OTA Notes and Observations, Thurs 30 May

The Detroit Lions took the practice field on Thursday, hoping to get an opportunity to work on ball security on a rainy day.

“As far as today with practice, we’re going to try to go outside,” head coach Matt Patricia said before the team broke for practice. “I know it’s raining out – I haven’t really seen it yet. We do have new fields out there, so I don’t really feel like tearing them up. But they’ve actually done a great job of holding up with the rain. Good opportunity for us to work on some ball-handling, some things in the wet weather that you never know when they’re going to come up, so you take advantage of those opportunities when you can.”

Well, unfortunately (fortunately?) for Patricia and the Lions, the sun immediately came out as the team took the field for a beautiful two-hour stretch of football activities.

Here are our observations from Day 5 of OTAs:

Jahlani Tavai getting some first-team work
In “base” formations, it was still Devon Kennard, Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones working with the first team, but in positional drills and certain subpackages, we saw—for the first time publicly—Davis and second-round rookie Tavai working alongside each other. For the most part, it was still Davis patrolling the middle with Tavai on the outside, but Tavai was getting work all over the place, including his normal spot as the middle linebacker for the second team.

Frank Ragnow stays at center
The offensive line remained the same as last week. From left to right: Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner. The second team was also the same: Tyrell Crosby, Joe Dahl, Leo Koloamatangi, Oday Aboushi and Andrew Donnal.

With Ragnow now taking part at center in at least three of five practices, it certainly looks like this positional switch is more than just a test of versatility. At this point, Ragnow is the favorite to start at center this year.

Another minor note on the offensive line: Kenny Wiggins spent some time with the twos as a replacement for Joe Dahl. Dahl, on those limited reps, spent time as a fullback, since Nick Bawden remained with trainers on Thursday.

Tom Savage looks sharp
As we head towards mandatory minicamp next week and training camp in late July, it looks like Savage has a firm grasp on the backup position over Connor Cook. Savage drew some audible gasps from media members with some serious displays of arm strength Thursday.

In a goal-line drill, Savage’s arm cannon was really on display. He fit several balls into small windows, which allowed the offense to beat the defense and had defenders doing pushups at the end of the drill.

His deep ball accuracy remains an issue, especially on the run, but he impressed today more than any backup in recent memory.

I’m going to split this into three categories: Completely absent (not on the field), mostly with trainers (in attendance, but not working with position groups), very limited (with position groups, but not going through most drills).

Completely absent: Darius Slay, Damon Harrison Sr., Tommylee Lewis
Mostly with trainers: Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, Nick Bawden, Steve Longa, Isaac Nauta, David Jones
Very limited: Trey Flowers, Austin Bryant, Justin Coleman

It was a step in the right direction for Flowers and Bryant, who spent most of their time with trainers last week.

Note: ESPN’s Michael Rothstein is reporting that Matt Prater was also absent. I can’t confirm nor deny that as I spent no time watching special teams.

No standouts at wideout
One of my positions to watch was wide receiver. With Jones and Golladay still sidelined, I was hoping that someone would differentiate themselves from the pack. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I noted Andy Jones with a drop, Travis Fulgham with a drop, Deontez Alexander with two, and no significant plays from anyone else in the wide receiver corps.

The best catch of the day came from Danny Amendola, who made a twisting grab over the middle of the field. For a good portion of practice (five minutes or so), Matthew Stafford was working exclusively with Amendola in the middle of the field, while the backups worked with the rest of the wide receiver corps.

Random observations
Teez Tabor, again, made the defensive play of the day. He had an excellent pass breakup on Amendola on a comeback route. Barely a step behind, Tabor showed some rare closing speed that allowed him to get the PBU.
A’Shawn Robinson got into a very minor scuffle with Oday Aboushi. A little rare to see before the pads came on, but no blows were thrown.
Logan Thomas appears to be the early favorite to win the TE3 job. He was getting a lot of reps with the first and second team on Thursday.
Like last week, Da’Shawn Hand was the last guy off the field, as he helped mentor two undrafted rookie defensive tackles on their technique: Ray Smith and Kevin Strong
Additionally, the entire linebacking crew stayed on the field after sprints. The meeting appeared to be led by Jarrad Davis among others. Also included in that group was Eric Lee and Austin Bryant.


