Detroit Lions‘ common practices with the Indianapolis Colts kicked off on Wednesday afternoon in front of a packed audience with a surprising amount of Lions fans in attendance. As expected, it was a high-intensity practice with lots of trash talking, big collisions and emotions coming from every sideline.
Because of the layout of the drill—one field lined up end-to-end with the second field—I was only able to capture observations from one side of the ball. On Wednesday I chose to look at the Lions offense against the Colts defense. On Thursday, I will switch and look at the Lions defense against the Colts offense.
I’m changing the format a bit for these observations, just going in chronological order.
The regulars stayed out for Wednesday’s practice: DT Levi Onwuzurike, EDGE Julian Okwara, and CB Ifeatu Melifonwu.
Despite leaving Monday’s practice, starting offensive guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai was a full participant. Coach Dan Campbell said he had a spasm earlier in the week but is “fine.” Cornerback Saivion Smith also returned after missing Monday’s practice.
While Quintez Cephus remains at practice, he did not participate in any team drills as he continues to work his way back from a lower-body injury suffered early in camp.
Freshman guard Kevin Jarvis, on the other hand, did not participate in practice. It’s unclear what he’s dealing with, but he traveled with the team and watched from the sidelines.
The big injury news of the day, however, was tight end Devin Funchess suffering an upper body injury at the end of the practice. He looked to be favoring his right shoulder, but we probably won’t get an update until Thursday.
RBs vs. LBs
After the teams warmed up on their own, the first intersquad drills were one-on-one, and that really set the tone for the entire day. Originally, I planned to look at offensive line vs. defensive line, but quickly my attention was drawn to running pass protection against Colts linebackers.
As usual with these drills, linebackers typically have a strong advantage here, and at the start of the drill, this was no exception. Colts starting linebacker Zaire Franklin was especially strong in this drill — and he let everyone know about it. For the rest of practice, Franklin and Jamaal Williams were in each other’s faces.
The Lions’ most impressive representative came from D’Andre Swift, who completely locked down backup linebacker Sterling Weatherford for several seconds. Jamaal Williams let everyone on that field know about it, too.
OL vs. DL
Eventually, my attention drifted back to the big guys, but I only caught two replays for the first-team offensive line: Colts defensive lineman Grover Stewart (starter) pulled a nice swimming move to get to Frank Ragnow, and Penei Sewell did. great job locking Kwity Paye.
It wasn’t pretty for the reserves though. Logan Stenberg really struggled during the one-on-one period. I had him down with four decisive losses on the day, mostly to Colts backups.
If there was a single Lions deep offensive lineman who stood out in a positive way, it was Tommy Kraemer, who kept Eric Johnson and Tyquan Lewis at bay, but Johnson later got him with a bad spin move.
WR vs. DBs
I haven’t seen a lot of these one-on-ones, but DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds have both gotten splits on individual reps that I’ve seen. Unfortunately, Jared Goff was not at his best during this part of practice.
The Lions’ offense really struggled to get the ball against the Colts’ defense during these drills, with Indianapolis’ linebacking corps really giving them fits over the middle. Franklin recorded a pass breakup on Kalif Raymond, and Bobby Okereke nearly picked off Goff on a pass attempt to Raymond.
Goff and the offense had a little more success attacking the perimeter of the defense, connecting on a short slant to Raymond and a 5-yard out to Amon-Ra St.
After practice, Goff admitted that it took him and the rest of the offense some time to adapt to the different defensive scheme of the Colts.
“We settled in there early and kind of got our feet wet with what they were doing defensively, and I definitely know I was,” Goff said. “But I think everybody just needed a few games to settle in and once we did, we felt really good, and I thought we practiced well.”
When the Lions and Colts faced off in full team drills, it was obvious they had found a comfort level.
The Lions’ offense didn’t find much on the ground in their first two full-team reps against the Colts, but in the next three plays, they picked up 15+ yards on each. First, Goff found St. Brown on inside post for about 20 yards. Next, on a well-sold play-action pass, Goff found Trinity Benson for another 20 with Stephon Gilmore in coverage. That opened up the run game, as D’Andre Swift found the right end for a gain right around 15 yards. On that play, TJ Hockenson blocked a downfield, locked with Colts cornerback Kenny Moore. After the play was well behind them, Moore threw Hockenson into some people on the sideline, but fortunately no one was hurt.
In the second series of 11s, the Lions’ offense practiced situational downs – mostly on third down. The first-team offense earned a new set of shutouts on three of four games — with St. Brown, Reynolds, and Raymond all gaining at least 10 yards on receptions. The only stop the Colts got was a run play up the middle in which Swift was stopped by Paye.
The next set of full-team drills favored the Colts, as I only had the Lions successful on two out of four reps. A quick run to Williams picked up about 8 yards, and Shane Zylstra seemed to just barely pick up a third-and-2. On the other two plays, Brock Wright was sacked by a Colts linebacker for an incompletion, and a third-and-7 draw came up a few yards short.
Team drills closed with red zone games. St. Brown scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass with Brandon Facyson in coverage — and promptly punted the ball in celebration. Swift also found the rim again, going in from 6 meters out thanks to a Zylstra block. The Lions would have scored three touchdowns in a row, but Reynolds dropped an easy enough touchdown pass to end the drill.
Generally speaking, the second-team offense struggled against the Colts. Tim Boyle served as the team’s No. 2 quarterback on Wednesday and didn’t score during red-zone drills — though Zylstra came pretty close to dragging his feet in on the last team drill of practice. Kalif Raymond got behind the Colts’ secondary on at least two occasions, but Boyle dropped him once during 7-on-7s and undermined him during 11-on-11s.
The Lions clearly looked ahead on special teams drills – both in terms of punt returns and punt coverage. Opening as the returning team, Kalif Raymond exploded for a big gain during one of the few full team reps while Godwin Igwebuike and Craig Reynolds completely locked down Gunner during a two-on-one drill. It was during this exercise that the only real disturbance of the day occurred. I didn’t really see exactly what happened, but Saivion Smith was involved.
When things switched to coverage teams, the Colts only managed to return one of three punts, with one going over the returner’s head and another high enough to warrant a fair catch. Again, it was Igwebuike who stood out during gunnery drills, beating the coverage deep during his rep.
Odds and ends
- A tough day for Craig Reynolds, who was bowled during pass protection drills and had a fumble.
- Without Cephus in team drills, both Benson and Tom Kennedy were sprinkled in with the first-team offense.
- Matt Nelson continues to struggle as the team’s primary backup swingman. However, newly added Kendall Lamm continues to impress me more and more every day.
- Yes, that happened: