OTA Observations, 21 May 2019

No contact, in shorts. IOW, pussy football, but it’s LIONS football. GEt out the koolaid, fellas.

TIM AND MIKE: OTA Week 1 observations

T.D. Hockenson: His name is really T.J. Hockenson, but the rookie tight end made two catches for touchdowns. First was a tumbling catch in the middle of the end zone. Next was a sliding sideline catch in the front corner of the end zone on a pass Matthew Stafford threw while rolling out to his right. –Mike O’Hara

Alignment upfront: Last year’s first-round pick, Frank Ragnow, has moved to center to begin OTAs. Graham Glasgow has shifted over to right guard and Kenny Wiggins played left guard with the first-team unit during Tuesday’s open OTA practice. Taylor Decker played left tackle and Rick Wagner was the right tackle. I’d expect players to move around and plug in and out of the lineup in the spring, but that’s how things looked in the first open portion Tuesday. – Tim Twentyman

Sizing up: GM Bob Quinn said after the draft that the Lions want big, thick linebackers for head coach Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme, and it was apparent that second-round pick Jahlani Tavai of Hawaii fits the preferred profile at 6-2, 250. He also showed quickness on a pass rush when he was lined over the left tackle. – Mike O’Hara

Speeding up: Sixth-round pick Ty Johnson joins a crowded Detroit backfield. He has a lot of work ahead of him, but one thing going for him right out of the gate is his blazing speed. That was on display in a team period Tuesday. He took a handoff and got the edge. It didn’t take him long to get from the line of scrimmage to the end zone. – Tim Twentyman

On the run: It was business as usual when players ran after practice and during drills for making mistakes – as was the case early in practice when two players ran sprints after false starts on offense. That was unlike Patricia’s first season as head coach. It caused a commotion when players ran sprints during and after practice. – Mike O’Hara

Two in a row: The Lions released a video from Monday’s first OTA practice that showed third-year cornerback Teez Tabor making an interception. Make it two days in a row for Tabor. He stepped in front of a Stafford pass in a goal-line passing drill and returned it all the way down the field for a touchdown. Tabor was the starting outside cornerback opposite Rashaan Melvin with the first team in the absence of Darius Slay. – Tim Twentyman

Sitting out: There were a number of players working off to the side with trainers and not taking part in the team portions of practice. Those names included: Defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman, wide receiver Kenny Golladay, wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., fullback Nick Bawden, defensive end Austin Bryant, safety David Jones and tight end Isaac Nauta. Also, Lions head coach Matt Patricia confirmed that Slay and defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. have not taken part in the voluntary OTAs up to this point. – Tim Twentyman

Advancements in technology: Golladay and Jones might not have been taking part in practice, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to soak in Darrell Bevell’s new offense. During a special teams period, Golladay, Jones and wide receivers coach Robert Price were gathered in front of a large outdoor screen that was connected to a tablet, and the three were going over plays. Advancements in technology are great. – Tim Twentyman

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Lions OTA notebook: First impressions from the first open day
By: Jeff Risdon

Tuesday’s Detroit Lions practice session was open to the media, so I made the trek to Allen Park to take in the sights and sounds of the first chance to witness the full 2019 Lions squad in action.

Without going into great detail — the media are limited on what we can report during these sessions, something true with all NFL teams — here are some things which stood out on Tuesday’s overcast early afternoon.

The interior offensive line is variable

Last season saw stability with rookie Frank Ragnow at left guard and Graham Glasgow at center. While that might carry over, coach Matt Patricia and the Lions are experimenting with new combinations.

Lions testing OL combinations in OTAs

Ragnow played some center in Tuesday’s session, with Glasgow playing at both guard spots at various points. According to pictures published by the Lions, that also happened on Monday, the first day of OTAs (which was closed to the media). Kenny Wiggins, the replacement for T.J. Lang at right guard last season once the now-retired Lang went down with injury, also got work at both guard spots.

Patricia discussed the variability of the line in his pre-practice press conference, noting that this is the right time to experiment. Glasgow played guard in college and Ragnow was a center at Arkansas, so neither is swimming in unfamiliar waters.

