TC Notes and Observations, 26 July

Another morning practice, with helmets and shoulder pads but in shorts. I think they’ll be in full pads tomorrow. The comments that follow in this post are from Kent Lee Platte, known as @MathBomb on twitter. Will post the other writers’ stuff as I find it.

  • A’Shawn Robinson excused from training camp for ‘personal matter’

  • Kennedy with a drop, but throw was way high and behind him.

  • Kennedy with another drop on a back shoulder pass.

  • Beautiful route by Danny Amendola, he’s smooth.

  • Jermaine Kearse route running has been…not swell.

  • Brandon Powell with a nice crisp route just now running a corner.

  • Fulgham with a decent fade. Then Golladay makes everyone look bad by being awesome.

  • Nice little toe tap in the end zone by Deontez Alexander.

  • Travis Fulgham needs to work on his timing. Seems to go in the air too early too often.

  • Austin Traylor with a nice catch in the end zone, got wide open.

  • Logan Thomas with a fantastic catch over Diggs, Diggs had his hand in there but Thomas said nah.

  • Nick Bawden with a stupid good catch while double covered, neither defender could knock it out.

  • Logan Thomas seems to be a favorite target for Stafford in these red zone drills.

  • Jesse James with a drop in the red zone. Defender was in good coverage to disrupt the trajectory so Stafford had to go wide.

  • Hockenson over Tavai in the back corner of the end zone. Tavai does some push ups after.

  • Some very light work by the OL. Matt Nelson, a probable practice squander, is huge.

  • Lions DB Marcus Cooper walked back to the locker room with a trainer. Not sure what he did exactly.

  • Brandon Powell with a neat little move on punt return.

  • Jarrad Davis and Tracy Walker with a joint pass breakup on a pass to Hockenson in the red zone. Nice work by both defenders.

  • Kearse draws some crowd ahs with a nice fingertip catch in the end zone.

  • Logan Thomas continues to have a great day, another end zone catch.

  • Mike Ford, Tavon Wilson, and Jalen Reeves Maybin making it hell for Tom Savage in these red zone drills.

  • Tabor and Diggs all over Golladay on a throw that probably shouldn’t have been attempted.

  • Ty Johnson running behind Nick Bawden could be fun. Gave him a crease and if going full speed he could have been gone.

  • Andy Jones with a slick catch with Amani Oruwariye covering. Oruwariye was tight and got his hand on it, but Jones won the tip.

  • Amani Oruwariye with a near pick, dropped.

  • David Fales reads defenses like I read Twilight. In that he never has and probably never will.

  • David Fales with a nice floater to Tom Kennedy in the end zone. Kennedy got about ten yards open.

  • Rashaan Melvin with a pick, jumped an underthrown pass.

  • Stafford with a pass too tall for Hockenson, who got his fingers on it.

  • Jevon Kearse with a nice touchdown grab with Tabor covering. Coverage wasnt bad, just a great grab.

  • Isaac Nauta with a touchdown grab. Nice throw.

  • David Fales had nobody open. Throws to Travis Fulgham who caught it in the end zone, but had stepped out of bounds.

  • Andrew Adams with a nice breakup on Hockenson, with Garret Dooley over the top.

  • David Fales throws to the end zone. Nobody was there.

  • Austin Traylor trips over himself. David Fales waits too long to hit Jon Duhart who caught it out of the end zone.

  • C.J. Moore with a great breakup in the end zone. Charles Washington picked it before it hit the dirt.

  • Logan Thomas can flyyyyy

  • Matthew Stafford with a one handed catch on a go route. You read that right.

  • Hock with another TD grab. Stafford having fun with these tight ends down there.

  • Garrett Dooley getting more play at LB with the ones.

  • Amani Oruwariye with another dropped pick.

  • David Fales with a poor pass between two defenders, but Hockenson comes down with it anyway.

  • Logan Thomas witn ANOTHER touchdown grab in tight coverage.

  • I am happy to announce that it has been another dominant day from T.J. Hockenson. He may already have double-digit TDs in 2 days of practice.

