TC Notes and Observations, 10 Aug

I thought the practices were closed from now on and the beat-writers wouldn’t be allowed in. Wrong again, he practices were closed but the beat-writers were there and have filed some reports. Which I will dutifully provide, free of charge:

From Jeremy Reisman, PoD:

I thought the practices were closed and there wouldn’t be any further notes snd obsefvations. Not so, I guess:

For the first time this training camp, the Detroit Lions took the field with no crowd in the stands. But as the team practiced for the first time since their preseason opener, Pride of Detroit was on hand to witness everything—new backup quarterback and all.

Here’s our training camp Day 12 observations:

Unsurprisingly, the Lions were a little more beat up after their preseason game on Thursday. Gone were Jermaine Kearse and Darius Kilgo, both placed on reserve-injured earlier in the day.

Here’s a breakdown of everyone else:

Not dressed:

Tom Savage (concussion protocol, not at practice)
Tyrell Crosby
Ray Smith
Da’Shawn Hand
Mike Daniels
Tre Lamar
Teez Tabor
Steve Longa
Damon Harrison Sr.
Matthew Stafford

Obviously, Savage, Crosby and Lamar are all new names to this section.

And before you panic about that last name, don’t worry:

Justin Rogers
When the Lions hit the practice field today, quarterback Matthew Stafford won’t be doing much today other than some light individual drills. It’s not injury-related. Previously scheduled day off for the veteran quarterback.
That being said, the “veteran day off” thing is abnormal for Stafford. Of course, being short handed at quarterback, there’s no reason to push the best one you’ve got.

Dressed but not full participation

Marvin Jones Jr.
Mark Thompson
Marcus Cooper
Trey Flowers
Jamal Agnew

Marcus Cooper was dressed for the first time in a week or two, but did not participate in team drills. Jamal Agnew and Mark Thompson did not do team nor individual drills, but stayed active on the bikes. Trey Flowers was taken off the PUP on Saturday, but did not do much in his first day back. It’s unclear what was going on with Marvin Jones, but the Lions receiver did not go through individuals or team drills on Saturday.

Offensive line shakeup

With Tyrell Crosby out, it sent a domino effect down the Lions offensive line. Here’s what the top two units looked like.

Team 1:

LT: Taylor Decker
LG: Joe Dahl
C: Frank Ragnow
RG: Graham Glasgow
RT: Rick Wagner

This was the first time we’ve seen an entire practice with Dahl and Glasgow at the guard positions. Typically the pairings have been Kenny Wiggins with Glasgow and Dahl with Oday Aboushi. This could be a sign that Dahl is a serious contender for the starting left guard job, but there’s a different explanation that becomes apparent with the second team lineup:

LT: Andrew Donnal
LG: Beau Benzschawel
C: Luke Bowanko
RG: Oday Aboushi
RT: Kenny Wiggins

Wiggins took over the vacant tackle spot left from Crosby’s absence, which can’t be a good sign of the team’s confidence in their third-string tackles Ryan Pope and Matt Nelson. Taking Wiggins out of the guard position not only bumps Dahl to the starting unit, but gives Wisconsin UDFA Beau Benzschawel a shot with the second-team offense.

Of course, after the Lions’ nine-sack performance on Thursday night, a shakeup on the offensive line was due anyways.

Let’s talk backup quarterbacks

With Matthew Stafford sidelined, it was the David Fales show for most of the day, and the results were not very encouraging. As we’ve seen all camp, Fales was slow reading defenses, held onto the ball too long and took unnecessary sacks.

His accuracy, too, left a lot to be desired. During one-on-one drills, Fales was so inaccurate that it appeared some receivers were frustrated after not getting the ball where they needed it to be.

As for Josh Johnson, he didn’t get a ton of reps. That’s understandable, of course, as he needs to be eased into the offense. What I did see was another strong-armed quarterback during warmups. However, when it came to 11-on-11s, he barely threw the ball down field. I charted him going 4-for-7 during the final few sets of full-team drills, but he only threw one ball more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He gets a big incomplete from me. Though it is notable that he was one of the last players to leave the practice field, getting in a bunch of extra passes before heading inside.


We’ve talked plenty about T.J. Hockenson’s dominance as a receiver this training camp, and Saturday was another display of that, hauling in at least two more scores and a couple extra contested grabs. But Hockenson’s blocking skills were evident.