TIM AND MIKE: OTA Week 2 observations

Tim Twentyman & Mike OHara

One-on-one time: Quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Danny Amendola spent one individual period of practice Thursday working exclusively together on timing and routes in the middle of one of the two outdoor practice fields. It’s not often we see those kind of one-on-one sessions worked into practice. In the very next team period, on the first pass play, Stafford connected with Amendola for a big play over the middle of the field. The one-on-one time paid immediate dividends. – Tim Twentyman

Tavai, measuring up: Linebackers coach Al Golden wasn’t exaggerating when he said earlier in the week that size was one factor that attracted the Lions to second-round pick Jahlani Tavai. Tavai looked bigger than his listed height and weight of 6-2, 250 when he lined up wide to the right against veteran tight end Jesse James in a passing drill. Tavai also moved well covering that play, and also in the slot a few plays later. – Mike O’Hara

Slingin’ it: Stafford is usually the subject when the conversation of arm strength comes up, but potential backup quarterback Tom Savage could give Stafford a run for his money in that regard. Savage can sling it pretty good. He had one play in a team drill where he effortlessly tossed it 60 yards in the air to a streaking Travis Fulgham, who couldn’t make the catch, but it wasn’t because the throw wasn’t right there. Savage joked after practice that on a good day, indoors, with a nice fan behind him, he could probably throw 75 yards in the air. – Tim Twentyman

On the run: There are no exceptions for players having to run after making mistakes, and that included linebacker Jarrad Davis for jumping offside. Before running his semi-sprint, Davis slapped his hands in disgust – at the mistake, not because he had to run. – Mike O’Hara

Same O-line grouping: The first-team offensive line unit Thursday was Taylor Decker (left tackle), Kenny Wiggins (left guard), Frank Ragnow (center), Graham Glasgow (right guard) and Rick Wagner (right tackle). It was the same group as the first open OTA practice last week. – Tim Twentyman

Handy Andy: Andy Jones made a nice sideline catch and turned upfield for a good gain. Jones shouldn’t get lost in a crowded field of receivers. He showed versatility after being activated for the second half of last season. He had 11 catches, blocked well and did a good job on special teams. – Mike O’Hara

Back at fullback: Joe Dahl played four offensive snaps through the first 10 weeks of last season. Then he got a chance to play some fullback the last month and a half of the season, and did a pretty good job with the opportunity. Dahl moves well for a 300 pounder, and defenders in the gap certainly know when they’ve been hit by him. Dahl was back taking reps at fullback Thursday, and didn’t look like he skipped a beat. – Tim Twentyman

Handful: During an individual punt-return drill, potential returners Jamal Agnew, Tom Kennedy, Brandon Powell and Amendola held a football in one arm and tried to catch a punt with the other arm. The object was to get under the ball, focus and make the catch hanging on to both footballs. Agnew and Amendola were perfect catching the ball in the drill. – Tim Twentyman


Detroit Lions observations: How many catches for Danny Amendola in 2019?
David Birkett, Detroit Free Press Published 4:45 p.m. ET May 30, 2019

Danny Amendola has more catches in his 10-year career than Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay combined, so while Amendola is new to the Detroit Lions offense this year, he’s not exactly an unknown commodity.

Still, it was good to see Amendola play a feature role on offense Thursday at the Lions’ second open organized team activity practice of the spring.

Amendola signed a one-year deal to be the Lions’ slot receiver this offseason, but the 33-year-old was coming off a bit of a down year — he averaged just 9.8 yards per catch with the Miami Dolphins last season — and the team’s new emphasis on the tight end position called into question how big of a role he’ll have this fall.

If both Jesse James and T.J. Hockenson play a significant amount of snaps, the thinking goes that will mean less work for Amendola.

That’s still the case, but with the Lions working heavily on early down situations Thursday, Amendola seemed to be a favorite target of quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Now, it should be noted that both Jones and Golladay are rehabbing from injuries and not taking part in team drills. But Amendola caught just about everything thrown his way, while the Lions didn’t use their tight ends much.

During one 7-on-7 drill, Amendola faked cornerback Jamal Agnew figuratively out of his shoes with a quick deek outside. Stafford overthrew Amendola as he ran free down the seam, but in that instance it looked like Amendola, who also took reps on punt return, still has plenty to give as a receiver.

Amendola’s big day had a few reporters talking about how Stafford will divvy up his attempts this year, and one unnamed scribe predicted Amendola will be the Lions’ leading receiver.

I certainly don’t see that happening. My money is on Golladay having another 1,000-yard season and Jones finishing second on the team in catches. But I do think Amendola can top 50 catches for the third straight year if he stays healthy.

More observations from practice:

• Darius Slay and Damon Harrison were no-shows at practice again Thursday, which is no surprise considering the workouts are voluntary and both players are staying away from the team in hopes of landing new deals.

