TC Notes and Observations, 5 Aug

1st Joint Practice with Pats, who we play on Thursday’s 1st PS game:

  • Jarrad Davis is there, but not in pads or helmet, unknown reason (for now)

  • Joint practices started with a red zone drill pitting RBs & TEs vs LBs and S.
    Lions offense scored on 7 of 8 plays with Tom Savage.
    Patriots scored on 5 of 8 with Brady.

OT - Bills OT LaAdrian Waddle has a torn quad and it is likely a season-ending injury. You never know who or when

  • Garret Dooley the second Lions player I have seen walking off the field with a trainer today — joining Ray Smith

  • Ty Johnson just proved the wheel route is still undefeated. Great pass from Savage.

  • Patriots EDGE defender Shilique Calhoun has been in the backfield a lot today. From a Pats writer, presumably he means our backfield.

  • Possible highlight of Lions-Patriots joint practice: a FG attempt by Stephen Gostkowski hit the selfie camera set up by one of the advertisers, bubly, shattering some of it

  • Things have gone significant downhill since. #Lions red zone drills with first team just resulted in 2 false starts and a strip sack.
    Then 2nd team’s red zone drive ends with a botched shotgun snap. Our 2nd team, since it’s a Lions guy reporting. Sigh.

  • Both Lions’ and Patriots’ offenses held to field goals in 2 minutes drill. Patriots drove fast, but Lions d held up in goal-to-go situation. There were no reports of who did what, which could mean both teams squelched the details for each play.

  • 2nd team offense went 3-and-Out. They let them continue anyways and it ended with a missed 58-yard FG.

This is from the Pats beat-writers, who for some reason publish their comments well before the Lions guys do.

— Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore allowed his first catch in 11-on-11 drills all summer. It came on a catch by Danny Amendola.
— Patriots outside linebacker/defensive end Shilique Calhoun was in the backfield often during 11-on-11 drills. He should have had at least one sack if tackling was allowed. He got some first-team reps.
— Patriots cornerbacks JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen and Joejuan Williams (two) and safeties Obi Melifonwu (two), Malik Gant and Devin McCourty had pass breakups in 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. Crossen and undrafted rookie D’Angelo Ross had interceptions.
— Gilmore allowed a couple of catches against Lions wideout Kenny Golladay in 1-on-1 drills.
— Brady went 13-of-20 in 11-on-11s and 6-of-7 in 7-on-7s. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was 1-of-3 in 11s and 3-of-4 in 7s. Rookie Jarrett Stidham was 2-of-3 with an interception in 11s and 10-of-12 in 7s.

Read more at: https://nesn.com/2019/08/patriots-lions-practice-observations-rookie-wideouts-continue-making-plays/

I left out the stuff that really doesn’t pertain to us,

So far, it doesn’t feel like a good day for Lions fans, especially if Jarrad Davis has a problem. But I’m starting to get the same feeling I had last year, all the rosy talk and then they look like crap against another team in a joint practice or a PS game. Now, I know we’re missing a bunch of our best guys on defense, and it’s a new offense and a new OC on offense, and it’s early as hell, but these guys do not look like a division contender.

When the Detroit writers post their stuff, I’ll pass it along.

From Rothstein, ESPN:

Day 1 of the Lions-Patriots joint practices are concluded and it wasn’t exactly the best day for Detroit defensively. While it is difficult to catch all the action on both fields at once when what’s going on, the Lions’ defense had issues with Tom Brady and the rest of New England’s top unit. Keep in mind, though, the Lions did not use Darius Slay in some 11-on-11 periods and are without a decent portion of their front seven (of course, the Patriots didn’t have Julian Edelman, so…).

-There’s still a long way to go, but the Lions are clearly giving rookie receiver Travis Fulgham a long look. In team periods Fulgham got some reps with the No. 1 offense. The draft pick didn’t make any standout plays, but he’s getting the chances alongside Jermaine Kearse (behind the locked-in group of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola).

-Speaking of Golladay and Jones, they both had pretty strong days today. Golladay got the best of New England cornerback Stefon Gilmore on one two-on-two rep early in practice. “The competition just raises,” Golladay said. “Every day you want to go out there and make plays, but especially when a different team is coming into your house, you for sure want to make those plays.” Jones also had a nice snag early in practice on a corner route that was one of the flashier plays of the day.

-The Lions were without, as mentioned above, many key defensive players. Jarrad Davis sat out practice and the Lions are still without Snacks Harrison (NFI), Da’Shawn Hand (injury) and Austin Bryant (injury) while Devon Kennard and Slay both didn’t fully participate. In better Lions news, Kerryon Johnson did not have a wrap on his leg today after having it for much of last week.

Alright, I am getting off the ledge now. For today. I still think that if they can get healthy and stay that way, this defense is going to be really good. And a really good defense can make a team hard to beat if they can muster any kind of offense.

From Eric Schlitt, Lionswire:

The Detroit Lions held their tenth day of 2019 training camp and the most notable change was the exclusion of LB Jarrad Davis from today’s practice.