During one-on-one blocking drills—a drill that heavily favors the defense—Hockenson easily kept Devon Kennard at bay (Kennard would later get his revenge against Jesse James). And then in full 11-on-11s, Hockenson helped seal the edge on one of those classic Kerryon Johnson carries off the left edge. The run likely would have gone for 15-20 yards.

Odds and ends

Pretty solid day for wide receiver Jonathan Duhart. He had the catch of the day with a sideline toe tapper that got the offense going wild. He also ran a crisp route in one-on-ones that left newbie Jonathan Alston in the dust.
Amani Oruwariye had the lone interception on the day. Every day it seems he has at least one or two plays in which he gets his hands on the ball. Now he needs to string those reps together and be a little more consistent.
Christian Jones is back to being a full participant in camp and had a nice sack during team drills.
As much as I bagged on Fales, he did throw a very impressive back-shoulder pass to Tom Kennedy with Andre Chachere in tight coverage.
Another day, another Kevin Strong tackle for loss.
With Jamal Agnew sidelined for the day, Ty Johnson was the first to take kick return reps. However, he remained out of the group in punt return. Brandon Powell, Tommylee Lewis, Danny Amendola and Quandre Diggs were the four in the rotation there.

From Birkett, DetFreeP:

Matthew Stafford hasn’t missed a start in nine years, and the Detroit Lions are trying to keep it that way by managing his reps in training camp.

The Lions gave Stafford a “rest” day Saturday, the same day they welcomed new quarterback Josh Johnson to town.

Stafford did not participate in team drills at practice after a team day off Friday and not playing in Thursday’s exhibition opener against the New England Patriots.

Stafford still put in a full workday, maybe even longer. He was a sounding board for Johnson and David Fales during practice, ran the conditioning hill with teammates after practice, and even returned to the hill with character coach Dylan Thompson for extra running after all of his teammates hit the locker room.

Stafford hasn’t had the best camp. He hasn’t been bad by any means, but he hasn’t been consistently great, either, especially on deep passes. And he’s coming off a disappointing 2018 season in which he had his lowest passing total (3,777 yards) since 2010.

I asked Stafford if his arm felt OK as he walked off the field Saturday and got an enthusiastic, “Oh yeah.”

My understanding is the Lions had this rest period planned for a while, taking into account the work Stafford would get in back-to-back joint practices and the 10 days between preseason games.

Still, it’s definitely something to keep an eye going forward.

Stafford had right shoulder surgery nine years ago and has more than 5,400 regular-season attempts on his arm, plus countless other throws in practice and from the first 20 years of his life. He’s entering his 11th NFL season, but he’s also just 31 years old.

We’re not talking about a 40-something-year-old hanging on to the last bits of his NFL career here. We’re talking about a guy who should have another decade left in the league.

Training camp is long — the regular-season opener is still almost a month away — so there are no red flags being raised. But it’s an interesting approach for one of the NFL’s leading ironmen all the same.

The Lions have just one week of open practices left, Sunday and Tuesday in Allen Park and then joint practices next week against the Houston Texans, so I’m down to my final few observation columns.

Here’s what stood out on Saturday:

• Fales took first-team reps at quarterback Saturday, with Johnson working with the second-team, but I doubt it’s long before Johnson unseats Fales as the backup.

We don’t know how long Tom Savage will be out with his concussion, but I’d feel more comfortable with Johnson as my backup heading into the season than Fales, and I imagine the Lions will ultimately feel the same.

• Trey Flowers practiced on a limited basis in his first day off the physically unable to perform list. He didn’t do any team drills, and the Lions were without several other regulars. Still no Mike Daniels, Da’Shawn Hand, Damon Harrison (non-football injury list) or Teez Tabor. Jarrad Davis and Austin Bryant remain out with injuries. Jamal Agnew spent part of practice riding an exercise bike, and I checked Marvin Jones off my list when I took attendance but didn’t see him on the field during drills.

• Hand, by the way, has a new brace on his injured elbow. It’s not quite as clunky as the one he was fitted with after initially injuring his arm but it’s still a large post-op brace with a hinge that limits his range of motion.

• With Jones out, and Jermaine Kearse on injured reserve, Chris Lacy got first-team reps as the Lions’ third receiver alongside Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola. Lacy did have one drop on a ball that was a little high, but I think he has the inside track at one of those final two receiver spots for now (along with, probably, rookie sixth-round pick Travis Fulgham) because of his size and strong camp.

