Detroit Lions: Training Camp From Novi High School


On August 5th, 2015, the Detroit Lions hosted their first public, padded training camp at Novi High School.

Luckily I was able to attend the event, which brought in 7200 fans to the campus of the school. Today I am going to go through a little bit of what I saw and what I think of our beloved Detroit Lions thus far. So let’s get started.

The Abdullah hype is real!

Ameer Abdullah, the 2nd round draft choice for the Detroit Lions from Nebraska, seems to have it all. The kid has speed. He has strength. He has drive. And most importantly, he can make some serious cuts on that field! I understand it was only day 3 of camp, but the moves I saw Abdullah making almost remind me of a second coming of Jahvid Best (minus the history of concussions). It honestly wouldn’t be a shock to me to see him starting nearly every game this year. He is THAT good.

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Travis Swanson likely to start at center.

May 27, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions guard Travis Swanson (64) during OTA at Detroit Lions Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

From the very beginning of the camp, including warm up’s, Travis Swanson was the man at center under Matthew Stafford. While we suspected this is what would happen, training camp has helped to solidify this thought. I didn’t see one mishandled snap or any plays during the 11-on-11 drills that blew up around the center position, which is a very good sign.

Corey Fuller is the man to beat for the 3rd wide receiver position

In his sophmore year last season, Corey Fuller had a decent performance when he was on the field for the Detroit Lions. When Calvin Johnson was out, Fuller helped to fill in the wide receiver position. In training camp, he looks like a whole new receiver. He was running clean, crisp routes and his catching was top-notch. Now, if you have ever been to one of these practices, you know it is hard to see every play that every player plays in. So, I may have missed it if it happened, but from what I saw, Fuller did not drop one pass that was thrown to him. It didn’t matter if it was in front of him, behind him, or right on target. The kid is stepping up big for 2015 and showing he has what it takes to make the number 3 spot. It is definitely his for the taking.

Special teams left a lot to be desired

Dec 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions kicker

Matt Prater

(5) against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Lions defeated the Bears 20-14. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

While the return game looked halfway decent, it was hard to really gauge. The punt return defense was, for lack of better terminology, sluggish at best. It is truly hard to tell how good the returns were when you have guys that aren’t even trying to stop you, from the looks of it. While a few of the returners showed some good things, it was really hard to tell. Golden Tate, Jeremy Ross, TJ Jones, and Ameer Abdullah all looked pretty good. I sincerely doubt they will put one of their best receivers at return duty and risk injury, so the return job will likely be up to the later three players.

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This is probably the biggest downfall of the Detroit Lions right now, and rightfully so. When you have an offense and defense put together to win games, you need the special teams to be solid in order to help you with that win.

One very positive note for the special teams, though, is that Matt Prater is looking very good this year. He hit every field goal he kicked, even hitting the guys in the scissor lift who were videoing practice a few times from around the 45-yard mark. Mind you, these guys in the lift are sitting 50 feet above the ground. There was no wind and I would venture to say that he could have hit the field goal from about 70 yards that night.

Interior of the offensive line looked solid

The combination of Laken Tomlinson, Travis Swanson, and Larry Warford inside looks to be a very good group. I would look for them to be the main starters in this season. This will open up the run game in the middle quite well and help establish it so we can have more success in our passing game.

The 4th running back spot still up for grabs

While the first 3 running backs have pretty much been established (Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Joique Bell), the 4th spot is going to be a tough decision to make.

While Zach Zenner looked decent, I really didn’t see anything from him that made him stand out to me. He is still listed as a fullback on the roster, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them use him in that position. He is fairly big for a running back and he has moves to make a successful running fullback.

One thing I did notice is George Winn has come a long way. His runs were powerful and he never stopped moving his feet, which is essential in gaining extra yards after contact. His ball control looked very solid and had not one drop and made quite a few nice runs for big gains and even a touchdown or two. It wouldn’t shock me in the least if he made the 4th spot, but we shall see what happens there.

May 27, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during OTA at Detroit Lions Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

And finally, the quarterback position beyond Stafford is shaky

Matthew Stafford had a pretty good day at camp. His footwork looks even more improved and it shows he has worked on it, even in footwork warm up drills from the start. He had an overthrown or underthrown pass here and there, but overall, looked improved over last year.

Now, the backup quarterbacks are what scared me.

While at first, Dan Orlovsky looked pretty good, he slowly drifted off and was throwing off target towards the end of practice.

Kellen Moore did not look like the Kellen Moore we all saw in the preseason last year.  His throws were often off target and wobbly. I honestly didn’t even recognize his play on the field.

The bottom line here is, if Matthew Stafford gets injured, we may be in some serious trouble. Luckily, Stafford has been very durable, given the abuse he faced last season. Hopefully that isn’t something we have to worry about.

Overall, the training camp at Novi High School was a lot of fun to watch. A lot was learned. Some was quite impressive, some was disappointing, but in the big picture, the team looks good.

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