuss some of them.
Goff sees the field better than Stafford does. He’s does a better job scanning through his progressions before delivering an extremely accurate pass. Rarely did a WR have to adjust to one of his passes. Most were perfectly thrown, on the mark and hit the WR in stride.
One thing I noticed is that Goff rarely went to his first read. He often went through all his progressions and back. Meaning he scanned the field from right to left and back to right before making a throw. Usually taking the high percentage throw underneath. Never taking the open WR down field. His decision making is better than Stafford’s. He’s not going to force throws or take chances.
His accuracy is notable and he made one super nice throw on a crossing route to Amon-Ra for a TD. The small window he thread it through was impressive.
I want to say this again - The one thing that was obvious was his accuracy and how the WR’s never once had to adjust to the pass. The ball was always placed where it should be. But …… it’s obvious he plays it safer than Stafford does. He’s not a gun slinger like Matt. He clearly doesn’t want to take shots down field when there’s an open WR underneath. He’s not an aggressive passer. He plays things safe and in script.
After two full practices I’ve watched Goff pass the ball more than 30 yards just 4 times. There’s a lot of dink and dunk 5-8 yard passes. It appears his accuracy starts to tally off after 20 yards. Of the 4 passes he went deep on, he missed the mark twice for an incompletion, and the one he did complete wasn’t thrown very well. There’s definitely something to the reports of him not wanting to go deep. He had open WR’s 25-30 yards down field but took the underneath pass instead. Stafford is far more accurate than Goff when throwing 20+ yards. Stafford goes off script more and takes more chances. Stafford is a far more aggressive passer.
However the 3rd deep pass that Goff went deep on. Kennedy ran a 40 yard pass go route. Goff slightly over threw the pass but it’s was a beautiful pass and it appeared Kennedy got his feet tangled up. Had that not happened I think that it would have been a TD.
Almost every snap Goff took he was in the shot gun. He took very few snaps under center. It appears we’re going to be a heavy shotgun based offense.
To summarize- Stafford is a far more grittier player in practice. He’s more aggressive and more accurate on his deep routes. Goff is more accurate on the short to intermediate stuff and he plays it safer. Goff is definitely more of a game manger than Stafford.
All in all I thought Goff looked good. I think he’s better than people think but the deep pass issue is a legitimate concern.
RB’s, WR’s, TE’s and running back sets.
Much to my surprise the Lions ran a bunch of two back sets in a split back formation. Often times subbing in a WR for a RB and having that WR run a route. Clearly this is a formation they’re practicing a lot.
On two particular plays the Lions ran a split back set with Williams on one side and Amon on the other side. Amon ran a mid depth post type of route. Where he was able to get 20 yards downfield and he looked quick getting out there. He was wide open but Goff took an underneath rout to Hock for an easy completion but it appeared Brown could have took it to the house had Goff went to him. They also ran a split back set with Jamar Jefferson and Amon. Jefferson made a nice block and Amon ran a dig route to the opposite side that he had prior. Goff hit him in stride for a nice gain. With all the WR’s out Goff went towards Brown a lot today and Brown looked good. I mean real good. He just might be our best receiving option besides Hock.
Hockenson was a big part of the playbook and he looked great. Picking up where he left off from last year. He’s going to have a monster year and it’s obvious he’s our top receiving option.
J. Williams - Took most of the snaps with first team. I knew he was good but he had more wiggle than I thought he had. He looked like he’s going to be a solid player for us.
Jermar Jefferson - Made a couple nice blocks in pass pro. This was clearly something they were working on with him and he rose to the challenge. He showed good vision and looked good running the ball. I think he’s our RB3.
Godwin Igwebuike - was on return duty and he returned one the distance and looked good doing it. He’s quick and has some nice sudden cuts. However as a running back I wasn’t that impressed. He didn’t make quick enough decisions and seemed slow getting to the hole. He was stuffed for a loss as a result. He seemed a tad indecisive at RB. I think his only chance of making the team is as a return guy but I do think he looks good at returner.
Khalid Raymond also made a return that went the distance. He’s fast. He’s got some nice moves and seems to have good vision as well. As a returner I thought Idwebuike looked slightly better to be honest. This is a close matchup and one won’t make the roster. I don’t think Raymond is a lock.
Victor Bolden also returned one the distance. He made a few nice cuts and got behind the defense and was gone. I actually think Bolden has a possibility to beat out these other two. He’s seems more rounded as a player.
Needless to say the return guys burned our ST unit 3 times. A lot to work on there.
Speaking of ST let’s talk Kickers.
Kickers - Both of our kickers suck. I think we downgraded at kicker and it’s obvious our kicking game won’t be winning us many games. Neither of these guys can hit a kick past 40 yards. Disappointing!
I didn’t spend a lot of time watching the defense or the OL because I felt with the way we were approaching practice that it was difficult to evaluate them. However I want to point out two players
Ifeatu Melifonwu - Made a couple really nice pass break ups. He looks like he will likely be a starting a slot corner for us. He took a ton of snaps in the slot and was a pleasant surprise. I know we spend a 3rd on this guy but we might have a real hit on our hands. So far he’s looked impressive to me.
Jeff Okudah - He looks faster than last year to me but I think he’s been slightly out played by a 3rd round rookie. That maybe because Okudah has been getting paired up against Brown a lot and Brown has been impressive. However Okudah has done a good job keeping up with him. He’s looked quicker and more fluid than last year. He doesn’t look nearly as lost. Hoping it finally clicks for this kid.
Obviously I’ve only seen two live practices so far and everyone’s learning a new playbook. So it wouldn’t shock me if things changed drastically but I tend to think the feel I get at camp flows accurately into the season. So I think there’s something to everything I’ve stated. I’m currently planning to go to a VIP practice event on Wednesday and if I go I’ll post my thoughts after my 3rd camp.