Changes/Additions on Monday

LB Jarrad Davis (no pads)
LB Garret Dooley (left practice early)
IOL Joe Dahl (left immediately after practice)
TE Jerome Cunningham (left immediately after practice)

There was nothing out of the ordinary from yesterday’s practice that would indicate a significant injury to Davis, so it’s unclear exactly why he was not available. It’s important to remember that even minor injuries can keep a player out during joint practices due to their physicality.

About halfway through practice Dooley was banged up and left the field with trainers. He did not return.

Both Dahl and Cunningham stayed throughout practice in its entirety but left with a Lions staff member immediately upon its conclusion. This may not be injury-related but it was worth noting and watching tomorrow.

Keep an eye on moving forward

CB Darius Slay (limited)
JACK Devon Kennard (limited)
LB Christian Jones (drills only)
NT Darius Kilgo
DE Jonathan Wynn
EDGE Malik Carney

Slay and Kennard were limited once again, but still got plenty of run with the first team. There is no reason for coaches to push them beyond a rotational role right now.

Jones appears to be getting closer to returning and after two days of being dressed with minimal drill work, he could get a bump in play as soon as tomorrow.

Kilgo, Wynn and Carney have been dressed for action but didn’t get in on any drill or field work today. They look to still be a few days away.

PUP/NFI list:
NT Damon Harrison (NFI)
EDGE Trey Flowers (PUP)
LB Steve Longa (PUP)
WR Tommylee Lewis (PUP)

No changes here.

Still not participating on Monday

DL Da’Shawn Hand (brace on arm)
DT Mike Daniels
JACK Austin Bryant
CB Marcus Cooper
CB Teez Tabor

Everyone in this group has been injured for a few days now and haven’t made any noticeable steps forward just yet. With practices being what they are and a game looming on Thursday, they likely won’t be back before next week at the earliest.

From Jeremy Reisman, PoD:

The Detroit Lions and New England Patriots took the field Monday morning for their first of three joint practices. The practice ran significantly longer than other sessions this training camp, so today, our observations will try to catch as much as possible.

Instead of just general thoughts from practice, I’m going to go drill-by-drill in chronological order and pick out my observations from each session.

But, as always, let’s start with…

Attendance

Jarrad Davis was the most notable absence from Monday’s practice. Davis was on the field early in street clothes, but as soon as warm ups were finished, he headed straight to the locker room. It was not clear why Davis was not practicing, and he didn’t appear to deal with any injury during Sunday’s practice.

The rest was the normal group of players on the sideline: Da’Shawn Hand, Austin Bryant, Mike Daniels, Marcus Cooper, Teez Tabor, Tommylee Lewis, Steve Longa, Trey Flowers and Damon Harrison Sr.

Darius Slay and Devon Kennard had limited snaps with the first team, while Christian Jones, Malik Carney, Jonathan Wynn and Darius Kilgo were all suited up but didn’t participate much at all. Linebacker Garret Dooley left in the middle of practice with an unclear injury.

Additionally, two players left at the very end of practice: tight end Jerome Cunningham and guard Joe Dahl. Both were walking off under their own power.

Lions goal-line offense continues to thrive

Throughout camp, the Lions red-zone offense has looked impressed—thanks, in part, to their strength at tight end.

Joint practices kicked off with a 7-on-7 passing goal-line drill, and that trend continued. The Lions offense, with Tom Savage at quarterback, scored on seven of eight reps, and the eighth play was close to scoring, too. It was mostly running backs and tight ends against linebackers and safeties, and Detroit spread the wealth. Jesse James, Austin Traylor (x2), Zach Zenner, Isaac Nauta, Jerome Cunningham and Nick Bawden (x2), all found the end zone.

On the defensive side of the ball, with Tom Brady leading the Patriots offense, New England managed to score on just five of eight reps. Tre Lamar had a nice pass breakup during that session, but Jahlani Tavai struggled in coverage.

Return of the Punt God?

Next, the teams moved to special teams, where the Lions worked on their punt coverage units. The real star here was Sam Martin, whose punts appear to have that extra hangtime again that resulted in such an impressive 2016 season. On one punt, it must have traveled at least 60 yards in the air and nearly drove the returner out of bounds at the 10-yard line.

The Lions’ gunner also got a lot of work here. Receiver Chris Lacy bowled over one of the Patriots’ best special teamers Matthew Slater. However, Andrew Adams and Brandon Powell struggled on a few reps.

Teams split 1-on-1s

The team then split into one-on-ones in four different groups: running backs and tight ends vs. linebackers and safeties; and wide receivers vs. corners (offense and defense for each team).

I mostly paid attention to the RBs/TEs vs. LBs/S drills. However, I was told the Lions first-team wide receivers were doing well, and I saw Amendola win at least one rep. That being said, at the end of the drills it was the Lions receivers doing pushups.

Back to the RB/TE vs. LB/S drills. Veteran safety Tavon Wilson stuck out positively as he kicked off the very first rep with a pass breakup, and followed it up with another good coverage rep a few plays later. Will Harris continues to struggle, and today was a down day for Jahlani Tavai, as well.