After practice, Ragnow talked about the emphasis on cross-training positions and finding the best combination. That reiterates what Patricia said before the practice.

One note: I did not see second-year lineman Tyrell Crosby take any reps inside; he played left tackle exclusively in the portion of practice where the OL was on the nearest practice field. That doesn’t mean he isn’t getting reps at guard or won’t going forward, but I did not see that today.

Backup QB has been upgraded

It’s only one day, but I’ve already seen enough from both Tom Savage and Connor Cook to comfortably declare that either option is better than Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock from a year ago. Cook’s arm and ability to sizzle the ball into small windows was impressive. Savage showed perfect touch on a handful of throws despite working with unfamiliar receivers.

Neither is challenging Matthew Stafford whatsoever, but just seeing one day makes me feel a lot better about the ability to operate the offense. That will be important in preseason games, where Cassel largely struggled to run the passing plays due to his lacking arm. That will not be a problem in 2019.

There are a lot of tight ends

T.J. Hockenson gets all the attention, and rightly so for being a top-10 draft pick. He snagged a high laser from Cook for an impressive red zone TD in drills to announce his presence with authority. But he’s just one of many new faces at tight end.

Free agent signee Jesse James is conspicuous with his size, a legit 6-foot-7. He also has a distinctive gait when he runs. Logan Thomas, Jerome Cunningham and rookie Isaac Nauta all had positive moments in practice.

Then there’s holdover Michael Roberts, who appears to be in a battle to find a roster spot. He was the only TE I didn’t mark a “+” next to on my roster, my system for keeping track of wins/losses during practice. Granted it was a very small sample size on the second day of everyone working in new OC Darrell Bevell’s system, but it’s not an auspicious start for Roberts.

Rookie watch

Those worried about second-round pick Jahlani Tavai’s speed and range would have been pleasantly surprised by the linebacker from Hawaii on Tuesday. He’s not Jarrad Davis as an athlete, but watching Tavai go through drills definitely ameliorates some of the worries about his perceived lack of athleticism. He had no problem whatsoever matching James or RB Theo Riddick’s speed in drills. That’s his role – tight ends and running backs – and he appears just fine for that.

Sixth-round RB Ty Johnson battled the ball as a receiver on a couple of reps. He was not asked to do much as a receiver at Maryland and it shows.

Undrafted WR Tom Kennedy appears to be a carbon copy of past Lions training camp phenom Jace Billingsley. Wearing No. 85, Kennedy seems quite generously listed at 5-foot-11. On the whole, the Lions have gone much smaller at the slot receiver position between Kennedy, presumptive starter Danny Amendola, newcomer Tommylee Lewis and holdover Brandon Powell.

Tidbits

No players left the field of play or appeared to miss reps for any injuries beyond a jammed finger. That’s a definite positive.

Teez Tabor made a great play, stepping in front of the intended receiver and recording an INT which he gleefully ran back all the way from one end zone to the other even though nobody was chasing him.

Players who commit pre-snap penalties are forced into punitive action. That’s pretty common practice; I’ve been to five different NFL team camps since 2015 and have never not seen it other than Jim Caldwell’s tenure with the Lions. The players don’t mind and there is definite pressure from the teammates to get it right.

New RB C.J. Anderson was clad in heavy grey sweats, looking very much like a wrestler trying to make weight. He’s shorter in person than I expected.

Several prominent players, including Trey Flowers, Marvin Jones and Da’Shawn Hand, spent the practice working out on the farthest practice field (there are three fields and we are stationed on the far sideline of the first field). As such, it was tough to take anything of note from them.

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Absolutely love these – thank you for always grabbing these for everyone, @Wiseacres!

Now, I’m off to read it all. :smile:

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Another beat writer’s notes:
Detroit Lions’ OTAs observations: A peek at WR depth after Golladay, Jones

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press Published 4:48 p.m. ET May 21, 2019 | Updated 4:48 p.m. ET May 21, 2019

The Detroit Lions weren’t particularly deep at the wide receiver position last season, something that became abundantly clear after they traded Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles and Marvin Jones went down with a season-ending knee injury.

