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.
Why didn’t the Detroit Lions draft a safety?
It’s the biggest question many have asked all offseason, especially when the team passed on the position early in free agency as well as in the second and third rounds of the draft to address other needs. Defensively, minus Louis Delmas, most figured it would’ve been a more significant priority quick.
During camp, however, it appears the Lions already had a plan all along, and it revolved around signing unknown talent and developing it during camp. The biggest addition made at the position was James Ihedigbo, who was a veteran of defensive coordinator Terryl Austin’s system. Other than that, the Lions has added relative unknowns both young and old and maintained Don Carey, a lone holdover.
Thus far, though, those unknowns are making a big difference and standing out. William and Mary’s Jerome Couplin had a fantastic night against the Cleveland Browns with solid coverage and big hitting, and Isa Abdul-Quddus (1 interception) also showed well in the game and in camp, suddenly creating a bit of depth.
Wednesday, it was obvious judging by the amount that Couplin and Abdul-Quddus were seeing the field that the Lions’ staff is beginning to trust their youngsters more and more, too. That trust has paid off. All had a solid afternoon, with Ihedigbo making a nice pass breakup in drills and the others gaining the confidence to constantly face up against Detroit’s massive pass catchers. It’s a daunting proposition even the biggest names have been known to shrink from.
Considering the impressive development of everyone, it’s not unreasonable to consider safety a position of strength this season. Depth, which has been a significant issue in the past as injuries have piled up, likely won’t be a major concern this year.
The emergence of these lesser-known players is a good reminder: just because someone doesn’t carry a big name doesn’t mean they can’t eventually provide a big game.
Field Goal Frenzy. Likely the most exciting moment of camp happened when the entire team gathered to pressure kickers Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio, who are embattled in an intense competition. With everyone jumping, cheering, taunting and razzing both players, the kickers attempted to make field goals. Both also had to kick over massive Joseph Fauria. The results were mixed, with Freese yanking a shorter field goal left but making many midrange kicks, Tavecchio making a longer one (40 yards) with midrange kicks mixed in and both coming up short from extreme range (likely 50 yards or more). There didn’t appear to be much blood.
Revolving Roster. As Jim Caldwell has said, don’t read much into where and when players are both playing and practicing, but it’s worth noting some intriguing developments. Jerome Couplin and Isa Abdul-Quddus were seeing plenty of time with the first group while veteran Don Carey plugged away elsewhere. Also of note? Kyle Van Noy took some snaps with the third team, while Ashlee Palmer and Tahir Whitehead worked with the first and second teams. Also seeing plenty of passes were the impressive Andrew Peacock and the improved Corey Fuller.
Laying Down The Lawson. Perhaps the best cornerback of the day was Nevin Lawson, who made a pair of excellent pass break ups and looked solid in coverage most of the afternoon. Since the start of camp, Lawson has improved and made strides in his coverage abilities week to week. It’s been fascinating to watch his evolution and development over this short period of time. Perhaps when camp and the preseason break, he will be ready to take another leap forward for a major spot on defense.
Winn Finishing Everything. George Winn continues to make a name for himself with excellent plays, but the best thing about him remains his competitive spirit. Every time his number was called, Winn finished runs, going into the second level and taking on linebackers and safeties even if they weren’t coming at him full speed or completely engaged in a drill. It’s clear the players are embracing Winn, too. Just before the end of camp, he took the final handoff and pushed toward the end zone fighting for yardage, quickly getting lifted up and in by all of his teammates in a special moment.
Pettigrew Setting The Example. It’s been a common theme to worry about some of Detroit’s tight ends and their ability to block. Wednsday showed why that might be getting to be an unfounded concern. Early on before practice, Brandon Pettigrew worked constantly on his side to side agility, setting the proper examples for youngsters like Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria, both of whom have become quick studies in the art during camp and have by all accounts improved.
Status Quo On QB 2’s. Though many want to manufacture a competiton between Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore for the right to back up Matthew Stafford, the fact remains it probably won’t happen considering Orlovsky’s experience. Orlovsky continued to take snaps with the second team offense on Wednesday, and did lead a majority of the offense’s preparation for the Oakland Raiders. There were some misfires, but on the whole, not much happened in practice to differentiate he and Moore, meaning Friday’s game will be the next chance for a meaningful comparison.
He Said It: “If it’s God’s plan, I will.” —Jerome Couplin. I chatted with Couplin about his hopes and expectations of making Detroit’s roster, and the young safety was content to keep plugging away, working hard and trusting a higher power. He’s got the right mindset, and plenty of class to go with it. Couplin signed autographs for plenty of fans young and old after practice, taking time out to chat with many as well. Best of all, he did so with an unfailing smile.
Number To Note: 1, the number of encroachment penalties Nick Fariley sustained on the defensive line. Pretty soon, it will be fair for the league to simply switch the name of the penalty from “encroachment” to “Fairley.” He has struggled to keep his composure in the middle of the line in games, and it wasn’t a good sign when he was drawn off by a hard count in scrimmage. It’s the type of penalty which will drive fans as well as the new coaching staff nuts during play.
Laugh Of The Day: Reggie Bush has earned the reputation of being a sure-handed pass catcher out of the backfield. That reputation hurt him when he forgot the ball once on Wednesday while everyone was watching. A pass bounced off his chest and ricocheted away, causing everyone to take note and begin razzing the frustrated running back. A few voices tormented him louder than all the rest, likely giving him the business about his mistake. To Bush’s credit, he did extra reps after practice on the same play and didn’t make the error again.