  • Perfect throw down the sidelines by Stafford, dropped by Brandon Powell. Bounced right off his hands.

  • Jarrad Davis nice coverage over the middle.

  • Another pass in and out of the hands of Brandon Powell, this time forced by Quandre Diggs.

  • Practice is over for today. Devon Kennard, Marcus Cooper and Christian Jones have all left practice early. Kennard said he was ‘alright’ as he walked off the field.

(Me) Caution: it’s only one day and they’re hitting each other yet.

From Jeremy Reisman, PoD:

Tempo picked up a little on Friday morning as the Detroit Lions entered their second practice of training camp. Though the team was still without pads, you could sense the players getting comfortable and confident in their play, as the competition grew harder and the players got louder.

Here are my observations for Day 2 of Detroit Lions training camp.


The Lions got a little banged up during Friday’s practice. Devon Kennard only went through warmups before leaving the field. He would eventually come back out from the facility, but did not practice. At the end of practice, he told a group of reporters that he was “alright.”

Additionally, linebacker Christian Jones and cornerback Marcus Cooper both left, but it was not clear why.

Here’s a list of the other players that did not practice at all: Darius Slay (NFI), Damon Harrison Sr. (NFI), Darius Kilgo (NFI), Tommylee Lewis (PUP), Steve Longa (PUP), Trey Flowers (PUP), A’Shawn Robinson (personal reasons) and Malik Carney.

One small note on Flowers: He got some early work on the Lions’ new infamous hill that helps players with conditioning.

Darrell Bevell’s offense is much different… and working

Over the first two days, it’s been very clear that the offense is ahead of the defense, which may come as a surprise considering it’s a brand-new offense. And while team rules prevent me from going into specifics, I think people are going to like a lot of the changes offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is making to the offense.

Pre-snap motion? It’s back, baby.

Roll-outs and play-action. Yep.

Rub concepts. As far as the eye can see.

On one play, Tom Kennedy broke wide open after a route combination left defensive backs tripping over each other and it was an easy 30-yard score.

Hock God

During training camp, I really try to hold back my expectations, especially before the pads even come out, but T.J. Hockenson is making it really hard for me to hold back my excitement. For the second straight day, Hockenson was a red zone machine that the defense had no answer for. Hockenson even pulled down a big 30-40 yard touchdown catch down the seam.

He’s got strong hands, he’s getting open and he’s made just about every single contested catch I’ve seen over two days. The hype is real.

While we’re on the topic of tight ends, Logan Thomas had a big bounce-back day after having a few drops on Day 1. He hauled in two touchdowns, including one with Quandre Diggs all over his back.

Offensive line changes

Much like what we saw during OTAs and minicamp, the Lions appear to be messing around with their starting offensive line personnel.

Day 1, it looked like this: Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner

Day 2, it was this: Taylor Decker, Joe Dahl, Frank Ragnow, Oday Aboushi, Rick Wagner

At times, Graham Glasgow rotated in with the first team, playing left guard, center, and right guard throughout the day. Andrew Donnal also had a few reps at right tackle with the ones.

One interesting point about Oday Aboushi: he’s only been repping at the right guard position. So if there is only one position up for grabs on the offensive line, and if it’s at left guard, Aboushi may be on the outside looking in.

Jarrad Davis and the linebackers

It wasn’t a great day for the linebackers in coverage. Jarrad Davis continues to struggle reading plays, especially when the Lions are in zone coverage. Jahlani Tavai fared a little better, causing one breakup during a red zone drill. Jalen Reeves-Maybin continues to be the only linebacker that consistently shows he’s capable in coverage.

Overall, however, the Lions offense was able to exploit the middle of the field for most of the day.

Up and down day from Amani Oruwariye

Early on, it looked like Lions fifth-round pick Amani Oruwariye picked up where he left off on Day 1, which is to say not well. But he rebounded quite nicely as the day went on. I counted two pass breakups on the day, including a beautiful knockdown on a deep ball to Andy Jones in which he stayed stride-for-stride with the wide receiver.