Andrew Adams makes another play in full-team drills

The Lions offense got off to a hot start during 11-on-11s, with Matthew Stafford finding a wide open Marvin Jones Jr. on a crossing route that hit for at least 40 yards. After that, the Lions offense slowed.

Defensively, the Lions struggled in defending the run… and this was a common theme all day. Granted, the Lions were missing the following starters on defense: Da’Shawn Hand, Mike Daniels, Jarrad Davis, Damon Harrison Sr., Christian Jones and Trey Flowers. Additionally, Devon Kennard, Darius Slay and A’Shawn Robinson were on a pretty limited snap count.

The defensive backs fared pretty well against the Patriots receivers early. Tavon Wilson recorded a pass breakup, Rashaan Melvin absolutely crushed a Patriots receiver as soon as he caught the ball, and Adams got yet another interception this camp after reading the play perfect in zone coverage.

Lastly, Tom Savage closed 11-on-11s with a perfect pass to Ty Johnson on a wheel route that allow the Lions’ rookie running back to utilize his best skill: speed.

Kenny Golladay with the catch of the day

Practice goes downhill… fast

The two teams then moved to 11-on-11 red-zone plays. This is where tide of practice turned heavily in favor of the Patriots.

On the Lions’ first series, they false started on back-to-back plays (Amendola, Taylor Decker). Then after earning all of that back on a defensive holding/pass interference flag, the Lions lost possession when Kerryon Johnson was driven back into Matthew Stafford, forcing a fumble.

The second team wasn’t much better. They neared the goal line after a great catch from Chris Lacy, but their drive ended with a botched shotgun snap between Luke Bowanko and Tom Savage.

Justin Coleman had a nice breakup on defense in what was a bounce back practice for him after a rough Sunday. However, Brady would end up finding James White for the score with Anthony Pittman in coverage. The play was otherwise well defended by the Lions, but with the Lions down Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Devon Kennard and Garret Dooley all sidelined at the linebacker level, Brady was able to find the one weak spot.

Two-minute drills result in a push

While the Lions were able to notch a “game-tying” field goal in their simulated two-minute drill, it wasn’t pretty. T.J. Hockenson came up with a big catch, but Taylor Decker was beaten badly around the edge on one play that would’ve resulted in a big hit on Stafford.

Defensively, the Patriots were able to easily drive into a goal-to-go situation, but that’s where the Lions defense stood tall. On first and second down, coverage forced Brady to throw the ball away on back-to-back plays. On third down, Jamal Agnew made a nice pass breakup to force the field goal.

It was a different story for the Lions’ second-team offense. They quickly went three and out after a holding penalty and sack given up by Tyrell Crosby. For simulation purposes, they allowed the Lions offense to continue downfield anyways, and they still couldn’t move the ball well. Eventually, they settled for a 58-yard “game-tying” field goal attempt, but Matt Prater pushed it wide.

The Patriots’ second-team offense didn’t get a crack at the drill, as time was running out. So the team moved to seven-on-sevens for the second and third teams. Watching the Lions’ third-team offense was… uninspiring to say the least. David Fales threw two interceptions, while Ty Johnson fumbled the exchange on an early handoff.

Odds and ends:

The Lions kept Kenny Wiggins and Graham Glasgow with the first-team offense.
Couple of nice reunions for players (besides the obvious Lions-Patriots connections). Kerryon Johnson hugged it out with fellow Auburn Tiger Ryan Davis, who is now a receiver for the Patriots. Perhaps most interesting was rookie tight end Isaac Nauta chatting it up with 38-year-old Ben Watson. Both tight ends played for the Georgia Bulldogs. Hopefully Watson shared some of his knowledge with the Lions’ sixth-round pick.
The Patriots were the team to utilize THE HILL at the end of practice, while the Lions simply ran sprints to finish the day.
Nice little moment after practice as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick talked to Martha Ford and her daughters for several minutes.

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From Eric Schlitt, Lionswire:

On the tenth day of the Detroit Lions 2019 training camp, they welcomed in the New England Patriots for joint team practices. The intensity increased quite a bit as did the action on the field. This is, of course, fun for the fans and the players on the field but when the teams were running four drills at a time, it makes it difficult to follow all the action. Here’s a look at what I observed today.

Overall, the Lions offense started the day out on fire, winning matchups with ease, but as the day wore on and the practice shifted into situational football — 2-minute and red zone drills — the offense bogged down and finished the day on a down note.

It’s difficult to ascertain the impactfulness of the Lions defense with several players not being able to participate, including Jarrad Davis, but there were some standout moments from the players that were available.

Nick Bawden isn’t on the roster bubble anymore

The first set of drills the team opened today’s camp with was skill players versus their counterpart on the opposing team. With Lions’ general manager Bob Quinn focused in on the Lions running backs and tight ends versus the Patriots defensive backs and linebackers, that is where I locked in on as well.

