Training camp observation: 5 standouts from Monday’s unorthodox practice


On Monday, Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions coaching staff took a unique approach to practice. With plenty of starters sitting in Saturday’s game against the Steelers, the Lions used Monday’s practice to give those players—-and those that only played a handful of snaps—a day of practice, while everyone else had the day off.

So the roster was cut in half on Monday, and the players out there only participated in a short, one-hour practice that was focused almost exclusively on one-on-ones.

“It’s really not a practice, it’s more of a one-on-one is what we’re going to do,” Campbell said Monday morning. “We’re going to do a walkthrough and then, these guys that did not play in the game or real low-rep guys from the game, we’re going to take them out and do one-on-one routes, one-on-one protections, things of that nature. It will be clean, crisp, fast. We had a number of guys who took a lot of reps and we have injuries, and so it’s just the smart thing to do.”

What that looked like was basically the 40-some players all convening towards the end zone of the far side of the field and running all sorts of one-on-ones. Receiver vs. cornerback, offensive lineman vs. defensive lineman, tight end vs. linebacker, pass protection, pass coverage, etc. The entire team was convened together, so it was just one rep at a time.

Instead of my normal camp observations, I’ll break down who practiced and my five standouts from the session.

Participation

Before we get into it, here are the players that I noted that were participating. It’s quite possible I missed a player or two, given the unconventional nature of the practice:

QBs

  • Jared Goff
  • Jordan Ta’amu (did not throw many, if any, passes)

RBs

  • Jamaal Williams
  • D’Andre Swift
  • Dedrick Mills
  • Javon Leake
  • Jason Cabinda

WRs

  • Kalif Raymond
  • Victor Bolden
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown
  • Sage Surratt
  • Damion Ratley
  • Breshad Perriman
  • Javon McKinley
  • Darius Jennings

TEs

  • Darren Fells
  • T.J. Hockenson (wearing red jersey—more on that later)
  • Brock Wright

OL

  • Penei Sewell
  • Evan Heim
  • Tyrell Crosby (did not participate in team drills)
  • Darrin Paulo
  • Taylor Decker
  • Halapoulivaati Vaitai
  • Jonah Jackson
  • Frank Ragnow

DTs

  • Alim McNeill
  • P.J. Johnson
  • Michael Brockers (no team activity)
  • Kevin Strong
  • Nick Williams
  • John Penisini

EDGE

  • Trey Flowers
  • Romeo Okwara
  • Rashod Berry

LB

  • Jamie Collins Sr.
  • Alex Anzalone
  • Tavante Beckett

DBs

  • Corn Elder
  • Dean Marlowe
  • Alijah Holder
  • Nickell Robey-Coleman
  • Bobby Price

The most notable inclusions are Nick Williams, who suffered an injury last practice, Corn Elder, who has missed several weeks of practice, John Penisini, who has also missed several practices, and T.J. Hockenson.

Here are the five players that stood out the most.

T.J. Hockenson

Hockenson was sporting a red jersey, and he joked it was because the coaching staff is thinking about moving him to quarterback. In reality, the reason is because he’s been nursing an injury, but you wouldn’t know it from Monday’s practice.

In receiving one-on-ones, Hockenson caught five out of six passes, with his only “failure” coming when Dean Marlowe obviously held him.

What impressed me most was that Hockenson won his reps in so many different ways. On one rep, he simply ran into the defender to create some physical space. On most of his reps, however, he showed a lot of slipperiness, often shaking the defender (Marlowe at least three times) with a nice shoulder shake or two.

John Penisini

In his first practice back from injury, Penisini showed surprisingly light feet and speed during one-on-one pass-rushing drills. I have him winning three reps on the day with the words “twitchy” and “speed?” next to them.

In recent weeks, it has felt like Penisini may be losing his grasp on a spot to one of Detroit’s reserves, be it Kevin Strong or Bruce Hector, but don’t count him out yet.

Bobby Price

After getting worked by Hockenson early in practice, Price had a nice bounce-back day, as he continues to transition to the cornerback position. I logged him with two pass breakups—one on Victor Bolden, one on Breshad Perriman—and another blanket coverage rep against Javon McKinley.

I asked defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant about what he’s seen from Price since his transition to corner.

“Aggressiveness, intensity, versatility, and passion. That is apart from just the athlete.”

Nickell Robey-Coleman

It wasn’t all good for Robey-Coleman. Kalif Raymond absolutely turned him around and created a ridiculous amount of separation on one rep, and he also missed a “tackle” on a nice juke from Damion Ratley. But he also had a pass breakup on Ratley, blanketed St. Brown in coverage one play, and even tallied the session’s only interception in coverage against Raymond—although that pass came extremely late.

Robey-Coleman has been taken along slowly thus far in camp, and it’s even possible he could lose the nickel job to surging undrafted rookie A.J. Parker, but today was more good than bad from the veteran corner.

Romeo Okwara

At this point, I don’t think there needs to be a discussion: Romeo Okwara is the team’s best pass rusher. For the most part, he got the best of Penei Sewell (though Sewell won a rep or two against Okwara, and every rep against Rashod Berry). He even won a rep against the almighty Taylor Decker.

I don’t know if Okwara can take the step from one 10-sack season to a perpetual double-digit sacker, but he’s sure looking the part early in camp.