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2024 Detroit Lions Week 1 OTA observations: Positional breakdown

The Detroit Lions concluded the first week of Organized Team Activities (OTA) on Thursday with their third practice, the first in front of the media.

At this point in the offseason, it is still important to remember that the pads are not yet on and full contact is not yet permitted. That said, we were there on Thursday, and here’s what we noticed on a beautiful Thursday afternoon in Allen Park.

Quarterbacks

It was a slow start from Jared Goff and the offense, with Goff’s first three passes on an 11-on-11 play all going incomplete. But as the drive continued, Goff settled in nicely with some rhythmic passes and a beautifully thrown deep ball to Jameson Williams (more on that in a minute).

Thursday was our first look at Hendon Hooker during a full practice since Detroit drafted him last year. Personally, I thought it was a very mixed bag from the second year quarterback. The ball jumps out of his hands well and he can really put some zip on it. He completed some passes that some starting quarterbacks probably couldn’t throw. However, the accuracy was inconsistent at best. A few passes probably should have been dropped. That said, he connected on a deep shot.

The biggest question Hooker faces at the next level is his processing abilities, and I saw both the good and bad sides of him on Thursday. On one repeat, he took far too long to pass the ball to Tom Kennedy, giving Amik Robinson time to read the play and almost recover it. On the next play, he patiently made his reads, found running back Jake Funk and placed the ball where Funk could catch it and move it up the field.

Running backs

It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from a running back when they aren’t being tackled, but I will note that not only did Sione Vaki work on the “starters” side on assists (remember, Jahmyr Gibbs was absent ), but he also produced some beautiful pieces. On a pass from Hooker that was over his head, Vaki scooped it up and returned it upfield for a gain of more than 20 yards during 11-on-11. It was the second consecutive drive where I note his natural hands in the passing game.

Tight ends

I don’t have any significant grades from the tight end group. There was no notable exception with the absence of Sam LaPorta.

Wide receivers

Let’s talk about Jamo. Dan Campbell praised the third-year receiver, and it was easy to see some of the growth he talked about. Jameson Williams looked more relaxed and didn’t seem like he was overthinking like last year. He was more detailed in his background, and the guy can still fly.

But he’s not there yet. During the tours, he appeared to make a mistake, hit his own helmet several times and cowered. Then, during those 11-on-11, remember that Goff dime I was talking about? He dropped it. Granted, he was running full speed and it was a full extension of his arms, but he needs to bring them back if the Lions are really going to trust him to be WR2. (Kindle Vildor was a few steps behind in terms of coverage). Williams made up for it with a 20-30 yard catch during a late-half drill.

Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that it looked like Antoine Green was getting a primary job with the first-team offense with Donovan Peoples-Jones. The only play of note by either was a 20-yard gain by Peoples-Jones with the second team. offense.

The play of the day came from Kaden Davis, a minicamp rookie who ended up signing with the team. Davis was covered closely on a deep throw from Hooker but found late separation against Vildor for a huge gain and a touchdown. It’s worth noting that Jamo was one of the first on the field to celebrate the big play.

Offensive linemen

With Frank Ragnow and Taylor Decker out, here’s a look at the offensive line rotations. There were a few mix-ups, but this was the most common lineup for each team:

OL1 (from left to right): Dan Skipper, Graham Glasgow, Michael Niese, Kevin Zeitler, Penei Sewell

OL2: Connor Galvin, Christian Mahogany, Michael Niese, Netane Muti, Colby Sorsdal

OL3: Giovanni Manu, Bryan Hudson, Kingsley Eguakun, Matt Farniok, Colby Sorsdal

What’s notable here is that it appears Sorsdal could return to his varsity position at blocker. I saw him play both left and right tackle on Thursday.

On the rookie side, Giovanni Manu remains solely at left tackle (at least as I’ve seen him), but will have to move up from deep in the rotation. Mahogany got work at left guard after working on the right side during rookie minicamp.

Defensive linemen

The defensive line was missing a few key players Thursday: no DJ Reader, Josh Paschal, Marcus Davenport or James Houston. The person who seemed to benefit the most in terms of playing time was Levi Onwuzurike, who was seen regularly with the first team defense. CFL starter Mathieu Betts also got some work and was JACK’s primary linebacker for 7-on-7s.

That being said, the two biggest defensive plays were made by the team’s two best defensive linemen. Aidan Hutchinson batted away a pass on a misdirection scenario. On the next series, Alim McNeill turned around on a play and picked up what would have been an untouched sack (backup center Michael Niese appeared to have misread the play).

I know many are predicting a breakout year for second-year defensive tackle Brodric Martin, but he too will need to move up the depth chart, working primarily with the second team on Thursday.

Linebackers

Without Alex Anzalone and a limited Derrick Barnes, there were a lot of Jack Campbell and Malcolm Rodriguez with the first-team defense. I don’t have much grade from the linebacker group, but Campbell had the unfortunate assignment of covering Amon-Ra St. Brown on one rep, and it went as well as expected, with the All-Pro receiver . gaining a few yards of separation on a crossing route, before stopping on short notice, turning the other way and beating Campbell up the field.

Cornerbacks

Rookies Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. were both very limited participants Thursday, with Arnold playing slightly more than Rakestraw.

When both were sidelined, the starting lineup consisted primarily of Carlton Davis and Kindle Vildor on the outside and Amik Robertson at nickel.

Out of everyone who participated in practice, I think Davis stood out to me the most as being the best player of the day. He faced St. Brown several times and came away with a pass breakup. I only saw him give up one reception all day, and it was an underhand pass to Kalif Raymond for a very small gain.

“He’s a player that wants to get in someone’s face and challenge them,” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Davis before practice. “Nothing has changed about that. He did it when he was in Tampa. I know he expects to do the same things here. So it fits perfectly with what we’re trying to do.

Robertson also showed some nice closing speed on a pass he almost intercepted from Hooker. Other players who had pass breakups that day: Khalil Dorsey and Vildor.

Security

Without Kerby Joseph or Brian Branch, Ifetu Melifonwu was the primary starter with CJ Moore and Brandon Joseph sharing time alongside him. Melifonwu almost started the practice with an interception on a poorly thrown ball from Goff. Substitute Loren Strickland almost did the same thing on an overturned ball from Hooker.

Situational exercise

Towards the end of practice, the Lions asked the first and second team offense to score in a very specific situation:

35 seconds left, starting at their own 28 yard line with just one timeout

The first team’s offense was relatively successful. After a McNeill pressure forced an incompletion, Goff found Jameson Williams for 25-30 yards and the Lions called a timeout with 23 seconds left.

On the next play, Goff found St. Brown for 9 yards, and they followed it up with a spike. After a throw on third down, the Lions settled for a 52-yard field goal attempt.

Michael Badgley and James Turner attempted the kick from there, and both did so with plenty of distance to go.

The second team was a little less successful. A check against Shane Zylstra only gained 7 yards and forced the first timeout. A Peoples-Jones breaking route traveled nearly 20 yards. But after throwing the ball to stop the clock, Hooker only managed a few more yards, setting up a field goal from about 60 yards out.

While Badgley and Turner’s kicks had enough distance, only Badgley’s managed to go through the uprights, while Turner was a few yards wide on the right.

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