From Eric Schlitt, Lionswire:
On the eleventh day of the Detroit Lions 2019 training camp, the offense continues to show elements of basic football that were absent during the Jim Bob Cooter era. Simple rub routes and pre-snap motion have been afterthoughts in the past two seasons, but new offensive coordinator Carrell Bevells is illustrating he understands how to use his skill players.
Amendola and Hockenson can be a deadly duo
In an 11-on-11 drill designed to force the offense to score a touchdown, the Lions offense starts with the ball at the opponents 45-yard line with 40 seconds left on the clock and down four points.
Matthew Stafford found Amendola on a 7-yard crosser, then spiked the ball. On the next play, the pair connected once again for roughly 15-yards, and again another spike. A quick out to Andy Jones got them in the red zone, down to roughly the 13-yard line.
The Lions set up trips right with Amendola closest to the offensive line, Hockenson to his right and Jermaine Kearse on the outside. Amendola once again ran a crossing route but Hockenson used some route deception find himself in the open area that was vacated by defenders paying attention to Amendola. It was an easy pitch and catch from Stafford to Hockenson for the touchdown.
Lining up the shifty Amendola and a massive athlete like Hockenson could give defenses fits in trying to decipher routes.
More 11-on-11 and 7-on-7
Once again, the Lions offense started hot at the beginning of practice. In the first 7-on-7 drill of the day, Amendola, Jesse James and Chris Lacy all caught touchdowns. Then in the first 11-on-11, Jermaine Kearse caught a 50-yard bomb from Stafford for a touchdown — his strong Week 3 continues.
Flipping over to the defense for the first 11-on-11, the Lions stuffed the run on first down, followed by a Jahlani Tavai tackle for loss on second, and a Justin Coleman pass breakup (PBU) on third down to get off the field. It was a very excited group of players.
Justin Coleman continues to be up and down
It was a very up and down day for Coleman — his entire camp has been that way — I had him down the PBU above, as well as another one later in the day, but he was also getting burned far too often. The potential is there, but the consistency isn’t right now.
One of the biggest problems this defense will have is covering shifty slot receivers. This secondary matches up very well with bigger receivers, but when players like Amendola show up, I’m not sure they have an answer.
Play of the day
Mike Ford drew the short stick being asked to cover Patriots first-round pick N’Keal Harry, but on this particular play, Ford stayed sticky in coverage. The ball was thrown high to Harry and the 6-4 receiver easily high-pointed the ball, but on the way down, Ford got his hand in, dislodging the ball from Harry’s hands and knocking it straight up in the air. Unfortunately for Ford, his momentum carried him a yard downfield and the ball came straight down to Harry, who despite being flat on his back, made the catch.
Running backs drills
I spent some time focusing on the running backs drills today and I came away with three impressions.
First, Kerryon Johnson is incredibly difficult to cover and routinely got open. He is also solidifying his anchor in pass blocking drills, which should help keep him on the field in every situation.
Second, Ty Johnson’s speed makes him a weapon but his pass blocking needs improvement. This most likely translates to him being limited in certain situations until he can gain consistency, but he will still be involved in the passing game because he has very solid hands and is electric in the open field.
Third, Nick Bawden is going to be a weapon as a pass-catching option, especially in the red zone because he is very difficult to cover in small spaces. He can use his power to separate, his athleticism to get off blocks with technique, and I haven’t seen him drop a ball this week.
Christian Jones returned to the field for drills and 7-on-7s today, and with Jarrad Davis out, he settled in at WILL, shifting Jahlani Tavai to the MIKE and Jalen Reeves-Maybin to the second team MIKE. When the team went to 11-on-11s, Jones went back to work with trainers, Tavai shifted back to WILL and Reeves-Maybin was once again promoted to the MIKE.
Reeves-Maybin made the most of his reps today drawing mostly positive marks in my notebook, including an interception of Tom Brady that drew a huge ovation from the Lions sideline and the onlooking crowd.
Offensive line observations
Every time it looks like the Lions have settled on a starting five offensive linemen, they switch up the guards. Joe Dahl and Oday Aboushi returned with the starters today. The only other notable change was Graham Glasgow taking situational reps at center, shifting Luke Bowanko to right guard.
In drills versus the Patriots defensive linemen, both Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins split reps, while Glasgow and Dahl both won both their opportunities.
Among the surefire starters, Frank Ragnow dominated both his reps, Rick Wagner also won both his, while Taylor Decker’s only loss came at the hands of former Michigan Wolverine Chase Winovich.
Speaking of Winovich, he spent most of his day matched up with Ryan Pope. After clearly being on the roster bubble heading into joint practices, Pope’s matchups versus Winovich have been brutal. I’m not sure Pope has won a single rep this entire week.
Lions rookie gets ejected from camp
You may have heard, things got a bit chippier in camp today.
In the first drill of the day, Ragnow and Patriots starting nose tackle Mike Pennel gave each other some extra shoves and exchanged few words after Ragnow convincingly won two reps against him.
Later, in 11-on-11s when the Lions defense was defending the red zone, rookie Will Harris and Devon Kennard each got into some extra circulars on back-to-back plays. Fortunately, tempers calmed.
In 11-on-11s, Lions seventh-round rookie nose tackle PJ Johnson lost leverage and got put on the ground by Pats second-team guard James Ferentz (Iowa’s head coach Kirk’s son). Johnson didn’t like something about the play and got up and shoved Ferentz around the head and neck area, and a scrum ensued. It was broken up relatively quickly, but the end result was Coach Matt Patricia removing Johnson from the practice field.
We saw full contact kickoff drills for the first time in training camp. When the Lions were covering kicks, the most notable standout was Nick Bawden who was flying down the field and in the proper position for a tackle.
When the Lions returned kickoffs, Jamal Agnew was first in line to receive, followed by Ty Johnson, back to Agnew, and then Tommylee Lewis, who was removed from the PUP list today, wrapped up drill. Johnson looked incredibly fast and broke one for what would’ve been 40-50 yards.
Brandon Powell didn’t receive any kicks in this drill but saw the field on both sides of the drill. He was in good positions as a cover man, but as a blocker, he got blown up trying to slow down a speedy Patriot. The Lions continue to put him in multiple spots in multiple settings, giving him a lot of opportunities to make the roster.
In punt coverage/return drills, Agnew once again led the group, followed by Amendola and Powell rounded out the group. The top gunner pairings today were Chris Lacy and Andy Jones, Charles Washington and Dee Virgin, as well as Mike Ford and Andre Chachere.
New special teams coach John Bonamego appears to be making some positive impacts on the Lions special teams players. In addition to Sam Martin’s improvement, which I talked about in yesterday’s Day 10 observations, he also has the players staying focused through the entire play.
After the Patriots attempted to down a punt short of the end zone by knocking the ball back into the field of play, Amendola made a savvy play by fielding the deflection, turning and running up the field. Last week, Agnew made a similar play, indicating this is being taught to them.