TC Notes ad Observations, 14 Aug

Joint practice in Houston, 9 am, and it’s already 86 degrees and heading north in a hurry.

Most of this is from a Houston reporter:

Hopkins vs. Slay, Fuller vs. Melvin in 1-on-1 reps as the Lions and Texans get going today. Really physical rep by Slay to force an incompletion.
Texans O running the ball well already. Two runs. First down. All behind Seantreal Henderson.
Oruwariye with a pick against Watson, jumped a hitch route.
Watson with dime to Fuller over Slay
Crockett and Tyron Johnson getting work with Watson’s group. Crockett with the reception
Watson and the O. No negative plays. 2nd O is up.
Second Texans O starts with a sack and a stuffed run of Karan Higdon
Joe Webb with the dime to Steven Mitchell Jr
First pass by Stafford knocked down by Blackson.
Kerryon Johnson for miminla gain. Stuffed by McKinney and Cunningham
Stafford throws a near pick. Colvin with the coverage downfield on the crosser. Bounces out when he hits the ground
Haven’t spotted Marvin Jones yet. Chris Lacy out with Golladay and Amendola for the 1s.
Lions Ty Johnson rips off a long run vs the Texans 2nd defense. Around the left end. Untouched would have been a TD, off blocks from Glasgow/Ragnow on the right side.
David Fells with the roll out. Nothing happening. Forced out by Joel Heath
Lions Justin Stockton with a final run. Tyrell Adams bounces off him and Stockton keeps running
Leakage up front by the Texans line. Lions DT Fred Jones gets the hatred(?) pass.
Watson comes back and hits Hopkins
Texans attempted to run a screen to the outside. Attempted was a nice word.
Devon Kennard with a free run up the gut. Would have been a sack on Watson
Now the #Texans offense with a penalty. Ugly
Joe Webb III gets Steven Mitchell Jr smoked
All types of flags on the Texans defense. Offsides and a hold.
Stafford to Ty Johnson one-on-one vs Jahleel Addae. Addae breaks up the quick slant
Matt Stafford hits Kerryon Johnson down the sideline over Tashaun Gipson. Nice leaping catch
Second D on. Omenihu called for the offsides
Josh Johnson to Logan Thomas in front of Bademosi. (Can’t be 2 of 'em with that name)
Now Johnson hits Nauta in front of Dylan Cole and Austin Exford.
Davin Bellamy knocks down the pass from Johnson as the line of scrimmage
WR Deontez Alexander makes catch of the day at Texans joint practices

As far as third-string, UDFA O-lines go, this Lions left side of Beau Benzschawel and Matt Nelson is starting to look pretty solid. Benzschawel just won two easy 1-on-1 reps.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin get into the backfield. Stops miller for a loss
Fred Jones and company stuffed the Crockett run.
Goodness. Hopkins makes a sliding hands catch for the TD besting Slay from Watson
Karan Higdon Jr with a hurdle and run to the endzone. Nice opening created by Rankin
Watson throws a pick in the endzone. Tracy Walker picks it off. Hopkins and Miller both in the same spot.
Oruwariye tackles Weah in the endzone. Flag
Mitchell Loewen runs past the Shakir to Webb. Would have been a sack.
Webb hits Tyron Johnson for the TD
Ty Johnson with the 20 yard TD run. Right up the gut untouched by the #Texans defense
Whitney Mercilus just put Taylor Decker in the spin cycle. Would have been a sack on Stafford
Josh Johnson almost put Andy Jones out for the season. Let him to dry for Jahleel Addae. He pulled off. Incomplete pass
Texans get the coverage sack by Omenihu
J.J. Watt beats his guy. Would have stopped CJ Anderson for a TFL
Brennan Scarlett misses slowing Nick Bawden out of the backfield. Stafford hits him for the easy TD toss.
Stafford trying to hit Logan Thomas. Throwing into traffic. Near pick by McKinney.
Watson back to back passes to Akins and Carter.
Slay vs Hopkins. Downfield battle. Forces a tough throw. Near one handed catch.
T.J. Hockenson left practice a few minutes ago and has yet to return. Trainers were checking his eyes/vision. May have been poked in the eye making a catch during red zone drills.
Stafford hits Tom Kennedy across the field. Now Isaac Nauta and then Kennedy again
Stafford misses to Chris Lacy. Roby with the coverage. Good pressure by a Cunningham up the gut.
Stafford going for Logan Thomas. Picked by Justin Reid.
J.J. Watt just torched Rick Wagner. Right into Matt Stafford. Refs blow the play dead. Mercilus also best Decker
Ryan Santoso misses the last second field goal attempt.
Practice has ended.