The biggest thing to catch my attention was the fluidity at which fullback Nick Bawden created separation and got open in the passing game. He scored touchdowns on both a crossing route and a curl, showing reliable hands in both situations. He is very difficult to cover in short-yardage situations.

[ME: remember the stories about Bawen beating Tavai? LOL, didn’t know NB was that fas or quick!]

When he wasn’t catching the ball, he was looking to deliver impact shots as a run blocker. In one rep he flattened the Patriots linebacker on a punishing block, but then on the next rep, the linebacker used Bawden’s overaggressiveness to his advantage and sidestepped him, leaving Bawden blocking air.

He’s still working out the rough spots, but he is most likely going to have a bigger role in this offense than we have seen from the fullback position in years past.

Kerryon Johnson reminds us how good he is

Johnson has been limited in contract drills this camp but today he was thrown into the mix and quickly reminded us that he has a killer jump cut, can create separation multiple ways in his routes and has the most reliable hands in the running backs room.

Offensive line sticks with their top starting unit

For the second day in a row, the Lions have stayed with their original starting five on the offensive line. Kenny Wiggins and Graham Glasgow got the start and stayed with the ones throughout the day.

On the second unit, Joe Dahl didn’t noticeably get injured during practice, but at its conclusion, he immediately left the field with a member of the Lions staff. He will be on our watchlist for tomorrow’s practice to see if he did indeed suffer an injury.

Other notes on offense

Zach Zenner is strong and uses his power as a runner and to create separation in routes. He also got one or two reps at fullback in drills today.

The Lions Top 4 receivers — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola and Jermaine Kearse — all played well today, while the rest of the depth players struggled for a variety of reasons. Among the reserves, Brandon Powell made the most of his opportunities and continues to be used as both a slot receiver and gadget player.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell continues to use pre-snap motion, rub routes and wheel routes with loads of success. After rarely seeing these things under Jim Bob Cooter, it’s a breath of fresh air.
[ME: It’s about effing time! Can’t understand why JBC didn’t use these things.]

Lions defense is still missing a lot of starters

Jarrad Davis was the big name added to the injury list today, giving Jalen Reeves-Maybin an opportunity to run at MIKE with the starters. Both Darius Slay and Devon Kennard are getting limited snaps as they return from injury, and the team eases them back into the rotation.

When the Lions went to 11-on-11s, they were missing seven of their projected starters, only being able to put Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Rashaan Melvin and Jahlani Tavai on the field.

Run defense looked fast

While the Lions were missing a lot of talent, they looked noticeably faster than in years past. When the Patriots ran stretch plays to the outside, the Lions flowed with them and forced them to the sidelines, allowing minimal to no gain.

Slot CBs got better, but still need work

In our Day 9 observations, we noted that both Justin Coleman and Jamal Agnew struggled. Today, they still showed that while they have areas to clean up, they also are making improvements in their coverage and positioning. Both players made key pass breakups (PBU) on third downs today.

The only other Lions defender that got a PBU in today’s action (that I saw) was Tracy Walker, knocking away a Tom Brady pass for a tight end in the end zone.

Confidence quote of the day

The first time the teams split off into 11-on-11’s, Andrew Adams got an interception that concluded the drill. After practice, I asked Adams about getting another one (interception) today and he responded: “I get one every day!”, smiled and walked away.

Special teams notes

We have previously mentioned that Sam Martin looks like he has returned to form and today he continued to boom punts. He was routinely getting 4.5 to roughly 5 seconds of hang time on each kick and was accurate with his placements.

The Lions used a handful of players to cover Martin’s kicks, but C.J. Moore and Chris Lacy were the ones who made the standout plays at the gunner position. Both got made skillful moves on their blockers — Moore with athleticism and Lacy with power — and got free for the would-be tackle.

When the Lions were receiving punts, it was the usual suspects fielding them. Agnew was first up, then Danny Amendola, followed by Powell and Diggs.

The two-deep rotation of blockers running interference for the returners and blocking the gunners were:

1st team, Charles Washington, Will Harris, Mike Ford and Dee Virgin
2nd team, Adams, Tavon Wilson, Amani Oruwariye and Andre Chachere
Washington, Wilson, Harris and Ford all stood out in these drills.

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From Dave Birkett, DetFreeP:

A lot of good work at Monday’s joint practice between the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots, and in my opinion some of the most revealing were a couple two-minute drills each team ran near the end of practice.

First the scenario: It’s first-and-10 near their own 30-yard line (the Lions started at the 30 on their two drives, the Patriots at the 29), 1:45 on the clock, offense has the ball down three points.

The Lions’ first-team offense was first up against the Patriots’ top defense, though both teams were without – or didn’t always use – some of their key players.

Matthew Stafford threw a couple short passes to start the drive, first to Danny Amendola, then Jesse James. First-and-10 near midfield.

Next play: Handoff to C.J. Anderson, who gets nothing up the middle. On second down, Stafford throws incomplete, leaving the Lions with a third-and-about-10.