Oruwariye has been consistently repping with the second-team defense, ahead of guys like Mike Ford and Andre Chachere, but behind the likes of Teez Tabor and Rashaan Melvin.

Speaking of Melvin, he had a nice interception today during 7-on-7 drills in which he was all over Kenny Golladay. It was a very promising day from Melvin, who continues to be the favorite for the CB2 job.

Justin Coleman finally makes an impression

It’s been a quiet couple of months for Justin Coleman, who was one of the biggest signings the Lions made this offseason. The nickel corner finally saw a lot of reps on Friday, both as the team’s starting nickel corner and as a second-team outside corner. His use on the outside may have had more to do with Marcus Cooper leaving practice early, but it still speaks to Coleman’s versatility.

Overall, I thought Coleman played pretty well. Occasionally, Danny Amendola would get the better of him, but overall the two battled pretty evenly.

Drill of the Day

New special teams coach John Bonamego ran one of the weirdest drills I have ever seen during practice. In what appeared to be a punt coverage drill, two groups of three players would run in separate little circles until the whistle was blown. Almost like a game of musical chairs, once the whistle was blown, the players would break the circle and sprint to their coverage lane.

If I had to guess this was a drill to make sure players stayed disciplined to their lane, even if they got turned around by blockers.

Odds and ends

Another positive day from Andrew Adams, who looks more and more likely to not only make the team, but earn some serious playing time as the potential No. 3 safety on the roster.

C.J. Moore had the defensive play of the game, knocking away a goal-line pass that was tipped directly to fellow safety Charles Washington for the interception.

Nick Bawden got in on the touchdown action during 7-on-7 red zone drills, catching a nice pass with Christian Jones and Garrett Dooley draped all over him.

Mandatory Teez Tabor update: Quiet day from Teez, but my one note on him was a play in which he was in tight, solid coverage on Golladay.

Fourth-round rookie Austin Bryant was repping with the second-team defense as the JACK linebacker as Kennard was sitting out team drills.

From Justin Rogers, DetNews:

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

  • T.J. Hockenson isn’t the only tight end off to a good start at camp. After a disappointing year of production from the position group a year ago, it feels like the entire room is making a strong impression in the early going.

Starting with Hockenson, the first-round pick, he continued to showcase his receiving skills in the red zone, pulling down a trio of touchdown passes. He beat fellow rookie Jahlani Tavai in the back corner for the second day in a row, made a twisting grab on a pass behind him before tumbling across the goal line, and easily beat cornerback Teez Tabor on a post route for a longer touchdown.

Logan Thomas also continued to showcase excellent hands, something he’s put on display throughout the offseason. He fully extended to pluck a pass out of the air, over safety Quandre Diggs in the back of the end zone. Later in the session, Thomas managed to haul in a Matthew Stafford fastball with his fingertips for a second score.

Finally, rookie Isaac Nauta also put some good route running on film. Working in a seven-on-seven with a number of other third-teamers, he looked to be a step faster than the defenders in the group, easily collecting two touchdowns. He carried that into full-team work later in the day, slicing between safeties Will Harris and Andrew Adams on a post for a 20-yard touchdown reception.

  • The Lions were without the services of linebacker Devon Kennard on Friday. He spent part of the day indoors, presumably working with trainers, before coming out later to work on the ropes. He implied his injury wasn’t serious when he was walking off the field after practice.

  • Fellow linebacker Christian Jones exited the practice around the mid-point. It’s unclear what happened, but he was walking with a slight limp as he headed inside the team’s facility.

  • Defensive end Trey Flowers, who is on the physically unable to perform list, was seen running sprints on the side. He also did some work with trainers on the team’s new conditioning hill.

  • The Lions haven’t done any one-on-one wide receiver against defensive back work the first two days of camp, opting instead to run two-on-three and three-on-four drills, with the defense having the man advantage.

This strikes me as a better use of practice time, allowing both sides to work on route combinations. And having an extra defensive back on the field also helps the receivers and quarterbacks work on adjusting routes to counter coverage looks.