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From Twentyman and O’Hara,

Slay vs. Hopkins: Joint practices in Houston between the Lions and Texans means one of the best receivers in the game – DeAndre Hopkins – squared off against one of the league’s best corners – Darius Slay. In 1-on-1s Wednesday, Hopkins caught a short slant with Slay in tight coverage. Slay jammed Hopkins on the next rep and got him a little off balance off the line of scrimmage, and was on Hopkins’ hip on a deep route that was overthrown. It was pretty physical going down the sideline, and Slay could have been hit with a penalty. Hopkins made a nice over-the-shoulder grab on a deep ball in a team period, and later a sliding catch in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with Slay covering in a red-zone team period.

“That was great work,” Hopkins said after Wednesday’s practice vs. Slay. “Darius is one of the best doing it right now. He matches up against me well. I feel like going against him today I learned some things and we bounce some knowledge off each other.”—Tim Twentyman

Weather or not: For everyone who asks – and everyone does – it’s hot here. Hot and humid. The temperature at the end of practice was in the low 90’s, with a humidity of 53 percent that made it feel like 104 – and on the way to a high of 109 in late afternoon. By then, the teams were off the field. – Mike O’Hara

Wisconsin alums: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt found himself lined up across fellow Wisconsin alum and Lions right tackle Rick Wagner in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills. Wagner was up to the task and won both reps against Watt, but make no mistake, a player of Watt’s caliber is going to get his, too. He later put a terrific swim move on Wagner in a team period to disrupt a play, and had another nice rush toward the end of practice. Overall, Wagner was good in that matchup Wednesday. – Tim Twentyman

Center of attention: Frank Ragnow looks back at home in the move from left guard, where he played for the Lions as a rookie, to his college position of center. He showed that in one sequence of plays in the full team drill. He faced a linebacker over him in a two-point stance, a tackle lined up on his left shoulder, and a tackle on his nose. On that play, he gave no ground as the tackle moved to his right, then back to his left. – Mike O’Hara

Not just a runner: Kerryon Johnson’s ability to make plays as a pass catcher last year was a nice part of his game that wasn’t necessarily showcased in college at Auburn. He’s turning into a very good receiver. The Lions trust him to line up out wide as a receiver on some plays. He made a terrific catch on a wheel route down the right sideline in Wednesday’s practice. Johnson is going to make plays in the pass game. – Tim Twentyman

Catching on: Safety Quandre Diggs got tested twice on similar plays and made a play both times. The first was a pass in the right flat. Diggs rode the receiver out of bounds near the line of scrimmage. A few plays later, a receiver caught a pass on a similar play, but with a blocker in front. Diggs got through the blocker to stop that play at the line of scrimmage. – Mike O’Hara

Standing out: Two players on Detroit’s defense stood out to me Wednesday. Defensive end Romeo Okwara was tough to handle both in individual and team drills. I noted at least three sacks he could have had in team drills had it been live on the quarterback.

The other was safety Tracy Walker. Another day another interception for Walker, this one off Deshaun Watson in a red zone team period. He has a knack for the ball, and the range and frame to go get it. – Tim Twentyman

Short on receivers: I didn’t see Marvin Jones Jr. at practice, and Danny Amendola didn’t take part in any team reps. This after Jermaine Kearse was lost last week to a leg injury. Getting first-team reps Wednesday were Kenny Golladay, Chris Lacy and Tom Kennedy, with TommyLee Lewis in the slot. – Tim Twentyman

From Dave Birkett, Det FreeP:

HOUSTON — The Texas heat is no joke. (No kidding. By game time it’ll still be in the 90s with high humidity, unless they get a shower/storm)

The Detroit Lions and Houston Texans held their first of two joint practices Wednesday and it was a far cry from what we’ve seen the last two-plus weeks in Allen Park.