This is two-down territory for the Lions, who need a field goal to tie or touchdown to take the lead. Stafford drops back on third down and a Patriots defensive end, I believe it was former Michigan State standout Shilique Calhoun, beats left tackle Taylor Decker on a rush. In a real game, Stafford is sacked and the Lions are in fourth-and-long, or maybe takes off scrambling for his life. In training camp, with quarterbacks in red no-contact jerseys, the play continues and Stafford fires complete to Marvin Jones for a first down.

The Lions kicked a game-tying field goal a few plays later, after missing a couple shots at the end zone, but the offense is clearly still working out some kinks.

Contrast that to the Patriots in the same period. Tom Brady opens with three straight completions for first downs and all of a sudden it’s first-and-10 at the 20-yard line with 44 seconds on the clock. Darius Slay wasn’t on the field for that series, and the Lions are still without most of their high-priced defensive line. But Brady was a surgeon moving into field-goal range while throwing to the likes of Jakobi Meyers and Braxton Berrios.

Now, give the Lions’ defense credit. New England picked up one more first down, then stalled at the 7-yard line and had to settle for a field goal.

But the difference in the two teams – both on offense and defense – was stark, and especially so when the Lions’ second-team offense followed Brady onto the field and went incomplete pass-holding penalty-sack to start its drive.

The good news: We’re still a month from the first game so there’s plenty of time to get things right.

The Lions and Patriots practiced for a solid 2.5 hours Monday and had two fields going for most of practice. I always issue this caveat when it comes to joint practices: With two fields going, it’s impossible to see everything going on so I try and focus on one side of the ball. On Monday, that was the Lions defense going against Brady. On Tuesday, I’ll keep my eyes training on Stafford and the offense.

• The Lions practice at a little faster tempo than the Patriots. Even though I was watching Brady work against the Lions defense, the other field (with the Lions offense) always seemed to end a play or two early because the Lions were so quick getting to the line and getting plays out.

• A couple Lions left the field early: Kevin Strong, who’s had a really nice camp for an undrafted rookie, walked off late with a trainer and had a noticeable limp. Fellow undrafted rookie defensive lineman Ray Smith also left early in practice and I’m not sure if he returned. And tight end Jerome Cunningham seemed to injure his right leg late in practice, though I didn’t see him leave the field.

• Linebacker Jarrad Davis did not practice Monday. Davis rarely misses a rep so it was odd to see him in a baseball cap and shorts while the rest of his teammates were in pads. Teez Tabor, Da’Shawn Hand, Austin Bryant, Mike Daniels and Marcus Cooper also were DNPs.

• Some good and some bad from a couple of Lions rookie linebackers: Tre Lamar had a nice breakup on a Brady pass to Matt LaCosse early in practice during a tight end/linebacker/safety goal-line passing drill. Two periods later, Jahlani Tavai was left flat-footed trying to cover Brandon Bolden in one-on-ones.

• I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Lions rookie running back Ty Johnson so far this summer, but Johnson dropped a would-be touchdown pass on the final play of one-on-ones after he sprinted past Dont’a Hightower. I’m still not sure what Johnson’s role will be this fall – he also had a nice catch on a wheel route Monday – but he’s usually a pretty sure-handed pass catcher and he’s got a little speed, too.

• One more Lions rookie to mention: T.J. Hockenson caught a red-zone touchdown pass in seven-on-sevens when he just overpowered rookie cornerback D’Angelo Ross. Hockenson was just too big and strong running a slant on the goal line, though he’ll be challenged more by more experienced cover men.

• Another day, another Andrew Adams interception. He had what was at least his fourth of camp Monday, snagging a pass intended for Phillip Dorsett thrown by – one of the Patriots backups. If the Lions want to force more turnovers this fall - and that’s been an emphasis all camp – they’ll have to find a way to get Adams on the field.

• I can’t imagine Matt Patricia was happy with some of the sloppiness he saw from his first-team offense during some red-zone work. Danny Amendola and Taylor Decker had back-to-back penalties and Stafford tripped over the feet of one of his offensive linemen on the final play.

• Monday’s special-teams period focused on punt coverage and return. I thought rookie safety C.J. Moore did a really good job getting off his jam and getting downfield as a gunner, and Adams followed up one rough rep as a gunner with an excellent one. Tom Kennedy struggled to get off his jam as a gunner, and he didn’t get a hand on New England’s Keion Crossen when his turn came up as a jammer.

• Stafford and Brady spent most of the first special-teams period conversing off on the side. Oh, to be a fly in that huddle and hear what those quarterbacks were saying.

• Bill Belichick does something kind of strange, but I guess footbally – all the Patriots rookies wear numbers in the 50s, 60s and 70s at this stage of camp. I asked one of my New England colleagues about the practice and was told Patriots rookies used to not have jersey numbers at all, and this is Belichick’s way of making them earn their stripes, sort of like spring training in baseball…

So New England’s first pick from April’s draft, N’Keal Harry, wears No. 50. The Patriots’ second pick, Joejuan Williams, wears No. 51. Their third pick, Chase Winovich, wears No. 52, and so on.