  • Cornerback Rashaan Melvin stood out a couple times, showing good footwork to stick with receivers on a handful of routes. His best play came when he was in Kenny Golladay’s back pocket on a deep back-shoulder throw that was underthrown by Stafford, putting the cornerback in position to make an easy interception.

  • The Lions continued to tinker with offensive line combinations, giving both Joe Dahl and Oday Aboushi reps with the first-team offense. Additionally, fullback Nick Bawden got some work with the top offensive grouping.

  • Wide receiver Tom Kennedy, who has had some drop issues this offseason, had one of his better days of practice. He’s flashed the ability to get separation, and was at his best when he got by cornerback Mike Ford on a deep corner route and hauled in an over-the-shoulder touchdown grab.

  • It’s doubtful anyone is more eager to put on the pads than Jarrad Davis. The linebacker gave wide receiver Andy Jones a preview, putting a shoulder into the his chest and knocking him to the ground on a route across the middle.

  • There was a second interception for the defense when safety C.J. Moore broke up a pass in the back of the end zone and Charles Washington collected the deflection. There were also a couple near interceptions, including a dropped opportunity by rookie cornerback Amani Orwariye, who established inside position against his assignment on a throw to the back of the end zone.

From Eric Schlitt, Lionswire:

The Detroit Lions completed the second day of their 2019 training camp and fans got a glimpse into the potential of the teams first-round pick T.J. Hockenson.

Welcome to the T.J. Hockenson show

On my tracking sheet, I put checkmarks next to a player’s name and an exaggerated checkmark when the player makes an incredible play. Today, Hockenson had three exaggerated checkmarks, after earning two yesterday.

In goal-line work (inside the 5-yard line), the Lions used 23 personnel as their base offense but did everything from keeping players in tight formations to spreading them out five-wide.

In this scenario, Hockenson made a brilliant play on Thursday, then replicated it, in a nearly identical fashion, in today’s practice.

On the play, the Lions ran simple stacked out routes with Hockenson taking the deep route to the back of the end zone. He had bracketed coverage over the top by a safety, while also being covered underneath by a linebacker. Coverage was tight but Matthew Stafford’s pass was better and Hockenson high pointed the ball, toe-tapping in-bounds as he fell to the ground securing the touchdown.

He saved his best play for the end of practice during 11-on-11s.

Hockenson ran the seam against zone coverage and as he crossed the goal line, David Fales zipped a pass that was perfectly placed, although low and behind Hockenson (anywhere else and it would’ve been intercepted). Hockenson was able to throttle down from full speed, sink his hips to drop his center of gravity, flip his body 180-degrees to adjust to the ball, and then engulfed it like a vacuum.

This kid is for real folks.

Pre-planned offensive line shakeup.

Like in spring practices, coaches continued to rotate their guards at different practices, indicating they’re not fully comfortable with their starting five.

Joe Dahl stepped into the starting left guard role in place of Kenny Wiggins, while Oday Aboushi took over for Graham Glasgow at right guard. This held for most of the day, but in certain offensive line only drills, we saw Glasgow take snaps at left guard, center and right guard, illustrating his positional range.

It’s worth noting that despite Aboushi getting first-team reps, he has yet to see any snaps at left guard. In my eyes, this is a red flag for those who believe he may be in the mix for a chance to start at left guard. If he does prove to be better than Wiggins and Dahl, it’s likely he would stay at right guard and Glasgow would switch to left guard. But of the team thins Glasgow’s best fit is a right guard, Aboushi may only be competing for a reserve role on the roster.

Quick hits from the rest of the offense

Isaac Nauta, who had a challenging day on Thursday, dominate the third-stringers and often found soft spots in the gaps in coverage against the second team. He had a nice bounce-back day, showing off his strong hands.

Logan Thomas also had a nice day after showing some sloppy hands on the first day. Thomas looked athletic and was bodying several of the smaller safeties all around the field.

