The Detroit Lions continue to host Organized Team Classes (OTAs) at Allen Park, and with week two in full swing, the local media will once again have access to the training session. Last week, Jeremy Reisman was present, but this week both he and Erik Schlitt will get a glimpse of spring football. Here are the top 10 things they’ll look for while exercising.
Jeremy: I know you are excited to be there for the first time so I will let you earn the honor of being number 1.
Eric: Well, let’s start with the big ticket position: Can Aidan Hutchinson continue his impressive start for the Lions? Almost every OTA observation article from the past week, regardless of the publication, has been going on with Hutchinson and his impressive performance.
I watched this young man for the past four years in Michigan, studied his film before draft, and made arguments as to why the Lions should have called him. However, I still feel that I am just getting to know the player I can become. I love the competition in the trenches and drool over the one-on-one duels we’ll see in the fall, but for now I’m looking at him and setting a benchmark for expectations.
Jeremy: I’m looking for an attack deflection. Last week’s one-minute drill was pretty lame for the violations – and even worse for the kickers. Now TJ Hockenson has recovered from his illness. Hopefully he’ll be back this week and Jared Goff and co can move the offense a bit. This is the point of last year’s season when the real worries about the offensive began to creep in, and as expectations are much higher this year, I’d like to see some significant progress.
Erik: I want to look at DJ Chark. I know it was one of your 10 things to watch last week, but I don’t care, I want to see it with my own eyes. With Jameson Williams on the shelf, there will be high expectations of Chark for now, and I want to see how he connects with Jared Goff, how he commands the people around him, and if his skill set matches the hype.
Jeremy: Holding it off with a grudge – I want to know if there are any noticeable philosophical changes. We spoke to defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn last week and both he and Dan Campbell were quite revealing about the changes the team is making to the defense. This week we will speak to the offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and I hope to have some information on the new Detroit offensive. Remember, Amon-Ra St. Brown said there are very few carry over from last year’s offensive so there is still a lot to be discovered about what the Lions will try to do in the offensive.
Erik: Any changes in attendance? Especially among the starters. Last week, Jeremy noticed the following players were missing from Allen Park:
TE TJ Hockenson
DT Michael Brockers
EDGE Romeo Okwara
EDGE Eric Banks
DT John Penisini
We know Hockenson was sick and Brockers are being treated for a veteran, but if they both come back it’s a lot of leadership around the building and on the pitch even if they’re not participating. It would also be nice to see Romeo in person again and perhaps get information about his recovery from Achilles.
Jeremy also noted that the following players were present but did not attend:
WR Jameson Williams
TE James Mitchell
TE Derrick Deese
LT Taylor Decker
CB Chase Lucas
CB Jerry Jacobs
I imagine the Lions will continue to act slowly with most, if not all, injured players, but it would be nice to see some of the new faces in person as well.
Jeremy: Jeff Okudah update? In both our Spotify Live session last weekend and this week’s PODcast episode, we marveled at the progress Okudah has already made following an Achilles injury last September. He is still not a full participant in the internship and it is unlikely to change this week, but it will be interesting to see his progress. Plus, why don’t we talk to him for the first time since the first week of last year?
Erik: Will Ifeatu Melifonwu and Harris continue to move to other positions? I know there are a lot of Lions fans like me who want to know where all the pieces of the puzzle fit into this list, but it’s important to remember that a large proportion of OTAs are testing players in different places to move their comfort zone. I wish I could put CB or S in front of the names of Harris and Mellifonwu and put them in my depth chart, but at the same time I can’t help but be intrigued by the possibility of having a true hybrid player on the list.
Jeremy: Josh Paschal. Hutchinson made all the headlines last week, but Paschal’s OTA debut went largely unnoticed. It’s true that his style of play won’t be as glamorous as that of Hutchinson’s – especially with his pads off – but I’ll be watching closely the Lions pick in the second round to see how he fares against the second and third – team violations. Bonus: How about the new guy John Cominsky? Paschal and Cominsky are likely to be fighting for game time in the same position. Of course, there’s no guarantee Cominsky is already on campus, but if he does, it’ll be interesting to see which player is better than the other.
Erik: Roles of linebackers. Despite the uncertainty on the position, most reports from last week suggested that things turned out as expected. Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes are currently holding the opening roles, Jarrad Davis and Chris Board are next and are pushing for time. Josh Woods and Shaun Dion Hamilton were veterans from the third pitch. While Anthony Pittman and rookie Mitchell Rodriguez were fourth in queue, they nevertheless attracted the most positive attention from coaches and the media. Last but not least, James Houston and Natrez Patrick on the back line, but also dual duty and training with Julian Okwara as stand-up serve in their new SAM / Hybrid LB role at Lions.
Hopefully I will see this group with my own eyes to see if any of them can separate from the pack and will follow any changes in the pecking order.
Jeremy: UDFA awards? Last week, converging Greg Bell and winger Kalil Pimpleton were the two main standout rookie classes for the Lions. Will anyone join them this week? Will the offensive attack, Obinna Eze, jump early on to the Lions job in OT4? Or maybe line-back Demetrius Taylor could use a relatively rare squad in a defensive attack?
BONUS: Jeremy: The Battle of the Digger? Yes, I shock the world and end it with a special band story. Earlier this week, the Lions released Aldrick Rosas, making it a two-man battle for the Lions kicker job. Both Riley Patterson and Austin Seibert performed well last year, but last week in Thursday’s practice they both hit 1 out of 4 out of over 40 yards (Seibert was alone). This battle will not be resolved in June, but it would be nice to feel a little better in this rivalry after last week’s poor performance.