It was odd watching quarterback Jarrett Stidham (No. 58) take snaps, and complete passes to wide receiver Meyers (No. 69). You just don’t see players at those positions wear those numbers.

• We had our first casualty of camp Monday when Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski sent a kick over the bleachers behind one of the end zones and into the selfie stand at a booth run by one of the Lions’ corporate partners. Gostkowski’s kick put a football-sized hole in the screen and drew, “Oooohs” from the onlooking crowd.

There’s been a lot of talk about netting at baseball stadiums of late. Well, the Lions could use some netting behind the goal post in that end zone. Kickers Matt Prater and Ryan Santoso routinely practice field goals on the skinny goalposts there and launch balls into and around the media bleachers behind the end zone. Some of those kicks sail over or next to the bleachers, and frankly I’m surprised no one has been injured by an errant ball yet.

• Lastly, the conditioning hill behind the Lions’ practice facility is getting a lot of use. The Lions ran it last week for the first time and again on Sunday, and the Patriots ran it after practice Monday.

After the Patriots’ post-practice run, Belichick stopped for a few minutes to talk to Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford. Brady joined the conversation after a minute or two, and collectively the group spent four or five minutes talking before heading their separate ways.

4 standouts from Lions-Patriots joint practice: Day 1
A look at some of the positive performances from Monday’s practice.
By Jeremy [email protected] Aug 5, 2019, 4:30pm EDT

Towards the end of the Detroit Lions first joint practice with the New England Patriots, things were becoming hard to watch. The offense was pretty rough in red zone drills, and their two-minute offense looked downright bad. The defense’s poor finish to practice was a little more excusable, considering over half of the projected starters were sidelined against that Tom Brady guy.

So while I think my overall observations from Monday’s practice probably had a negative spin to it, I wanted to make sure I gave the good performances some credit, too. Here are four standout performances from Monday’s practice.

Nick Bawden

During the opening red zone drills, Bawden was getting open early and often. He caught two of the team’s seven touchdowns during that drill. Even during one-on-ones, Bawden was creating consistent separation against Patriots linebackers.

His ability as a lead blocker has been well documented by a strong start to camp and his prolific college career at San Diego State. But don’t sleep on his ability to be a potential red-zone threat on play-action passes near the goal line and maybe even a notable threat between the 20s, too.

Tavon Wilson

In my latest 53-man prediction, I had Wilson on the outside looking in. If he continues to perform like he did on Monday, however, he’ll be a roster lock by the second preseason game.

On Monday alone, I credited Wilson with two pass breakups, one blanket coverage and a tackle for loss in the run game. Additionally, he made at least one solid play combo-blocking the gunner on a punt return. We know how much the Lions value special teams, and if Wilson can prove he has no problem contributing in that manner, he’s going to have an easy stroll onto the 53.

First-team WRs

As I mentioned in my Day 1 recap, I unfortunately missed most of the one-on-ones between Lions receivers and Patriots defensive backs, but during team drills, each of the Lions’ top three receivers made at least one huge play.

There one from Kenny Golladay, where he made a diving grab with Jason McCourty a step behind.
And there was Marvin Jones Jr.’s pickup up at least 40 yards on a wide-open crosser. And Danny Amendola continues to be a route-running fiend capable of picking up 15-20 yards in an instant.

If Monday’s trend continues into the regular season, we could be in for another big year from the Lions wideouts.

Sam Martin

The Lions punter hasn’t quite been himself over the past two seasons. In his first four seasons in the NFL, Martin averaged at least 40 net yards per punt in each season, with his peak being 44.2 in 2016. In the past two seasons, he’s averaged just 37.6 and 39.2 net yards per punt in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

But Martin looked more like himself on Monday, booming punts nearing five seconds of hangtime with the distance to boot. Maybe his reunion with special teams coach John Bonamego is already paying off.

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From Twentyman and O’Hara, DetroitLions.com:

Play fake: Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been asked to run a lot more of Darrell Bevell’s offense under center. In doing so, the play fake is a much bigger part of the passing game. Stafford had a terrific play fake early in a team drill that not only fooled me, but the Patriots’ defense as well. It allowed wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. to get behind the defense on a deep crossing route. Stafford hit him with a perfect ball. – Tim Twentyman

Time lapse: It looked like the Lions might have been caught napping on a lunging sideline catch by Patriots rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry. He skidded on the turf for a few feet after the catch between two defenders. When nobody touched him, he got up and ran – but with the Lions in pursuit. – Mike O’Hara

Opportunity knocks: With linebackers Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones sitting out Monday’s joint practice, converted safety turned linebacker Miles Killebrew got some run with the first-team defense. Killebrew is a year into the position switch, and Monday was a terrific opportunity to see where he fits in and what he does best against another opponent. Killebrew is a core special teamer, but he’s trying to find a role on defense too. These opportunities are invaluable in that regard. – Tim Twentyman

Catching on: Running back C.J. Anderson described his running style as “nasty,” and it looks like he’ll add another dimension with a receiving style that could be called “slippery.” He made one catch with a sharp cut to the right sideline and another down the middle. He looked quick and nimble on both. – Mike O’Hara