And they didn’t do much to improve the unit this offseason.

So it was interesting to watch Day 2 of organized team activities on Wednesday as the Lions went through practice with a motley group of receivers.

Both Jones and Kenny Golladay worked as part of the rehab group, which left Danny Amendola and Andy Jones as the Lions’ Nos. 1 and 2 pass catchers.

Amendola has a lengthy NFL resume, but he’s coming off a season in which he averaged just 9.7 yards per catch. He’s expected to play as the Lions’ slot receiver this fall, though that position will be somewhat de-emphasized as the team moves towards more two tight end sets.

Andy Jones was a solid special-teams player in part-time work last season, and that’s his surest path to a roster spot this fall. With Amendola, Golladay and Marvin Jones locked into roster spots, and T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James sure to see plenty of playing time, whoever wins the fourth (and perhaps fifth) wide-receiver jobs will need to be a core player on kick and punt coverage.

Neither Amendola nor Jones did anything outstanding in practice Tuesday, but a couple receivers did catch my eye. Brandon Powell, who played sparingly as an undrafted rookie last year, looked quicker than every other receiver in a change-of-direction drill the Lions did midway through practice. Rookie sixth-round pick Travis Fulgham made a nice catch for a touchdown to end a red-zone period towards the end of the day. And Chris Lacy had the catch of practice when he showed great concentration to secure a pass that was tipped by Marcus Cooper.

Lacy was feted with “oohs” and “aahs” from his teammates for his catch.

As for Golladay and Marvin Jones, who’s returning from December knee surgery, both players seemed to be moving well as they worked on the side so there’s no real alarm in their absence. And Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said there’s some benefit in getting to throw more with some of the team’s new faces anyway.

“I think it’s really good for those guys to come in and get opportunities,” Stafford said. “Some of those guys I played some late last year with. Obviously, Danny, haven’t played any games with him, so it’s been nice to get out there and throw the ball around to him a little bit. Mix in a bunch of tight ends, backs. This time of year is so much more, let’s learn the fundamentals of this offense, let’s get back to the fundamentals of the game. It’s such a basic part of the year that it’s really good for everybody to just get opportunities to go out there and kind of play ball.”

More observations from Wednesday’s practice:

• Hockenson made a strong impression in his first public practice as a Lion. I think he’ll have to add some weight before he fully realizes his potential as a blocker (though with no pads on, that aspect of his game wasn’t exactly on display Wednesday), but he did run himself wide open for a touchdown in a seven-on-seven period late in practice.

• Christian Jones remains a starter at linebacker even after the Lions spent a second-round pick on Jahlani Tavia, and Jones showed why Wednesday when he followed that Hockenson touchdown catch with a nice pass breakup on a play over the middle.

Jones didn’t do anything spectacular last year, but he was a solid player with 69 tackles.

• Darius Slay would like a new contract and is not participating in OTAs, and Justin Coleman worked with the rehab group Wednesday, which meant Teez Tabor took some No. 1 reps at cornerback. Tabor intercepted a Connor Cook pass in the same red-zone drill that Fulgham capped with a touchdown, and he’ll have to continue to make plays like that to keep his roster spot this fall.

Slay, Coleman and Rashaan Melvin are the Lions’ top three cornerbacks, with rookie Amani Oruwariye a good bet for another spot. Tabor’s competition for the No. 5 job (though that spot likely will be active ahead of Oruwariye) is, among others, Michael Ford and Jamal Agnew, who’s worth keeping around as a return man/slot corner.

• Frank Ragnow worked at center for the second straight day and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he keeps that spot going forward. The Lions took him in Round 1 for a reason. Graham Glasgow looks like the Lions’ right guard this fall, and Kenny Wiggins, who made 10 starts at right guard last year, took first-team reps at left guard.