Nick Bawden made a strong catch in traffic. He ran a quick three-yard curl into the endzone, then had to catch a rocket pass from Stafford only standing a few feet from him. With no pads on today, it likely left a mark.

Ty Johnson once again found space on an out route, where not a single defender was within 3-yards of him. There’s a role for this in this offense.

Despite being primarily a man coverage team, the Lions spent a lot of time working on zone coverage today. Most of the veterans adapted well, but a lot of the younger players appeared to struggle most of the day.

Third-round pick Will Harris looked lost in space at times today and was often being coached up by veterans after making mistakes during plays. This is not a strong part of his game and is a reminder that he will need time to develop before being able to take on a larger role.

Fellow rookie, undrafted C.J. Moore looked very sharp in zone coverage today and got his hands on a few balls. One of them he tipped to Charles Washington for an interception. Moore has a tough road to the roster, but he should be in legitimate contention for a job on the practice squad.

Cornerback Amani Oruwariye had a very up and down day. In one drill he got toasted by both Chris Lacy and Deontez Alexander, then five minutes later he made one of the best plays on the day against Andy Jones — high pointing the ball for the pass breakup after gaining inside leverage and basically running the route for the receiver.

Teez Tabor struggled a bit today, but he is still making intelligent decisions on several plays. Practices are designed to replicate situational football and with time winding down in a drill, and the offense getting one more crack at the end zone, Tabor allowed a receiver to catch the ball in front of him, then he made the tackle short of the end zone. For the casual observer, it may look like Tabor made a mistake allowing an easy catch, but I would argue he understood the situation and made the play in front of him.

While the outside corners had their difficulties, slot corners Justin Coleman and Jamal Agnew both turned in nice performances. Both players handled Brandon Powell, while Coleman more than held his own against Danny Amendola.

Special teams

If you attend a practice in a day without pads, you can expect a lot of special teams and today was no different.

When special teams drills take place, nearly everyone is involved in some capacity. The only players that did not participate in special teams drills — and likely won’t be moving forward either — the quarterbacks, Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay and Jermain Kearse.

Today, they were still mainly focused on punt coverage/returns, and it was the usual suspects fielding kicks: Agnew, Amendola, Powell, Quandre Diggs and Tom Kennedy.

There were several new special teams drills, and coaches worked on their interior punt coverage teams, featuring several of the bigger-bodied athletes like Miles Killebrew.

Post-practice activities

With no pads on again at practice, today it was the offensive line, wide receivers and defensive backs who requested pads for additional work. This could end up being a regular thing.

First up on the jug machine to receive passes was, no surprise, Amendola.

I always like to take note of who is putting in the extra work, even after the rest of his teammates have exited the field, and after an up and down day, the last player to leave the field — Teez Tabor.

From Kyle Meinke, MLive:

ALLEN PARK – He caught one ball off the JUGS machine, and then another, and then another. Teammates continued to leave the field to chat with friends and family before making their way to the locker room, while Teez Tabor caught a few more footballs.

At 12:16 p.m., about a half-hour after practice ended, Tabor sat on the ground and caught a few more footballs before finally packing it a day.

He was the only player left on the field.

This is the new Teez Tabor we’ve heard about from teammates and coaches. The more driven, more focused, more coachable Teez Tabor. Yes, the former second-round pick has languished through some deep struggles in his two years in Detroit. But he seems to have turned a corner mentally this offseason, falling back in love with the game and becoming determined to turn things around before it’s too late.

Tabor’s renewed commitment paid off with a big spring. He made more plays and picked off more passes than any other defensive back during practices that were open to reporters. Of course, that also came without Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones on the field at that. So the question became, was Tabor really finding his way at last? Or was this a spring mirage built on the back of non-contact workouts against bench players, that would fade against better competition?

Two days into camp, it’s still way too early to definitively answer that question.

But the results continue to be promising.