I’m not sure either player will get his wish contractually, but we’ll find out how serious they are about their situations when mandatory minicamp rolls around next week. Players can be fined for missing camp, and if Slay or Harrison skip out, it will sound an alarm.

• I didn’t see wide receiver Tommylee Lewis or kicker Matt Prater at practice Thursday, either, and the Lions still have the same large collection of key players working with the rehab group, including Jones, Golladay, Trey Flowers, Nick Bawden, Steve Longa and Austin Bryant.

• One funny moment Thursday: Ryan Santoso was handling field goals with Prater out, and as he lined up for a 55-yard or so kick, special teams coordinator John Bonamego tossed a blocking bag at his foot that blocked the kick with a loud thud.

• Sticking with special teams, Mike Ford made a diving save on a punt near the goal line to try and keep the ball out of the end zone. I couldn’t quite tell if he succeeded or not from my vantage point, but Ford is fighting for a roster spot and how he plays on special teams will go a long way toward determining his future. On another play in the same period, Teez Tabor appeared to get deeked out of fielding a punt near the goal line by a return man waving his arms as if he was going to catch it. The ball bounced through the end zone for a touchback.

• Backup quarterback Tom Savage showed off a better arm than I expected in the battle to be Matthew Stafford’s backup. Savage made a nice throw, albeit a tad short, rolling to his right that Jesse James couldn’t quite haul in, and had another teardrop of a throw down the left sideline that slipped right through Deontez Alexander’s arms.

• The Lions are working the same first-team offensive line with Frank Ragnow at center, Graham Glasgow at right guard and Kenny Wiggins at left guard. All signs point to that being the starting offensive line, though it’s too early, obviously, to do anything but pencil that in. It will be interesting to see how Tyrell Crosby looks at guard once the pads come on. He played well in a brief cameo as the Lions’ swing tackle last year, but he’s the highest-upside player among the potential left guard starters.

• Two final notes from the secondary: Tavon Wilson had a nice pass breakup on a pass to Michael Roberts in a goal-line drill early in practice. Wilson has been kind of a forgotten man in the safety mix, but he’s got a history with Matt Patricia that should help him in the battle for playing time. And Miles Killebrew appears to be back in the secondary mix after spending last year playing linebacker (though he never actually saw the field). Killebrew’s only path to a roster spot right now appears to be on special teams.


Observations from Lions Week 2 of OTAs: multiplicity squared
By: Erik Schlitt | 4 hours ago

The Detroit Lions opened up their second week of organized training activities to the media on Thursday and we at Lions Wire were fortunate to be able to attend today’s practice.

It’s still early in the offseason training regimen, so we’re a long way from making firm conclusions, but there are still plenty of things to take away from the happening in Allen Park.

Participation list
With 90-players on the current roster, there is a lot of competition for reps and a few notable absences made way for even more opportunities.

Darius Slay and Damon Harrison continue to sit out the voluntary portions of OTAs, but as we have said previously, it’s not worth worrying about at this juncture. If they miss next weeks mandatory mini-camp, then a longer conversation is in order.

TommyLee Lewis and Matt Prater were also absent from today’s practice session but we were given no reason why at this time.

Not practicing, but working with trainers today, were Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Isaac Nauta, Nick Bawden, Steve Longa, David Jones — although Marvin Jones, Golladay and Nauta were seen running sprints on the sidelines and could be headed towards a return in the near future.

There was another group of players that traveled with their position groups but were only lightly used in positional drills and those players included, Trey Flowers, Justin Colemen, Austin Bryant and John Atkins.

The Offensive Line stays the same

Much was made about last weeks changes on the interior offensive line, and while there was speculation that this could just be a cross-positional training exercise, but the fact that this week’s starters mirrored last weeks, it’s safe to assume these changes will stick.
Lions repeat their OL combination of:
Decker-Wiggins-Ragnow-Glasgow-Wagner in week 2 of OTAs.

You can mark them down that way on your pre-training camp depth chart.

The second unit also stayed the same with Tyrell Crosby anchoring the left tackle position, Joe Dahl at left guard, Leo Kolomatangi at center, Oday Aboushi at right guard and Andre Donnal at right tackle.

It’s worth noting that the four undrafted free agent rookie offensive lineman each played only minor roles and were often only used to help aid the development of the first two units. So for those of you hoping for a Ben Benzschawel rise into the starting lineup, need to temper your expectations until training camp when he is likely to get more looks. For now, he has a long road to travel.