• A couple final random observations: Jalen Reeves-Maybin is trying to immerse himself in the defense after missing most of last season with injury. I saw both Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa dip their head into the defensive huddle during one rush period so they could hear the call even though they weren’t on the field. I like John Atkins’ chances of making the team as a backup defensive lineman. He played well in a late-season cameo last year should benefit from extra reps now with Damon Harrison skipping OTAs. And if it’s not Agnew or Amendola, Tommylee Lewis could be the Lions’ primary punt returner this fall.

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Observations: T.J. Hockenson shines on Day 2 of Detroit Lions OTAs

Updated 4:48 PM; Today 4:32 PM

By Kyle Meinke | [email protected]

ALLEN PARK – The Detroit Lions offseason shifted into another gear this week with the start of Organized Team Activities. And hey, what do you know! They even opened up their second session to reporters in its entirety. Here are some observations.

– I was more eager to see T.J. Hockenson than just about anybody else on the field. But even if that weren’t the case, he would have been hard to miss. The 6-foot-5, 251-pound tight end moves well for a guy of his size and length, all of which is impossible to miss when he actually tries to catch a pass. He does an excellent job stretching for the ball away from his body, and extended twice for touchdown catches on Tuesday, one of which was in a ton of cross-traffic. One ball was thrown by Connor Cook, and the other Matthew Stafford, who walked away from practice excited by his new tight end. “I think he’s doing a good job moving around out there,” Stafford said. “Caught some balls, like you said. I think he’d be the first guy to tell you he feels like a rookie. Rookies, it’s a lot of action going on out there. You know, they’ve got a new system to learn, new city to learn, new coaches, players all that. There’s a lot going on.” Right. And Hockenson still looked like one of the best skill players on the field. Now granted, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay weren’t on that field much either. Still, I walked away more convinced than ever that this guy is going to be a great fit for Detroit’s offense. If he put a single ball on the turf, I didn’t see it.

– Cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Snacks Harrison skipped the workout,[ and with new contracts in their eyes], there’s no telling when we’ll see them again. Running back Zach Zenner also wasn’t in attendance on Tuesday, and there were a slew of others who did suit up but did very little other than work on the side with a trainer. That includes Golladay and Jones, as well as top free-agent signings Trey Flowers and Justin Coleman. Austin Bryant, a fourth-round pick, and Nick Bawden, last year’s seventh-round pick, also did very little.

– New running back C.J. Anderson crumpled to the ground with a leg injury in the middle of practice, forcing players to move to the other end of the field while trainers tended to him. But the injury seemed more scare than anything, as Anderson eventually got up and walked off the field under his own power.

– With Slay skipping OTAs and Coleman doing very little, Rashaan Melvin and Teez Tabor were the top cornerbacks on the outside and Jamal Agnew was the No. 1 slot. This time of year always favors the offense, but Tabor did pick off a pass for a second straight day (and then proceeded to return it all the way to the opposite end zone, even though everyone else stopped running well before midfield). I can’t emphasize enough how much you should not read into this. It’s May 21. Guys are in shorts. Tommylee Lewis and Andy Jones were the first-team receivers. So, yeah. Don’t put Tabor in the Hall of Fame quite yet. Still, as he faces a make-or-break year heading into Season 3, making plays is certainly preferred to not making plays. I wanted to catch up with him about working out with Chad Ochocinco this offseason, and whether that’s helped hone his game, but I missed him while talking to other players. He’ll be among my top targets when we return to Allen Park next week.

– I saw the photos of Frank Ragnow at center on Monday, just like everyone else. But knowing how much Matt Patricia likes to cross-train his offensive linemen to play multiple positions, I was interested to see whether that alignment would still hold Tuesday, and just how much he was there. Was Ragnow rotating with Graham Glasgow and Kenny Wiggins? Or was this a full-time deal? The answer proved to be the latter. Ragnow took all his reps at center, while Glasgow took all his reps at right guard and Wiggins all his reps at left guard. Anything can happen going forward, of course, but the people I talk to say coaches would love for that to be the starting combination in Week 1.

– Tom Savage and Connor Cook alternated taking the second-team reps at quarterback.