With Darius Slay opening camp on the non-football injury list, Tabor has been repping with Rashaan Melvin on the first-team defense. And he’s made a few nice plays while matched up against Golladay, Detroit’s best receiver. On Thursday, Tabor made an excellent break on Golladay while sitting in zone coverage and batted away the Matthew Stafford fastball. On Friday, he made an even more impressive play, smothering Golladay with man coverage and forcing an incompletion in the back of the end zone during red-zone drills.

What exactly this means for Tabor’s future remains unclear. They’re not even in pads yet. And red-zone drills don’t have anything to do with Tabor’s greatest weakness, which remains his speed. He’ll have to prove he can hang downfield at some point.

But for a guy who could do nothing right through two seasons, seeing him string together one good practice after the next, from one week to the next, and now one month to the next, is encouraging. He’s doing and saying all the right things, offering hope that he can at least become a viable backup to Darius Slay and whoever wins that No. 2 cornerback job – or perhaps even compete for it himself.

Here are some other observations from the second day of Lions training camp:

– Tabor is making things interesting in that CB2 battle, but I still think it’s Rashaan Melvin’s job to lose at this (very early) point. He’s a veteran with starting experience, and some experience playing for Matt Patricia. He also played very well for Indianapolis two years ago. Yes, he struggled in Oakland last year, but Melvin has said that zone-heavy system was not a good fit for him. This defense puts cornerbacks in man a lot more, and that should bring out the best in Melvin. On Friday, he made a great play when he became the first player to pick off Matthew Stafford in camp. Stafford was trying to find Kenny Golladay, but the ball was underthrown and Melvin made him pay.

– Detroit’s tight ends are going to be a problem in the red zone. And I’m not talking about for Detroit. T.J. Hockenson has been basically unguardable the last two days, which I’ll expand upon in a separate post. But it’s not just him. Logan Thomas has also been very good. On Friday, Tavon Wilson was smothering him in the end zone during a drill that pitted four defenders against three receivers. But Matthew Stafford delivered a nice ball, and Thomas squeezed in the catch anyway. As I’ve said before, there’s a reason Detroit believed Michael Roberts was so expendable. Thomas is making this team, and he’s probably going to play a lot, especially in the red zone, where his long frame makes him a dangerous No. 2 tight end. I just don’t know you how defend that if Hockenson is also on the field.

– Detroit still has not settled on an offensive line combination, that much is clear. After rotating guys all spring, coaches again shook things up on Day 2 of camp. Joe Dahl replaced Kenny Wiggins at left guard, while Oday Aboushi replaced Graham Glasgow at right guard. There’s no reason to think Glasgow won’t start when the season opens in Arizona, but there’s clearly a wide-open race between Wiggins, Dahl and Aboushi for that final spot.

– Linebacker Christian Jones returned to the locker room early with a trainer after suffering an apparent injury in practice, just moments after cornerback Andre Chachere was shaken up after making a play in the end zone. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson missed a second straight day of practice while being excused from the team to deal with a family matter, while cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Snacks Harrison missed a second straight practice while on the non-football injury list. Defensive end Trey Flowers also missed practice while he returns from a shoulder injury. The good news is he was putting in some heavy work on the side with a trainer, which usually indicates a player is gearing up for a return.

– I killed Tom Kennedy on Thursday for dropping a couple more passes, so allow me a moment to credit him for making a really nice over-the-shoulder touchdown catch on Friday. The kid is athletic. But he has to improve those hands and eliminate the mistakes to have any shot at cracking an experienced receiver rotation.

– Since the hire of Matt Patricia, the Lions have spent a lot of time working on open-field tackles and pursuit angles. I don’t ever remember them working on that under Jim Caldwell, but those drills have become a staple of the Patricai era. They were back at it Friday, and I have to say, Danny Amendola really stood out. He gets the ball and goes. There is no Golden Tate-style dancing or wiggling or whatever. He just picks an angle and makes a break for it. And it works.

– This team is screwed if anything happens to Matthew Stafford, but it’s worth pointing out Tom Savage might be the most talented passer I’ve seen backing up Stafford in my years on the beat. He has a bit of a gun, and unholstered it with a rocket to rookie tight end Isaac Nauta for a long touchdown on Friday.