A final fun note about the offensive line, because Bawden was not practicing, we got another look at Dahl at the fullback spot and once again, he looked very comfortable operating out of the backfield.

When you haven’t seen Matthew Stafford throw a ball in a few months you can forget what a beautiful thing it is. His ability to make difficult throws look effortless is fun to watch.

Tom Savage looked sharp today and his arm talent is very evident. He, of course, isn’t facing pressure — arguably his biggest weakness — but he appears to have solid timing with his receivers at this stage in the offseason. I would put him slightly ahead of Connor Cook at this stage but this backup battle should be much better than last years.

Offensive skill players
Danny Amendola looked the sharpest on the day and made several nice catches in team drills. He also spent one-on-one time with Stafford working on their connection, which will likely pay dividends a few months from now.

With Golladay and Marvin Jones out once again, it was Chris Lacy and Andy Jones taking over. Rookie Travis Fulgham backed up Andy Jones and almost made the play of the day, attempting a diving catch over two defenders inside the 10-yard line on a 40+ yards bomb from Savage. He caught the ball at its highest point but the ball dislodged from his grasp when he hit the ground. Tough break but a terrific effort from the sixth rounder.

It’s nice to see Kerryon Johnson as the clear starter at running back and not have to worry about starter competition at this point in the offseason. Johnson, C.J. Anderson and Theo Riddick stayed with the running backs group and never departed to take reps on special teams. They are arguably the Top-3 options at running back, but with no special teams value to fall back on, if they get outplayed on offense by another player, their spot on the roster could be in jeopardy.

There were lots of tight end usage today, as is expected to carry over into training camp and the season, and no surprise, Jesse James appeared to be a major contributor. Hockenson was also heavily involved but also spent time on the sideline with coaches. When Hockenson was on the sideline it was Logan Thomas who saw the field. Thomas is the best move tight end option on the Lions roster when Hockenson isn’t in there and he could be higher on the depth chart than previously noted.

Defensive evolution

If you though the Lions multiple defense last year was complicated, then buckle up, because this year’s defensive scheme looks like multiplicity squared.

We are not permitted to get into specific details but there was a lot of movement among the defense and the Lions deployed defenders from all over the field. Players routinely swapped spots/roles and gave disguised looks — all things we have seen in the past — but this was executed at a quicker rate, with more players involved and with more exaggerated movements and results.

The Jahlani Tavai impact
Last week Tavai spent most of his time at the MIKE but this week he saw his role expand to the other linebacker spots as well.

At this point, the Lions appear to have solid players at WILL in Christian Jones and JACK with Devon Kennard, but the positional range of Jarrad Davis and Tavai could take this defense to another level. Both Tavai and Davis can play the MIKE, creating solid depth at the position, but when both of them get on the field at the same time they can create a lot of disruption with movement.

It’s still very early and there is a lot of information to still be gathered but the early returns look positive and the fact that coaches are already introducing the rookie into an expanded role is promising for his development.

The secondary will also be multiple

The Lions showed off both three corner and three safety sets today, while also deploying disguised looks to keep the offense on their toes.

With Slay out, it was Rashaan Melvin and Teez Tabor — who continues to stand out — getting the start. Marcus Cooper and rookie Amani Oruwariye were next on the field on the outside. In the slot, it was Jamal Agnew starting for Coleman when in three corner sets.

At safety, Quandre Diggs continues to man center field as the anchor of the secondary but with disguised looks, he would also find himself drifting down into a familiar slot role. Tracy Walker got the start next to Diggs, basically mirroring his role and getting looks at both safety spots.

When the Lions went to a third safety set there wasn’t one clear option as they used both Tavon Wilson and Will Harris on the field at the same time. Both took time alternating between the Joker (strong safety) and Slot roles, while Andrew Adams also saw time at single-high with the twos. Don’t be surprised if the Lions elect to keep five safeties on the roster and these are the current front-runners.



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Welcome. One more voluntary OTA tomorrow, which may be closed to the media, and if so we won’t get any notes and observations. Next week is the mandatory OTAs, players get fined if they don’t show up. Wonder if Slay and Harrison will be there. Still no big deal, but a tiny little flag goes up. Are we gonna have a problem here?

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Thanks Wise, always appreciate you taking the time to gather and share…


My pleasure. You know, it isn’t even June and already I am besotted with koolaid. What can I say, I am a hopeless slappie.


Its kool-aid season… I always enjoy kool-aid season, best time of the year… reality, unfortunately, is usually about to slap us in the face.

Im sure of it this time!

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