– With Flowers doing very little team work and Harrison skipping OTAs entirely, Romeo Owkara got first-team work at defensive end, with Da’Shawn Hand and A’Shawn Robinson lined up on the inside. That’s a pretty good group, and watching them work on blitz drills reminded me of just how versatile they’re going to be too. Besides the noses, everyone can slide up and down that line, with linebackers like Devon Kennard, Jarrad Davis and Jahlani Tavai big enough to shuffle in behind them and attack the gaps. We’re not allowed to get too specific with formations, but watching those guys slide in and out, sometimes right before the ball was snapped, offered a good reminder of just how tough that group will be to handle.

– Jamal Agnew was an All-Pro punt returner as a rookie, but he’s going to have some new competition for the gig in 2019. Rookie Ty Johnson was an outstanding punt returner at Maryland, and took some reps at the position Tuesday. So did new receivers Tommylee Lewis and Danny Amendola, as well as returning receiver Brandon Powell.

– Detroit has tried to get bigger across the board this offseason, and nowhere has that been more true than at linebacker, where they spent a second-round pick on the 250-pound Jahlani Tavai. All of which could spell bad news for Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who remains the smallest linebacker on the team despite spending two years trying to pack on weight. But he’s not going out with a fight either, breaking up a Stafford pass in the end zone intended for Michael Roberts.

– Matt Patricia ended practice by sending his players to run a bunch of wind sprints. Some things change, but others never do.

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Detroit Lions 2019 OTA Day 2 observations: Teez Tabor rising to the occasion

With so many players sidelined, a few had a chance to showcase their talent.

By Jeremy [email protected] May 21, 2019, 5:15pm EDT

The Detroit Lions had their first team practice in front of media on Tuesday, kicking off the open portion of Organized Team Activities. I was among those there in attendance, so here are my observations from Day 2 of OTAs (Monday was closed to the media).

Participation notes

To begin with, three players on the roster were not in attendance on Tuesday. Darius Slay and Damon Harrison Sr. were both notably out, as they are seeking new contracts per the Detroit Free Press. In addition to those two, veteran running back Zach Zenner was also not present.

Additionally, there was a handful of players that were mostly working with trainers and did not participate in most team drills. Here’s a list in no particular order:

WR Marvin Jones Jr.
WR Kenny Golladay
TE Isaac Nauta
FB Nick Bawden
DE Trey Flowers
DE/LB Austin Bryant
CB Justin Coleman
S David Jones

At one point, Golladay joined the rest of the team for drills, but never actually participated in any that I personally saw. As for everyone else, there was not enough information for me to speculate on why they were sitting out.

At one point late in practice running back C.J. Anderson went down with an injury. He ended up walking off under his own power with a slight limp and did not return to the remaining 20-30 minutes of practice.

Offensive line/defensive line rotations

As noted earlier in the day, the Lions’ No. 1 offensive line looked like this (from left to right):

Taylor Decker — Kenny Wiggins — Frank Ragnow — Graham Glasgow — Rick Wagner

As for the No. 2 offensive line breakdown, for most of the day it looked like this:

Tyrell Crosby — Joe Dahl — Leo Koloamatangi — Oday Aboushi — Andrew Donnal

So the move to guard does not appear to be in the cards for second-year lineman Tyrell Crosby, and as of now, Wiggins is ahead of Aboushi on the depth chart.

Defensively, the Lions were short two players on their defensive line with Snacks absent and Flowers working and sprinting with trainers. That left this starting lineup (left to right):

Devon Kennard — A’Shawn Robinson — Da’Shawn Hand — Romeo Okwara

No surprises there. As for Team 2, the Lions rotated several players throughout each role, but the most common second team I saw was something to the effect of:

Eric Lee — Darius Kilgo — John Atkins — Jonathan Wynn/Mitchell Loewen

I’m not going to analyze the play of the offensive and defensive lines, because the pads were off.

Teez Tabor rises to the occasion

With Darius Slay and Justin Coleman out of team drills, several Lions deep on the depth chart had the opportunity to make an early impression. Rashaan Melvin and Teez Tabor were your starting outside cornerbacks with Jamal Agnew in the nickel. While these defensive backs weren’t exactly going up against great competition—remember Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were sidelined during team drills—Tabor played quite well.