Not from a work standpoint. Lions coach Matt Patricia and Texans coach Bill O’Brien come from the same Patriots coaching tree, so the structure and tempo of practice is a lot like what the Lions have done all along.

But as for the conditions the Lions and Texans practiced in, well, to call it sweltering is to be kind.

I checked my phone a couple times during practice and the temperature was hovering right around 92 degrees with a heat index of 104. Many players tried their best to stay in the shade, under an awning between fields, at the start of practice, though the weather didn’t seem to affect anyone during drills.

There was a small breeze at times that made practice tolerable, and the Texans do have an enclosed cooling station, a freezer-like facility with benches, behind the end zone of one of their three fields to lower a player’s body temperature if needed.

But credit to the Lions for a) being in shape enough to make it through practice without issue, and b) preparing for the weather well in advance of their trip to Houston.

Patricia said he spent time Saturday talking to players about their hydration and food needs too, and he talked “a lot” with O’Brien about how to prepare his team for the weather.

“We’ve tried to stress that through the last 48 hours or so through the travel – obviously getting on the plane, that dehydrates you, too,” Patricia said. “Our sports science staff, our trainers, our doctors, they are really on top of it from that standpoint. We’ll go through practice and see how it goes and the big thing for us will be really how we recover tonight, this afternoon, and getting ready for another day of it tomorrow.”

The Lions, who’ve practiced in temperatures in the 70s and 80s for most of camp, open the regular season a little over three weeks from now in Arizona against the Cardinals. And while it’s not yet known if the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium will be open for that game, practicing in Houston can only help prepare the Lions for the heat they’ll feel in Arizona.

Patricia and O’Brien discussed joint practices long before the regular-season schedule came out and the Lions knew where they’d be Week 1, but Patricia said over the weekend that the Lions were “fortunate” the schedule worked out the way it did.

“It’s not a bad thing from that standpoint,” Patricia said. “Probably I think for me in general, wherever we opened up Week 1, it was just a great opportunity to work with someone that I know really well and kind of runs a similar operation from a standpoint of what’s required and how we need to practice and all that. I like the added part of the heat, just in general, regardless of where we play because I think it obviously helps the conditioning aspect of your team. To get down in some heat I think is good for everybody. To try to experience that and push through it and try to make us better.”

More observations from Wednesday’s practice:

• Several injured Lions did not make the trip to Houston, including defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand and quarterback Tom Savage. Savage, of course, is dealing with a concussion, but I’m told Hand will be back at some point from the arm injury that’s sidelined him most of camp. I wouldn’t hold my breath that he’ll be back for Week 1, but Hand had a good rookie season and the fact that he’ll be on the field this fall is good news for a Lions team that’s deep on the defensive line.

• Marvin Jones, Jarrad Davis, Tyrell Crosby and John Atkins were others who did not practice Wednesday, and I didn’t see Danny Amendola doing much of anything in team drills. Chris Lacy and undrafted rookie Tom Kennedy got snaps with the first-team offense in place of Jones and Amendola.

• Kennedy has some really good short-area burst, but he’s had an uneven training camp (and spring) since signing. Drops were a problem when we saw him in the spring, and he’s had trouble getting off jams as a gunner on special teams, but he showed his ability to separate in one-on-one drills Wednesday when he first looked like he beat Briean Boddy-Calhoun deep, then stopped on a dime to lose the cornerback on a comeback route.

• With Crosby out, Kenny Wiggins continued to work with the first-team offensive line at right tackle on Wednesday, and Joe Dahl and Graham Glasgow got first-team reps at guard. I didn’t see one-on-one pass-rush drills because of where I was situated on the field, but I saw the Lions and Texans working blocking against combo pass rushes later in practice and the Lions more than held their own in that drill.

J.J. Watt gave Rick Wagner some trouble with a speed rush, but the Lions’ first-team line won its other two snaps (against defensive line stunts). On the second-team, I thought Wiggins and Oday Aboushi traded off pass rushers well, while Andrew Donnal got too wide against Whitney Mercilus.

• The Lions did have a rough couple of offensive snaps in a team period earlier in practice. Decker appeared to get beat on two straight plays for potential sacks, once by Mercilus and once by (I think) Brennan Scarlett. Matthew Stafford’s pass to Ty Johnson on the third snap was broken up by former Central Michigan safety Jahleel Addae, then Kerryon Johnson made a nice catch on a wheel route on the fourth snap against another Texans defensive back.