• T.J. Hockenson made a couple nice catches in team drills late in practice, but neither would have counted in games as Fales, who leaves the pocket entirely too much, would have been sacked on both throws.

• Fales did throw a touchdown pass to Golladay on a push-up play on the Lions’ final team period of the day, but defensive players were animated in their complaints that they would have sacked Fales there, too. Matt Patricia wasn’t buying it, though, and gave the win to the offense, making the defense drop and do push-ups.

• After giving up nine sacks last week against the Patriots, it was good to see the offensive line bounce back with a strong day in one-on-one drills. The usual caveats apply about no Flowers, Hand, Harrison, etc., but Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Rick Wagner all had strong reps with the first team. Joe Dahl played left guard with the first team Saturday and got pushed back by A’Shawn Robinson for what probably would have amounted to a quarterback pressure. Graham Glasgow also withstood an initial blow by Kevin Strong to win his rep.

• Kenny Wiggins, who started at left guard against the Patriots, took second-team reps at right tackle Saturday with Tyrell Crosby out with a concussion. Wiggins won his only rep of one-on-one, stymieing a rush by Eric Lee.

From Mike Rothstein, ESPN:

Some thoughts from Detroit Lions practice Saturday:

-Josh Johnson has been out there for one practice, but he already looked sharper in many situations than David Fales. He had a nice outside rolling throw to receiver Jonathan Duhart, who snagged it hard out of the air on the sideline. The play brought a pretty big cheer from the Lions offense – and showed some of what Johnson could do. It was pretty clear he’s still learning things (as expected) and was seen taking extra reps following practice.

-As mentioned before, a lot of Lions players didn’t do much today, including Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones. Not much to be concerned about there with the two vets. One player did make his way back, Trey Flowers, but it’s clear the Lions are going to work him back instead of throwing him in full-go immediately.

-With Tyrell Crosby not practicing, a surprise player made an appearance at left tackle with the second unit: Kenny Wiggins. Seems like Detroit might be testing him a bit there as they already know what he can do on the interior. Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl worked with the No. 1 unit at guard on Saturday.

-UDFA offensive tackle Ryan Pope, who the Lions gave a good amount of guaranteed money to this year, struggled in one-on-one reps, routinely beaten by his opponent. He’s largely been working with the third team, which means he’ll have to make a push here soon to try and win a roster spot.

-Jermaine Kearse’s injury leaves that No. 4 receiver spot wide open. Chris Lacy will likely get every opportunity to win that job, but don’t be surprised if Brandon Powell and Travis Fulgham push him for it. It’s not clear how many receivers Detroit will keep this year, but they need a backup slot (and that’s a role Powell can definitely play) and none of the receivers behind the three roster locks (Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola) have shown a bunch yet. It’s going to be a battle to watch the last three weeks of camp.

From Twentyman and O’Hara,

Day of rest: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was given a rest day Saturday. He didn’t take part in practice. Training camp is long, and that right arm of his throws a lot of passes throughout the course of a practice. Stafford didn’t play in Thursday’s preseason opener and the players were off Friday. Counting Saturday, that’s a nice three days of rest for the 11-year vet ahead of what’s expected to be a busy week in Houston going through joint practices with the Texans. – Tim Twentyman

QB, cram course: Josh Johnson, signed Saturday to add quarterback depth because of the concussion sustained by Tom Savage, stayed after practice long after it had ended. Working alone, he practiced drop backs and throwing the ball to a member of the staff. Obviously, he has to make up for lost practice time. – Mike O’Hara

Versatility: Coaches and front office personnel use that word all the time in describing players that can do multiple things on the football field. A great example of that Saturday was guard Kenny Wiggins, who played a lot of right tackle. Tyrell Crosby is dealing with an undisclosed injury suffered in Thursday’s preseason loss to the Patriots, so Wiggins stepped into the tackle role Saturday and held his own. He won his 1-on-1 pass-rushing rep against Eric Lee and had a nice block in space in a team drill on a pitch out right to the back behind him that got his offensive teammates fired up. The more a player can do, the better chance he has to make the initial 53. – Tim Twentyman

T.J. Replay: Another day, another highlight catch by rookie tight end T. J. Hockenson. He made a leaping catch in the right corner of the end zone. It got some shouts and high fives from teammates. – Mike O’Hara

Not to be outdone: Hockenson’s catch was good, but the catch of the day belonged to rookie wide receiver Jonathan Duhart, who made a terrific lunging grab along the right sideline with cornerback Dee Virgin draped all over him. Johnson rolled out of the pocket right and had to throw the ball high and away from the defender. Duhart reached up and got it while managing to keep his feet inbounds. The play happened right in front of wide receivers coach Robert Price, who was especially animated after play, along with the rest of the offense. – Tim Twentyman

From Justin Rogers, DetNews:

Allen Park — Here are notes and observations from Saturday’s Detroit Lions training camp practice.