For the second day in a row, Tabor picked off a pass—this time stepping in front of a Matthew Stafford pass, and running it all the way down the field for a pick-six.

(Note: Upon watching the highlights via DetroitLions.com, it appears the pass was actually from Connor Cook. This is a good reminder that many of the plays are seen from very far away and the personnel isn’t always obvious to see.)

Rookie check in

First-round T.J. Hockenson was heavily featured on offense on Tuesday and pulled in at least two touchdown passes, including a nice sliding catch on a solid pass from Connor Cook. He got plenty of time catching passes with Stafford, as well.

Jahlani Tavai was mostly playing middle linebacker throughout the day, but it’s hard to get a sense of how he was doing without any contact at practice.

I didn’t get many notes on any other draft pick—Austin Bryant and Isaac Nauta didn’t participate in team drills—although fifth-round pick Amani Oruwariye appeared far down the depth chart.

Special teams notes

The Lions had a brief session where players were fielding punts. Jamal Agnew is assumed to win that role in 2019, but Danny Amendola, Tommylee Lewis, Brandon Powell and Tom Kennedy were also part of that drill.

Play of the Day

Lions receiver Chris Lacy had the play of the day with a leaping touchdown grab over cornerback Marcus Cooper. A Tom Savage pass came up a little short, but Lacy essentially pulled an interception away from Cooper by elevating over him.

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The part about Golladay and Jones reviewing plays on the tablet and big screen sounds pretty cool. But it does remind everyone that its a new offense and the guys will really need to hunker down in order to execute on gameday. They didn’t have to study as hard under Lombardi or JBC. If you ever got to the line of scrimmage and couldn’t remember what to do, all you had to do was ask the defender in front of you and they’d be able to tell you what you are supposed to be doing on that play.

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Excellent stuff, Wise. Thanks for sharing.

Fresh kool-aid for the masses.

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I got ya covered:

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Camp Caldwell. Where grown men come to relax in comfort.

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[quote=“Adrian, post:9, topic:844, full:true”]

I got ya covered:

Nice!

Imma needing enough to get me through preseason game 3…

Premixed Honolulu Blue in a freaking bottle!!

You kids don’t how damm easy you have it!

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Nice to read something positive said about Tabor. Who so far has been used only as a shim for leveling a coffee table.

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Notice, Cook and Savage are an upgrade over Cassel and Ruddock (sorry, Michigan fans, but, that was a no brainier).
You guys think I’m kidding that Cook is here long term. Drop your bias. He’s better than Cousins!
He’s the push!

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A great thing about the new offense is that it is based less on the QB pulling off a super performance in the second half, after a slow and limp Caldwell-like first half.

So if Stafford does go down, the emphasis on the great blocking/run game and passing to the TE’s will diminish the negative exposure on any QB that comes in to fill the void.

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I think Cook has more ceiling than many think, Bevell’s offense may very well suit him better and BTW the same could be said for Stafford and Savage. It don’t hurt when the defense has to honor the running game, and 3rd and 2 is a lot easier to convert than 3rd and 10.

And if the Lions Defense is improved then that puts less pressure on the Offense too. And hopefully less pressure and less often on Stafford, which again hopefully leads to a healthier and less beaten-up QB who throws fewer picks.

Anyway, back to Cook, he’s more mobile, right? Don’t know diddly about Savage, but I don’t think we should pre-judge too much, failure in one situation does not mean automatic failure in a different setting.

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If you’re right about Cook, I’ll not forget that you were out in front of it.

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I’m sure you’ll not forget if I’m wrong.:rofl:

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The rest of us will have that covered, dude. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I’m sure.
Been wrong before, but, not this time.:laughing:

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Hope you’re right about Cook, I don’t care where he’s from or where he went to school. Can he come in and not lose the game for us if he has to? Too soon to tell really, with a different Offense, different OC, different talent around him. Barring a bunch of injuries on offense, these guys ain’t half bad if Bevell can find ways to make them more productive. So, if Cook is going to make it in the NFL, he’s got a good chance right here case.

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