• Johnson, by the way, is going to be a monster on that wheel route this year. He’s got nice hands and is a mismatch for linebackers down the sideline.

• When the second-team offense came in that same period, things didn’t go a whole lot better. Center Luke Bowanko was called for a false start when officials said he flinched the ball, and Patricia made him run a lap. The Texans broke up another pass a few plays later at the line of scrimmage.

• DeAndre Hopkins made the play of the day Wednesday, catching a ball in the back of the end zone from the seat of his pants against Darius Slay. Both the throw, which appeared to go through Quandre Diggs’ arms, and the catch were close to impossible. Slay said he considers Hopkins one of the two best receivers in the NFL, and that play showed why.

• Tracy Walker had a interception in red-zone work for the Lions a few plays before Hopkins’ impressive catch, and the Lions had a nice offensive showing in red-zone drills as Johnson broke a big run up the middle for a would-be touchdown and T.J. Hockenson used his big body to shield off a Texans defender for a nice catch.

• These two teams go at it again tomorrow, before an off day Friday and Game 2 of the preseason Saturday.

From Kyle Meinke, MLive:

HOUSTON – Why pack up training camp and fly across the country to practice in the sauna that is Texans camp?

It took exactly one rep of one-on-ones to find the answer.

Darius Slay has dominated Lions camp, especially in recent days. But getting to see DeAndre Hopkins, one of the finest receivers in the game – perhaps the very best, if you believe Slay – is a whole other challenge. And sure enough, Hopkins got him with a quick slant over the middle to open one-on-ones on Wednesday at the Houston Methodist Training Center.

But Slay’s defense was OK on the play. These drills favor the offense anyway, and Hopkins is one of the best in the business. And on their next rep, Slay got his revenge by reading Hopkins’ route and bumping him off it with some physical coverage. DeShaun Watson’s pass sailed long and incomplete.

Slay 1, Hopkins 1.

And this is how it went much of the day, Hopkins winning a rep here, Slay getting him there. Say what you will about Kenny Golladay, and there is plenty to say, but the Lions don’t have a receiver as dominant as Hopkins. To borrow from the coachspeak playbook, iron sharpens iron, and Slay was still jacked about all the good work he got in after practice.

“It goes back and forth all day,” Slay said. “He knows it, and I know it, and I just keep looking forward to it, man, because like I said, I need the work. He’s one of the top receivers in the game. It’s all mutual respect out there. I’m out here to make him better, and he out here to make me better.

"So he teaching me something new, and I’m trying to help him see something different.”

The same could be said of Watson.

The Texans quarterback established himself as one of the best dual-threats in the game last year, when he rushed for 551 yards and five touchdowns. That trailed only Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Buffalo’s Josh Allen at the position.

The Lions will open the season facing another dual-threat QB in Kyler Murray, but can’t exactly replicate that skill-set with the guys they have in camp. So getting in some work against a guy like Watson was especially productive for this defense.

“He looks good right now,” Slay said. “He moves well, he’s fluid. He has trust in his guys, and I mean, I would have trust in (Hopkins) too. …That’s good for us, good for our defense, or our line, our secondary, everybody. This is a good week of work for us, man.”

Here are some more observations from practice:

– Slay wasn’t the only corner making plays. Rookie Amani Oruwariye picked off Watson during one-on-ones, which is really difficult to do. There’s no rush, there’s no scheme, no help. Just mano-a-mano. That means the drill heavily favors the offense. Pass breakups are hard, and interceptions rare. But Oruwariye bumped Vyncint Smith with a heavy press and then picked off Watson’s pass.

Listen, I know the rookie struggled in the preseason opener, but I beg you not to read anything into it. Cornerback is such a difficult position to learn at this level. Just ask Darius Slay about that. He was benched twice as a rookie, and that was as a second-round pick. So Oruwariye, a fifth-rounder, is a long way from a finished product. But he has ability too, and has used that long frame to grab a few picks in camp. Consider me intrigued, especially if he isn’t pressed into action until next season.