  • Among the players not participating in practice was quarterback Matthew Stafford. Coach Matt Patricia informed The News this was a pre-planned day off for the 10-year veteran prior to the team’s upcoming joint practices in the sweltering Houston heat.

With Stafford sitting out, and primary backup Tom Savage shelved by a concussion, David Fales and Saturday-morning-signing Josh Johnson split the quarterbacking reps. Needless to say, the offense struggled in Stafford’s absence.

Fales, much he did in Thursday’s preseason opener, struggled to consistently connect with his targets. He also continued with some camp trends of holding on to the ball too long or bailing from the pocket too quickly. If it had been a live-tackling environment, there would have been more than a few sacks.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola got visibly frustrated on multiple occasions, shouting loud enough to be heard from the opposite end of the field.

As for Johnson, he seemed surprisingly comfortable, given it was his first day and he was thrust into a heavy workload, but that’s probably part of the package when you sign a guy who has played for a dozen other teams during his career.

Johnson did show some rust on intermediate and longer throws, but had a clean, crisp throwing motion combined with better poise in the pocket than Fales.

  • The key players who have been out with injury remained out of commission, with Jarrad Davis, Teez Tabor, Da’Shawn Hand and Austin Bryant all sidelined. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels also continued to be a non-participant.

New injuries included offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby, cornerback Jamal Agnew, linebacker Tre Lamar and running back Mark Thompson.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones was out on the field early, but didn’t participate in any of the competitive portions of practice.

  • Joe Dahl received first-team reps at left guard, alongside the rest of the projected starting unit. The second group saw Kenny Wiggins at right tackle, to help compensate for Crosby’s absence, and undrafted rookie Beau Benzschawel at left guard.

  • In one-on-one routes run by the tight ends, the defenders got their hands on several passes. Tracy Walker knocked one away intended for Jesse James, Jalen Reeves-Maybin batted down a throw intended for Logan Thomas, and Andrew Adams also broke up a pass for James.

  • T.J. Hockenson, working against cornerback Rashaan Melvin, wasn’t able to get much separation, but still managed to make the catch down the seam on a tight-window throw where the corner didn’t get his head around.

  • Melvin did a better job on a deep ball to Kenny Golladay, staying stride for stride and netting a breakup.

  • Darius Slay was slow to get up after a one-on-one rep, but after a brief conversation with a trainer, returned to action and finished the practice.

  • For the second time in the past few days, wide receiver Brandon Powell seemed to be tweak something with his left leg. He fought through the pain, but it’s something that could impact him going forward, given the important of quickness and change-of-direction to his skill set.

  • Hockenson came up with a nice, leaping grab in the end zone over cornerback Amani Oruwariye. (Although Fales would have been sacked by Devon Kennard on the play.)

  • On the next play, Oruwariye didn’t have to leave his feet to pick off a poorly placed fade intended for Kenny Golladay.

From Kyle Meinke, MLive:

ALLEN PARK – Matthew Stafford got a rare off day on Saturday, which you can read more about here. And that meant David Fales got a rare day in the Lions’ starting lineup, which you can read more about below.

But it wasn’t pretty.

Fales missed his targets early and often. Josh Johnson, operating as the No. 2 on his first day on the job, was better, especially in the short field. But he also missed a lot on everything else. Maybe that’ll come once he has more than a few hours to glance at a playbook, but Fales has been around for months and needs to be better.

In one series of one-on-ones, Lions quarterbacks missed on their first five attempts. That includes one play where Danny Amendola had multiple steps on Justin Coleman in the short field, but Fales just simply missed him. Team rules prohibit me from disclosing what players say in practice, but let’s just say Amendola screamed something that could be heard by reporters sitting at least 60 yards away.

On the next play, Mike Ford picked off the football.

There were some good plays too, sure. Rookie Jonathan Duhart caught a nice top-tapper along the right sideline, then hung onto the football as he fell into the middle of the offensive bench. Players were clearly impressed by the play, and mugged the rookie as he stood to his feet.