Further info:

Additions to Friday’s injury list

LB Devon Kennard (left after warmups)
LB Christian Jones (left during practice)
CB Marcus Cooper (left during practice)
DE Jonathan Wynn

Kennard had his helmet during warmups but after it concluded, he moved inside for a period of time, before returning to the field without his helmet. After practice, when he was walking off the field, Kennard told a member of the media that he was “alright”.

Cooper and Jones left during the second hour of practice and neither returned before practice ended. Wynn started the day off without a helmet and did little other than travel with his position group.

You know how the Lions are with injuries, we might not find out how serious any of this is for awhile.

From Dave Birkett, Det Freep:

The Detroit Lions ranked 24th in red-zone offense last season, converting just 53% of their chances into touchdowns, and my guess is they’ll be much better in that area this fall.

An improved running game should help matters, and I think Matthew Stafford could have a bit of a bounce-back season if he stays healthy at quarterback. But the real reason I believe the Lions will be much more efficient in the red zone is a tight-end room that has both lots of options and lots of size.

The Lions ran a goal-line passing drill early in practice Friday that showed off some of the depth they have at the position.

The drill pitted running backs and tight ends against linebackers and safeties, and Stafford threw five straight touchdowns to open the period.

That’s not unusual in itself. Drills like these are geared towards the offense, especially in a limited-contact setting like Friday.

But it still was impressive to see Stafford complete one pass after another to Jesse James and Austin Traylor and Logan Thomas, and that doesn’t even mention prized first-round pick T.J. Hockenson.

James was wide open on the first play of the drill after a quick run-action fake. Traylor, who signed earlier this week, caught the second pass in traffic in the back of the end zone, and Thomas hauled in the third over safety Quandre Diggs.

James (6 feet 7), Thomas (6-6) and Hockenson (6-5) would make a nice starting frontcourt on a Division II basketball team. They all have size and leaping ability, and we’ve seen Hockenson lay out for a number of highlight-reel catches going back to the spring.

Tight end is a physical position, and we’ll learn more about this group in the weeks ahead. But after having the second-least productive tight-end room in the NFL last season, it’s a good bet this year’s room will make bigger contributions.

More observations from Friday’s practice

• If I had to pick a play of the day, it’d be Charles Washington’s interception of backup quarterback Tom Savage during a seven-on-seven drill late in practice.

Savage tried to thread a pass to one of his tight ends near the goal line, but safety C.J. Moore deflected the throw. Washington was underneath in coverage in the middle of the end zone and made a heads-up play to catch the ricochet and turn upfield for what probably would have been a 105-yard touchdown return.

Washington and Moore are two players whose ultimate path to a roster spot will be through special teams, but it’s still nice to see them make plays on defense.

• For what it’s worth, I did write down the numbers of both Moore and Washington during a special-teams period early in Friday’s practice. Moore impressed with the speed in which he got down field during one punt-cover drill, and Washington made what appeared to be a good diving save on a punt that nearly bounced into the end zone.

• Matt Patricia is a coach who tries to squeeze the most out of every available minute. To that end, it was no surprise to see several Lions rookies put on shoulder pads and take part in an extra young guns-type session after some of their more veteran teammates left the field.

Most NFL teams reserve periods or time for their young players who don’t get many reps during practice to get extra work, but I can’t recall seeing players put on shoulder pads on a day like Friday when the rest of their team isn’t yet allowed to work in pads.

The NFL requires a two-day acclimation period before padded practices can begin, but Lions rookies reported last week so they were able to spend a few minutes in shells Friday.

• Speaking of pads … they can officially come on Saturday. It sounds like the Lions plan to practice in shells on Saturday and full pads Sunday. The intensity of practices (and the depth of these observations) should heat up once the pads come on.

• A couple depth-chart observations, though as always you’re warned not to read too much into who plays where and with what unit at this time of year: Oday Aboushi took first-team reps at right guard Friday and Joe Dahl worked primarily with the first-team at left guard. Graham Glasgow, who’ll start at right guard this fall, got some work at center with the second-team offense.