– One more corner who stood out: Johnthan Alston. Don’t feel too bad if you’ve never heard the name. He just seemed like a camp body when the Lions signed him about a week ago, but make back-to-back pass breakups during one-on-ones today. The first, against tight end Jordan Akins, actually broke a string of five straight completions by Watson to open the drill. Then he broke up another pass intended for receiver Tyron Johnson. Alston has no realistic shot to make the team, but tip your hat to the kid for balling out against a good quarterback. He’s on my radar for the practice squad.

– Watson provided an excellent test for what the Lions can expect to see in Arizona to open the season. But the same goes for the heat. I’m not going to break any news here, but it’s hot here in August. My phone said it was already 87 degrees by the time Matt Patricia held his pre-practice presser, and that was around 8:30 a.m. local time. Temps were in the 90s throughout practice, and the heat index cracked the 100s.

Give Patricia credit, though, because his team looked prepared for it. Some veterans skipped the workout, like Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. But the guys who were out there actually weathered the elements quite well, and cramping wasn’t an issue.

“Making sure that we’re doing a good job with our players to hydrate and to make sure they are prepared," Patricia said. "We’ve tried to stress that through the last 48 hours or so through the travel – obviously getting on the plane, that dehydrates you too. Getting ready to go for today, we’re just going to have to do a really good job of monitoring everything. I’ve talked to coach O’Brien at length about taking his guidance and his lead as far as the heat is concerned because he is obviously in tune with it a little bit more than we are. Our sports science staff, our trainers, our doctors, they are really on top of it from that standpoint. We’ll go through practice and see how it goes and the big thing for us will be really how we recover tonight, this afternoon, and getting ready for another day of it tomorrow.”

– Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson left practice after catching a pass during red-zone drills and did not return. Trainers were testing his eyes/vision on the bench, so it’s possible he was poked in the eye. He was allowed to keep his helmet though and remained with the team through the end of practice, which suggest the injury is minor. No reason to worry unless he’s not practicing on Thursday.

– With guys like Hockenson, Amendola and Marvin Jones missing team reps, plenty of young guys got in good work with the ones. Chris Lacy got in a fourth straight day with the starters at receiver, and sure looks like a good bet to make the opening day roster. Kennedy, the former lacrosse player, got a long look in the slot against Houston. Seventh-round pick Isaac Nauta was with the top unit at tight end.

The backup who shined the most on offense, though, might have been Ty Johnson. He made two more big plays, one where he ran for a touchdown from about 15 yards out without being touched, and the other on a long wheel route. Then again, anyone paying attention the last couple of weeks shouldn’t be surprised. He was one of the stars of the opener against New England, when he ran three times for a team-high 22 yards, plus had a 13-yard pickup nullified by penalty. Yeah, this kid’s making the team.

– Mike Daniels was nowhere to be found. That doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t here somewhere – with three sprawling fields and no elevated place from which to watch practice, it made tracking players difficult – but I never found him. And he certainly wasn’t on the field. Which is odd, because he said just last week he’d be practicing in Houston. “I’ll be able to do some striking with the guys down there when we get to Houston,” Daniels said on NFL Network. "It’s a process. Honestly, I could play (in the preseason opener) tomorrow, but it’s just a matter of being smart. Just continuing to strengthen everything, continue to get in shape and everything. So it’s just being smart. But I’ll be out there soon.”

Daniels signed with the Lions on July 26, and was expected to need some time to be ready to go. But three weeks? And he’s still missing practice? When he said he’d be back? Expect Patricia to be asked about this on Thursday, because this is weird.

– Other players I did not see practicing included Jarrad Davis, Da’Shawn Hand, Teez Tabor, Snacks Harrison, Tyrell Crosby and John Atkins.

– While the defensive line remains short handed, I was impressed by the offensive line’s ability to handle a really talented Houston front. Rick Wagner had some trouble handling J.J. Watt, as you might expect, but the rest of those guys held their own in one-on-ones and two-on-twos. I was especially impressed with Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow and Graham Glasgow on the interior. They weathered Houston’s stunts and games quite well.

– One offensive lineman who had some issues was backup Luke Bowanko. When he drew a flag for a false start during team drills, he was immediately sent off the field by an irritated Patricia and ran a lap around the practice fields. Patricia did more yelling practice during this practice than I can remember in most others, but then again, maybe I was just noticing it more because reporters were so much closer to the action than we are allowed to be in Allen Park.