Bend but don’t break: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led a two-minute drill late in practice. They had 1:45 left on the clock down by three, starting on their own 30-yard line. Brady and wide receiver Braxton Berrios connected on two big plays in the middle of the field. It took just four plays for the Patriots to enter the red zone. Things got tougher from there, however. Safety Tracy Walker and cornerback Rashaan Melvin made nice plays, and Brady overshot a couple receivers. Their drill ultimately stalled on the 7-yard line. – Tim Twentyman

Color change: No, fall hasn’t come to Allen Park and brought a change in colors. But the uniforms are different with the Patriots in camp. When the Lions are alone, one unit wears white jerseys and the other wears blue. The Lions were in their blue home uniforms, and the visiting Patriots wore white. – Mike O’Hara

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From Chris Burke, TheAthleticDet:

  1. Wouldn’t go so far as to call Tavon Wilson “safe,” but he’s making strides toward being on the 53. Good tip on a Brady pass dropping at the second level today.

  2. Marvin Jones has looked really smooth for at least the past week or so now. Already seeing reminders of how difficult he and Golladay are to defend together. He should benefit from all the attention Golladay is going to demand.

  3. Don’t know if there is room on the 53-man roster for both Ty Johnson and Brandon Powell, but they’re both making plays in this offense. Powell getting work with the RBs either means the Lions love his versatility or they’re desperate to find reps for him. Maybe both.

  4. No surprise here: I still think coverage from the LBs is going to be an issue. They’ll be able to cover it up some with their safeties, but beyond Reeves-Maybin it’s troublesome … and James White made him look bad in a 1-on-1 rep today. (It happens. Those 1-on-1s are tough.)

  5. The starting line as of now is Decker-Wiggins-Ragnow-Glasgow-Wagner. They’ve given Dahl and Aboushi opportunities to push for that starting guard job but it’s not happening yet. If that O-line holds, bank on a lot of run plays to the right and extra blocking help shaded left.

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From Kyle Meinke, MLive:

ALLEN PARK – On the first day of joint practices between Detroit and New England, one quarterback looked like a future Hall-of-Famer. The other didn’t. And it won’t surprise you which was which.

Tom Brady had little trouble handling a Lions defense that was without important pieces like Trey Flowers, Snacks Harrison, Mike Daniels and Jarrad Davis. Then again, Brady was throwing to guys like Jakobi Meyers and Braxton Berrios, and was still productive.

Brady finished 19 of 27 overall, according to Patriots beat writers, and was at his best during situational work. That really stood out during 2-minute drills.

Both offenses got the ball at their own 30-yard line, trailing by three points with 1:45 showing on the clock. But Brady needed only a fraction of that, completing three straight downfield passes to move New England to Detroit’s 20 yard line with 44 seconds left. Just like that, totally different ballgame.

Give credit to Detroit’s defense for battening the hatches at that point and forcing a stop at the 7-yard line. Brady had to waste two balls through the back of the end zone because everyone was covered, then tried to force a ball to a covered Meyers in the end zone on third down. Tracy Walker made a great play in that stretch to break up a pass, although I can’t read my notes well enough to figure out if that occurred on third down or before it. My bad.

Either way, the difference between New England’s precision in the hurry-up and Detroit’s, well, whatever that was, was impossible to miss.

After a couple short passes moved Detroit to midfield, C.J. Anderson was stuffed for no gain and Stafford misfired downfield. Facing a third-and-10, Stafford dropped back and fired a long completion to Marvin Jones downfield. Only problem: Shilique Calhoun, a former Michigan State star, blew through Detroit’s protection and sacked the quarterback well before he got rid of the ball.

This being training camp and all, they gave Stafford the completion anyway, and the Lions eventually kicked a field goal.

So same result in the same drill, sort of. But one team was methodical, surgical, pinpoint, whatever you want to call it, while the Lions were anything but any of that. And maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. Brady has been doing this for 20 years at the highest levels. Stafford hasn’t, and is learning a new offense at that.

One QB should look better at this point, and Brady did.

Still, it was another reminder the Lions remain a long ways from being ready for the start of the season in 34 days. Another came during red-zone drills, when Danny Amendola and Taylor Decker committed back-to-back penalties and Stafford tripped over the feet of a teammate – I thought it was Kerryon Johnson – on third down. Yuck.

Here are some more observations from practice:

– That’s not to say Stafford was all bad, especially early. He connected with Kenny Golladay on a long pass to open one-on-ones, then threw a dime to Jones about 40 yards downfield for a TD on the next play. Golladay also burned Jason McCourty during seven-on-sevens, and Stafford threw him a little long – but Kenny Golladay being Kenny Golladay, he was able to stretch out for the diving catch. A better throw might have gone for a lot more, but credit where it’s due.