[ Offensive line ‘not anywhere near’ finalized as training camp begins ]

The Lions appear to have a clear top five when it comes to interior offensive linemen with Ragnow and Glasgow assured of starting spots and Dahl, Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins competing the left guard job. Perhaps a young player like Luke Bowanko or Beau Benzschawel steals a job with a strong camp, but the real question right now seems to be who serves as the swing interior lineman on game days?

Dahl can play center in a pinch, but Glasgow is really the backup at center so the Lions may opt to keep the better pure blocker up on Sundays. Just something to think about as camp progresses.

• The Lions closed practice Friday with a two-minute drill, but they held top receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola out of most if not all of that period and instead had Matthew Stafford throwing to the likes of Brandon Powell, Andy Jones and Jermaine Kearse. Stafford couldn’t lead the offense into the end zone in that drill, but Kearse did make a nice catch in a goal-line drill in front of Teez Tabor early in practice.

• Amendola, who’s wearing No. 80 now after the spring release of Michael Roberts, had the best catch of the day by a receiver, diving for a Stafford pass in the back of the end zone in 7-on-7 work. Amendola celebrated by standing up and firing the ball 40 yards downfield.

• Last thing, and my colleague Carlos Monarrez and I talked about this in our post-practice video Thursday, but the fan turnout at Friday’s practice was disappointing (several hundred people was all) and the atmosphere rather stale. I understand sometimes it’s hard for fans to get into practice as they’re far away from the action, and I really do think the Lions do a good job of providing other kid-friendly events to pass the time with. But I want to hear from you the fans on how you think the Lions can improve their training-camp viewing experience. I’ve seen practices in Pittsburgh and Oakland in recent years, and the atmosphere of those workouts is significantly better than what we see in Allen Park.

From O’Hara and Twentyman,

Double tight ends: T.J. Hockenson (first round) and Isaac Nauta (seventh) were taken in opposite ends of the draft, but they were almost in sync with TD catches a couple minutes apart. First, Hockenson made a tumbling catch in the left corner of the end zone. In the adjoining field, Nauta made a catch in stride on a post pattern on his way to the end zone. – Mike O’Hara

Rotating guards: One of the better position battles entering camp was expected to be at guard, as the Lions look for a replacement for T.J. Lang. Kenny Wiggins worked with Graham Glasgow at the two guard spots with the first-team offense on Thursday. Friday, Joe Dahl and Oday Aboushi played the two guard spots with the first team. It appears that competition is very much up for grabs, and the Lions are going to get a good look at everyone. – Tim Twentyman

Self-punishment: Cornerback Andre Chachere made a nice breakup with a diving effort just in front of the right corner of the end zone, but he apparently wasn’t quite satisfied with the result. He dropped down and did 10 quick pushups. – Mike O’Hara

Hill work: The Lions have installed a hill north of the east field at their Allen Park training facility. The Lions use it for rehabilitation, conditioning, improving lower-body strength, lengthening run strides and protecting different muscle groups, among other things. Friday, it was put to use by defensive end Trey Flowers, who continues to rehab an injury, during practice. – Tim Twentyman

Drill of the day: Head coach Matt Patricia stresses ball security. In one drill to improve that, players caught the ball, maintain control when an assistant coach jabbed at the ball with what looked like an oversized padded stick, then evade contact from a defender closing in to swipe at the ball. – Mike O’Hara

Low on linebackers: Outside linebacker Devon Kennard sat out Friday’s training camp practice. Midway through the session fellow veteran linebacker Christian Jones left the field with a trainer. It left the Lions a little low on veteran linebackers. – Tim Twentyman

Rookie vs. rookie: In a goal line 7-on-7 drill, Hockenson and second-round pick Jahlani Tavai found themselves matched up in the end zone with Hockenson running a corner route. Hockenson was able to leap up and make the grab over Tavai, who had pretty good coverage on the play. Detroit’s first two picks in this year’s draft are already getting after it in camp. – Tim Twentyman