From Justin Rogers, Det News:

Houston – Here are some notes and observations from Wednesday’s joint practice between the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.

When attending practice, my focus is generally geared toward players likely to contribute during the upcoming season, but sometimes a fringe player catches my attention.

After the teams went through their stretching period and some light individual drills, one of the first shared segments I caught up close was one-on-ones between Detroit’s defensive backs and Houston’s receivers. As a friendly reminder, this drill heavily favors the offense, so it’s no surprise Houston’s receivers largely got the better of the matchups, including receptions on the first six reps.

The seventh rep belonged to newcomer Johnathan Alston, who signed with the Lions a little more than a week ago. On a deep back-shoulder ball, Alston was there, stride for stride. He did a nice job reading the receiver as he turned his head and raised his hands to make the catch, netting a pass breakup.

On Alston’s next rep, against rookie receiver Tyron Johnson, the cornerback’s footwork was outstanding, mirroring Johnson as he tried to come back for the ball, resulting in another knock away.

Realistically, Alston doesn’t have great roster odds, but there’s time to show enough to earn a practice squad job, which could lead to an opportunity down the road.

  • Also in those one-on-ones, Darius Slay matched up against All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins twice. On the first, Hopkins got an easy win running a slant pattern. On the second, Slay aggressively jostled with the receiver on a deep route, resulting in the ball sailing over Hopkins’ head.

In a game, there’s a good chance Slay gets hit with a illegal contact or defensive holding and the fans in attendance didn’t shy away from letting him know.

Other cornerbacks who had good reps included PBUs from nickelbacks Jamal Agnew and Justin Coleman and an impressive interception by Amani Oruwariye. Working against Vincent Smith, Oruwariye was able to match the receiver’s path back to the quarterback, then muscle away the ball from Smith’s grasp.

Oruwariye is still inconsistent with his technique, as clearly demonstrated in the preseason opener, but he’s flashed a ton on the practice field, showcasing good use of his length and a nose for the ball.

  • The teams ran a lot of full-team scrimmage work during a morning where the thermometer hit 90 and the humidity made it feel closer to 100 degrees.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn’t particularly sharp. He had his first pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and nearly had the next one picked off when cornerback Aaron Colvin jumped a route intended for Chris Lacy.

Stafford book-ended the day, getting picked off by safety Justin Reid.

  • Rookie running back Ty Johnson continues to flash with his speed. Likely due to the team limiting reps overall, he got some rare work with the first-team offense and made a strong impression, bursting around the left side of the line for a big gain to start the day.

When the teams shifted to red zone work, Johnson took the first handoff and shot through the gut behind blocks from Frank Ragnow and Graham Glasgow, going nearly untouched for a 15-yard touchdown.

  • Josh Johnson continued to work in the backup quarterback slot. At this rate, I would expect him to see the majority of reps in the first half of Saturday’s game.

  • Miles Killebrew, who was doing some individual work with the safeties early in practice, made back-to-back plays in full-team work, breaking up a pass from backup quarterback Joe Webb and stuffing a Karan Higdon run.

-Houston’s offensive line, one of the team’s top issues in recent years, had a rough stretch during full-team work, drawing back-to-back holding calls, followed by a false start.

On the holds, the Lions arguably would have had a pair of sacks, with Kevin Strong leading the charge, collapsing the pocket on the first, and defensive end Romeo Okwara beating his man on the second.

  • The one-on-one pass rush drills, between Detroit’s defensive line and Houston’s offensive line were uneventful. The highly physical drill, which can sometimes lead to altercations, was quickly whistled dead any time a defender’s initial move was stymied. In the handful of reps I watched, the only Lions player to earn a quick win was defensive tackle P.J. Johnson.

  • Back to the red zone segment, the Texans first attempt lasted all of two plays when quarterback Deshaun Watson essentially threw a pass directly into the arms of safety Tracy Walker, who intercepted it in the end zone.

Watson rebounded with a second attempt. Facing third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, he threaded a needle around safety Quandre Diggs to Hopkins, who made the sliding grab in the back of the end zone in front of Slay.