But good plays like that were too often followed by bad ones. For example, the Lions moved into seven-on-sevens next. Fales opened with a completion to Amendola, but then missed on a throw to a covered Amendola on the next play, then missed Chris Lacy long, then missed Tommylee Lewis low.

He did complete his next pass to Lewis, but if there had been live hitting, Lewis would have had his head taken off.

During another segment of team drills, Fales connected with tight end T.J. Hockenson for a touchdown that was among the best plays of the day. But he also would have been sacked by Devon Kennard in a live setting, and threw a pick to rookie Amani Oruwariye on the very next play.

I have more notes, but I realize I don’t need them. What I’m trying to say is the Lions are in trouble if anything happens to Matthew Stafford, and anyone watching the game on Thursday night already knew that anyway. Fales just isn’t the same kind of player.

Johnson isn’t either, of course, but I have to say there was a professionalism to his first practice in a new city. Which you might expect from a guy who has played for a dozen teams, I guess. I still think Tom Savage is probably the leader for QB2, but I’m interested to see Johnson’s development once he has a chance to crack a playbook for more than a couple hours.

Here are some more observations:

– A bad day for the offense also means a good day for the defense. I had guys like Tracy Walker, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Andrew Adams and Rashaan Melvin all with pass breakups.

– Change could be afoot on the offensive line, as Joe Dahl was repping with the rest of the first unit at left guard. Dahl has alternated those reps with Kenny Wiggins throughout camp, sure, but his days were always when Oday Aboushi replaced Graham Glasgow at right guard. This was the first time Dahl was in the starting lineup with the other four projected starters. Dahl was one of the few bright spots up front against New England, too, plus signed that two-year extension earlier in the week. He seems to be in play for that last job, and might even be leading for it. He told me after practice his added strength is really helping, and it shows. He currently checks in around 310 pounds, and has added about 10 or 15 pounds of muscle since last year.

– Trey Flowers made his return to practice, but was limited to mostly individual drills. I did not see him take a team snap. Expect to see his activity ramped up a bit Sunday, as the Lions try to feel out just how much he can do next week in Houston.

– Offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby did not practice after sustaining an unknown injury against New England. The Detroit Free Press reported he had a brain injury, but coach Matt Patricia declined to say exactly what he’s dealing with. Cornerback Jamal Agnew, linebacker Tre Lamar and running back Mark Thompson also did not participate, in addition to the regular absentees like Mike Daniels, Da’Shawn Hand, Snacks Harrison, Teez Tabor and Austin Bryant.

Receiver Marvin Jones did suit up and caught a few balls early, but sat out the rest of practice, including all of team drills. That just feels like veteran rest to me, much like Stafford, but we’ll see.

Ok…as down as I was about picking a TE again this early I’m starting to get the feeling he is already the Lions best player. Haha

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From Chris Burke, TheAthleticDet:

5 late-night thoughts from Day Whatever Day It Is of #Lions camp:

  1. Hard to get much of a read on the offense because the QB play was so shaky with Stafford taking the day off. If Tom Savage is out for a bit, I’d probably bet on Josh Johnson winning the No. 2 job.

  2. The Lions absolutely have to find another OT or two for depth. Second-team tackles Saturday were Wiggins and Donnal, and I can’t imagine the staff would feel great with either of them if something happened to Decker/Wagner. We’ll see how long Crosby is out.

  3. Not to harp on the QB play, but I legitimately thought Danny Amendola might lose it after a couple of misfired throws. Offense had to do push-ups after he came free on a corner route but the pass sailed over his head. Even with the backups, it’s gotta be better.

  4. Dee Virgin might sneak onto this roster as the last CB. He made a couple of nice plays in Thursday’s game and he’s consistently attackijg the ball during 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s. Doesn’t hurt him that he’s worked into the special-teams rotation either.

  5. Christian Jones has been in and out of action during camp (and didn’t play Thursday), but he looks very confident when he’s out there. Won a couple 1-on-1 pass rush reps today and got into the backfield for what would have been a sack during 11-on-11s.

Ugghh…this is bad.

Staff is the man.

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LOL…every writer is bagging on Fails.

Well, maybe it’s well-deserved. You kinda have to wonder though, if holding onto the ball too long is a problem then why is he still doing it? Does he not have an open receiver? Is he waiting too long to check down? It’s true that sometimes he doesn’t get enough time, but in practice? I dunno, but he ain’t gonna make the roster anyway, it looks like.