Armed with only an index card and a sharpie marker in hand, Max DeMara is heading to training camp and taking you inside the huddles.
The Detroit Lions put pads on for the first time during Friday’s training camp practice and ramped up the hitting. As a result, there were a few more dropped balls and miscues as well as a lack of crispness, which is to be expected.
One area the Lions did not see much struggle was at wide reciever. If drills were any indication, Detroit has several players capable of making a significant impact. Most know about Golden Tate’s planned emergence, but there are other players who shined often on Friday afternoon.
Kevin Ogletree, picked up amidst last season’s injury problems, made some excellent catches in traffic and showed a nice ability to gain separation with his man. Second year man Corey Fuller also hauled in a beautiful rainbow pass down the sidelines. Both had the look of players who had remade their bodies in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage this year.
Additionally, rookie Andrew Peacock and Quintin Payton each made a few catches, and could threaten to make the roster with a big enough effort in preseason play. Each offer a change of pace, as Peacock is smaller at 5-10 and Payton is a much larger 6-4. Detroit also has reliable Kris Durham in the fold to rely on.
The most fascinating battle, though, might end up developing between Ogletree and Fuller to see who makes the roster and pushes for playing time. Once upon a year ago, Fuller was stashed away after failing to make much of an early impact after getting drafted, but he appears to have put serious effort into remaking himself and learning the craft. Ogletree may have the inside track as a veteran, but will face a serious fight. The competition feels like a looming showdown.
Either way, as last season showed, there’s no such thing as bad depth at the receiver position. Early on in camp, the Lions look to have plenty at their disposal this time around.
What else is new on Republic Drive? Here’s the contents of what was jotted on today’s notecard.
Mr. Freese’s Big Leg. Nate Freese showed why the Lions made the move to snatch him up late in May’s draft process. The rookie showed impressive depth on all of his kicks, routinely nearly clearing the top kicking net with ease. Once they’re able to get him comfortable and over the usual rookie jitters, Freese is likely to be the one who solves the problem of finding Jason Hanson’s replacement once and for all.
It Happens To The Best Of Them, Darius. When the offense took on the defense head-to-head, Darius Slay immediately went to work against Calvin Johnson. As expected, the big man took Slay to school in the battle, outmuscling him for a massive catch that would have been an easy touchdown. Afterward, the two appeared to share a moment together. Likely, Johnson playfully ribbed Slay for the highlight reel play which delighted the crowd.
Lawson’s Got The Look. What rookie cornerback Nevin Lawson may lack in size (5-9) he certainly makes up for in constant compete. During drills, he moved with great agility and used a solid frame to attack tacking pads. Then, in coverage drills, he was tough on the man, routinely facing up and playing wide receivers tough. On punting drills, Lawson also skied for a nice tip to the delight of coaches, helping punter Sam Martin to a beautiful coffin corner.
Tapping The Ball. Matthew Stafford didn’t have the most accurate afternoon leading the offense through drills throwing the ball, and did get one notable pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. This one was courtesy of the pesky Darryl Tapp, who is a master at getting in the grill of the quarterback and forcing mistakes. If Tapp can do that consistently this fall, it will make the Lions’ defensive line even tougher.
Fairley Good. It’s become a common practice in the offseason to hear about Nick Fairley’s commitment to weight loss and health, but this season, the massive defensive tackle actually looks quite healthy, with his once-protruding gut slimmed down noticeably. As a result, Fairley looked more agile moving through drills. He may need to add a bit more weight to play pure tackle opposite Ndamukong Suh, but in his case, hopefully not too much. It’s refreshing to see the big man active and more trim.
Holding Them Accountable: During defensive tip drills, rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy dropped an obvious interception and was quickly forced to do push-ups on the field. Watching camp with Jim Schwartz, it was tough to remember such a public display of accountability ever being emphasized, showing one interesting difference with Jim Caldwell’s regime already. Speaking of Van Noy, the mistake was a rare one, as he showed fluidity most of the day.
Number To Note: 3, the amount of notable penalties the offense and defense had when going head to head. It wasn’t a crisp scrimmage by any means, with false start, holding and offsides being the calls that doomed Detroit. For Lions’ fans, those mistakes have become all too common from camp to the regular season.
Laugh Of The Day: Early on, the Lions’ D.J. was encouraging fans to show him they knew how to do the wobble while playing a song. Safety Don Carey heard him while getting loose and took note, comically dancing on the field and appearing to, well, wobble. It wasn’t clear to this author whether or not the dance was actually the one requested, but there’s nothing like watching football players in pads dance around.
He Said It: “I don’t know man, I hope so.” —Bill Bentley. The cornerback was pressed on wrapping up a job in the defensive backfield, but didn’t know whether to express optimism on his job prospects or not. Likely, he wants to be cautious, which is a good plan with a new staff that’s likely guaranteeing nothing. Either way, Bentley will be one of the defensive backs Detroit is counting on to make an impact this summer.