  • Stafford was better in the red zone, as well. After Ty Johnson’s touchdown carry, Stafford connected with fullback Nick Bawden out of play-action from the I-formation. It’s to the point where I’d be surprised if Bawden didn’t catch 10-15 passes this season. He could be an underrated pass-game weapon in the red zone.

  • Another thing I expect to see in the regular season is Kerryon Johnson getting open on a wheel route. It wasn’t a strength a year ago, but it’s something where his improvement has been noticeable. Stafford once again connected with the back for a sizable gain.

  • T.J. Hockenson briefly exited action after making a contested catch in the red zone. He didn’t have to go in for treatment and another reporter noted the rookie tight end was getting his eye checked after possibly getting poked.

  • There were some rough moments for rookie safety Will Harris who got bullied on a block from offensive tackle Matt Kalil. Unable to avoid the block or shed the take-on, Harris got driven back 10-15 yards on a quick out to Hopkins.

Harris was also beat for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone by Tyron Jonnson.

  • Due to a number of injuries up front, defensive tackle Fred Jones continues to get reps with the first-team defense and batted down a Watson pass at the line.

  • Jarrad Davis remains out of action, but was on the field stretching with his teammates early in practice. Damon Harrison was also in attendance. There was no sign of Mike Daniels, Marvin Jones, Tyrell Crosby, Teez Tabor, Da’Shawn Hand or Tom Savage. Most of that group presumably did not make the trip.

Danny Amendola, Tavon Wilson and John Atkins were largely limited to conditioning on the sidelines.

From Jeremy Reisman, PoD:

WR1 vs. CB1

Let’s start with Darius Slay vs. DeAndre Hopkins: the premier matchup of this week of practices. Most noted that it was a back-and-forth competition between the two, and the tape seems to agree.

Early on, Slay got the best of Hopkins on a physical one-on-one rep, but Hopkins would beat Slay on at least one more reps throughout the day.

And Will Fuller got him once, too:

Lions offensive line improves

The Texans defensive front isn’t what it used to be, but with J.J. Watt and company, they’re still a force to be reckoned with. But many beat writers were impressed with how the Lions responded. Here’s a sampling

MLive’s Kyle Meinke:

“I was impressed by the offensive line’s ability to handle a really talented Houston front”

Freep’s Dave Birkett:

I saw the Lions and Texans working blocking against combo pass rushes later in practice and the Lions more than held their own in that drill.

J.J. Watt gave Rick Wagner some trouble with a speed rush, but the Lions’ first-team line won its other two snaps (against defensive line stunts). On the second-team, I thought Wiggins and Oday Aboushi traded off pass rushers well, while Andrew Donnal got too wide against Whitney Mercilus.

Of course, it was far from a perfect day for the Lions offense, as it seems like Whitney Mercilus especially gave the Lions trouble throughout the day.

Whitney Mercilus just put Taylor Decker in the spin cycle. Would have been a sack on Stafford.


Johnson had at least two big plays on Wednesday that had both the Texans and Lions beat writers turning their head.

One of the day’s bigger Lions plays was a walk-in touchdown run by Ty Johnson, off blocks from Glasgow/Ragnow on the right side.

Lions DBs bother Deshaun Watson

Watson provided a unique threat to the Lions with his two-way play, but it looks like Detroit’s defensive backs held their own against one of the most dangerous passers in the league.

kyle meinke:

Lions corners made a bunch of nice plays on Deshaun Watson today.

Lions training camp observations:

Among those playmakers include Tracy Walker, who had a pick on Wednesday, Amani Oruwariye, who nabbed a rare interception during one-on-one drills, and recently-signed Johnathan Alston. Here’s more on Alston’s performance from Meinke:

“The first, against tight end Jordan Akins, actually broke a string of five straight completions by Watson to open the drill. Then he broke up another pass intended for receiver Tyron Johnson.”

Even Houston beat writers were impressed with the Lions’ secondary. Here’s’s John Harris:

I did think that the Lions defensive backs were solid in that 1-on-1 period. They were physical and aggressive through the catch point. Slay leads that group, but Rashaan Melvin has a bunch of experience against the Texans, having been with the Colts. Overall, they made an impression throughout the 1-on-1 period, in particular.