Speaking of credit, give a bunch of it to Amendola. He’s been burning the hell out of Jamal Agnew in practice lately, who doesn’t exactly lack for speed, but Stafford has missed him multiple times. On Monday, they were able to connect on a nice out route for a chunk play. And what’s notable is it came with Stephon Gilmore in coverage. A Patriots beat writer told me Gilmore had not been beaten in any of his previous nine camp practices. Literally, Tom Brady and everyone else was an 0-for against Gilmore until today. Amendola is getting consistent separation, and Stafford needs to dial in his accuracy to take better advantage of it.

– The practice opened with tight ends and fullbacks working against linebackers and defensive backs at the goal line. And Detroit (with Tom Savage at quarterback) was especially good, completing eight straight touchdown passes in the drill – or seven of eight, depending on how you count Jesse James catching one ball right at the pylon. Austin Traylor, Jerome Cunningham, Nick Bawden, Traylor again, Zach Zenner and Isaac Nauta all caught TDs against New England’s defense. It was some of Detroit’s best work of the day, and I have to say, Bawden really killed the drill. He has good hands, runs good routes, and seems to have a feel for exploiting the soft spots in a defense. Forget about just making this team – put me down for him scoring this season too.

– The Lions had a surprising practice scratch, with Jarrad Davis not suiting up. If memory serves, this is the first practice Davis has missed since battling a concussion early in his rookie season. He’s been durable since, including starting all 16 games last year and playing a team-high 98.9 percent of the defensive snaps. He hadn’t missed a day of training camp either, including the padless workout on Sunday. But a day later, he was out. That’s kind of strange, and you can bet Matt Patricia will be asked about it on Tuesday. Jahlani Tavai, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Devon Kennard were the first-team linebackers throughout most of Day 1 with New England.

– The Lions defense is expected to be good this year, but man has it been hit hard by injury in training camp. Stars like DE Trey Flowers and DT Snacks Harrison haven’t even suited up yet. DT Mike Daniels hasn’t taken a team rep since signing with Detroit on July 26. CB Teez Tabor, DL Da’Shawn Hand, DE Austin Bryant, CB Marcus Cooper, LB Christian Jones, LB Steve Longa, DT Darius Kilgo, DL Jonathan Wynn and LB Malik Carney all continue to miss time with injuries, while DE Garret Dooley and DT Kevin Strong – forced into part-time starting roles because of injuries left Monday’s practice with injuries of their own. So did tight end Jerome Cunningham.

– On the bright side, star cornerback Darius Slay has returned from the non-football injury list. He even got in some first-team work against Tom Brady and the Patriots, although he took a lot of breaks as well. Rookie Amani Oruwariye was his replacement opposite Rashaan Melvin.

– With Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones out at linebacker, converted safety Miles Killebrew got some run with the first-team defense. That’s the first time that’s happened, in a game or otherwise, in a really long time. Killebrew played zero snaps of defense last year, but seems to be figuring it out in his second camp at the position. A killer on special teams, anything Killebrew is able to provide on defense is gravy.

– One of the advantages of joint practices is it gives rookies an opportunity to work against foreign players and schemes for the first time, and do so without the pressure of it happening in a preseason game. I kept thinking about that while watching a guy like Jahlani Tavai, who has looked good in Lions camp. But the Lions offense isn’t exactly humming either, and I was curious to see what would happen when the rookie from Hawaii lined up against, say, Tom Brady. The results: Up and down, as you might expect.

Tavai looked slow-footed in one-on-one drills that pitted defenders against running backs leaking out of the backfield. Brandon Bolden got him especially bad on one rep. But Tavai rebounded nicely later in practice by stripping a ball-carrier from behind. (I didn’t catch the jersey number.) Friendly reminder, Tavai also picked off Matthew Stafford last week.

– You know Matt Patricia is going to highlight that Tavai play in meeting rooms, after Detroit generated the second fewest turnovers in the league last year. That’s a big reason why Andrew Adams was brought in, and he’s been as handsy as advertised. He picked off one pass in the scrimmage on Friday night at Ford Field, then added another against New England today.

– For those wondering why in the hell there’s a red No. 58 playing quarterback for New England, don’t worry, that really is a quarterback. It’s Jarrett Stidham, to be precise, the Patriots’ fourth-round pick. Bill Belichick forces all rookies to wear a number from the 50s to the 70s, before “earning” a real number heading into Week 1. Seems very college-like to me – like earning your wings at Michigan or something – but Belichick has won six more Super Bowls than me, so I digress.

– Detroit wrapped up practice with more wind sprints, just like it did after joint practices with the Raiders and Giants last year. Only this time, instead of opposing players milling about wondering why Detroit was still on the field, New England went back to work too. Belichick had players sprint up the new hill on the north side of the practice fields, then went over to chat with Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford. Brady joined them after his sprints were in. Boy, I would have loved to have been in on that one.

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The Pats are in the same system they’ve had for 20 years. Same scheme. Same HC. Same QB!
Duh! I sure as hell hope they’re better than we are after two weeks!

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Contrast that with the number of Head coach’s, schemes, players, and lack of continuity that we’ve gone through over that same 20 year period.

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