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.
Anyone who was at Detroit Lions’ camp on Tuesday had to notice the distinct inclusion of running back Mikel Leshoure in everything from draw plays to screen passes.
Most of the afternoon, Leshoure took first-team snaps, carrying the ball and catching it, helping to back up Jim Caldwell’s claim that Leshoure’s slate was indeed wiped clean under Detroit’s new staff.
It was a messy slate, too, which featured a run-in with the law, a serious Achilles injury and the emergence of other flashier options on the depth chart, such as Reggie Bush and Joique Bell leading to eventual trade rumors. Even Theo Riddick has gotten love as an under the radar option out of the backfield recently, leaving Leshoure as somewhat of a forgotten man.
Despite all of that, the faith the staff is showing in Leshoure early is intriguing. Unlike last season, Leshoure has taken a step forward in camp this year himself, helping to create a small bit of his own hype. Tuesday, he did everything right, including running with toughness on handoffs and excelling on passes out of the backfield. Last year, Leshoure struggled with drops and fumbles in camp, with the negative momentum carrying into the season.
Are the increases in summer touches a good thing? Nobody yet knows if the Lions will carry five running backs, but considering the amount of runners the New Orleans Saints use and the system which Joe Lombardi is installing, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Leshoure stick on the roster and even get called upon during games.
For Leshoure, it has to be refreshing to know the staff at least means what they say, and are willing to give a second chance. It’s an opportunity the talented young tailback looks to be seizing more every camp day that passes.
Caldwell On The Defensive. Early on, Jim Caldwell made it a point to watch his defense closely. As workouts started, Caldwell walked over and watched the cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers intently, taking an interest in the goings on with defenders. Jim Schwartz was routinely critisized for not being hands on enough with either group, so it is refreshing to see Caldwell, casually known as a more offensive-minded coach, taking an interest in the progression of his defense.
Hester’s Hot. There’s no gurantee where the Lions will go as it results to help in the secondary, but one name that’s definetly sure to find its way into the mix is cornerback Aaron Hester. The UCLA product has impressed in camp thus far, and continues to look good in drills and when he sees the field in workouts. There’s no saying where he might end up considering Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood have made the first depth chart, but Hester is giving Detroit something to think about.
Mixed Bag For Ebron. Detroit’s rookie tight end Eric Ebron had a nice day catching the ball showing some excellent hands and quick moves over the middle of the field and down the sidelines, but did struggle once notably with blocking on the outside. Other than the drop angle, it’s going to be the major bugaboo for Ebron to shake as a rookie. If he can catch the majority of passes his way, it won’t matter much how well he blocks most of the time.
Heat’s On Broyles. The Lions have made moves to bring in several wideouts including Golden Tate, Jeremy Ross and Quintin Payton as well as working to include Kris Durham in the offense, meaning the pressure’s heaviest on incumbent Ryan Broyles to make plays and make the most of his time on the field. So far, Broyles has done alright, but that’s not going to cut it with the emergence of Corey Fuller this season. Simply, if Broyles doesn’t make the plays in preseason games, he shouldn’t stay on the field or perhaps even make the team.
Fullback Love. Not only did Mikel Leshoure see plenty of action, but fullback Jed Collins was worked into the offense as well, with several passes going his way in drills over the middle of the field. Collins snagged every one, and also was involved in the offense as a lead blocker in two back sets. Considering the role he played with the Saints, it will be interesting to watch how Collins is used in Detroit’s wide-open offense.
Play Of The Day: No surprise here, but it was turned in by Calvin Johnson, who made a tough catch in the back of the end zone look easy on blanket coverage by Glover Quin. Every day, Johnson does something to amaze. Fans are truly fortunate they’re getting to see the best wide receiver in the game play during his prime.
Number To Note: 1, the number of passes batted down by Tahir Whitehead. The competition for outside linebacker figures to be heating up, with Kyle Van Noy, Ashlee Palmer and Whitehead all battling for the job. It was a solid day for Whitehead, who’s pass breakup drew cheers from defensive teammates. It’s just another example of how positive good competition can be this time of year.
He Said It: “Man, I’m just happy to be here.” —Theo Riddick. I pressed Riddick on the notion that he was ready to become a versatile offensive threat ala Darren Sproles as many have casually said and written this offseason. To his credit, Riddick stayed humble and didn’t take the bait, noting he was just happy to survive another day in the league. That’s the perfect mindset for the second year man to have as he goes about his business and tries to fight to make an impact this fall.
Laugh Of The Day: Head coach Jim Caldwell made mention of the roster’s cream rising to the top in his introductory press conference in January. When I spoke with Caldwell today briefly, I asked him if the cream was indeed rising to the top on his roster during camp thus far from what he’s seen. The coach, apparently content to stay guarded one week in, laughed heartily and replied, “the cream’s always rising to the top!”