Detroit Lions Week 2 OTA Sightings: First team attack grows, defense wins the day

One of the great things about Organized Team Learning (OTA) is that things are always evolving and there’s always something new to learn about the Detroit Lions. On Thursday, the Lions had their fifth spring training session – only the second was open to the media – and Jeremy Reisman and I were present at the Pride of Detroit.

This week I am honored to present what we observed during Thursday’s internship, so let’s get down to it.


Here is a list of players who were not present:

  • TE TJ Hockenson
  • TE Garrett Griffin
  • LT Taylor Decker
  • EDGE Romeo Okwara (Achilles)
  • EDGE Josh Paschal
  • NT John Penisini

Okwara’s absence is no surprise as he is still recovering from his injury, as is Decker’s absence, who is also injured but the other four missed for unknown reasons. Hockenson left the OTA game last Thursday due to illness, but was expected to return, so his absence on the pitch was disappointing. The second round selection, no Paschal, was also disappointing as he was on our target watchlist this week.

It’s important to note that these workouts are voluntary, but at the moment Penisini is the only player with no known injury to have missed all OTAs.

Here are the players who were present but did not participate:

  • WR Jameson Williams (ACL)
  • TE James Mitchell (ACL)
  • TE Derek Deese
  • DL Eric Banks
  • CB Jerry Jacobs (ACL)
  • DB Ifeatu Melifonwu

With rookies Deese and Mitchell seated – aside from Hockenson and Griffin – this makes the Four Tight Ends unable to practice today, leaving only Shayne Zylstra, Brock Wright, and rookie Nolan Given able to practice in that position.

Melifonwu was the next player on our watchlist this week, so we’ll have to wait and see if he’s ready to come back on the pitch next week for the minicamp.

The following players were minimally involved and worked mainly with coaches:

  • RB Godwin Igwebuike
  • EDGE Austin Bryant
  • LB Natrez Patrick

All three players have been forced to watch others repeat in their seats, which must be frustrating for people who are not guaranteed a place in the squad. They will definitely want to go back there as soon as possible.

First team crime

The first team’s crime was as predicted by this practice. The starting line for the offensive was the same as last week, with Penei Sewell shifting to left hand head to replace Decker and Matt Nelson who jumped to their starting role on right slope.

Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has revealed that he and quarterback Jared Goff sat down together and worked on creating an offensive program surrounding his best skills, with early results being positive.

Goff made a few throws in tight windows, particularly towards DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds, and looked confident during training – which is far from where he was at this time of last year. The Lions will give Goff every chance of success in Detroit, and the early results should give fans hope.

On the receiver, Chark, Reynolds, and Amon-Ra St. Brown, with external audiences standing out the most. Chark made a lot of grabs in the middle, including fighting a difficult grab with Tracy Walker covering him with range. Reynolds has been consistent, catching quick passes and talking about YACs, which is a definite theme for today’s first-team offensive.

As they began the one-minute exercise, Chark, Reynolds, and St. Brown, but Caliph Raymond and Quintez Cephus also got into the first team. If we add injured rookie Williams to that, it will be a tough top six to beat.

Second and third teams offenses

While Goff looked solid, the original Tim Boyle backup looked like Tim Boyle a year ago opting to go through a lot of down attempts taking bags and missing his targets. He also threw the intercept during 11/11, when budding Kerby Joseph fell into the box, read his eyes, and jumped the route to the pickaxe. During the one-minute practice of the second string, Boyle was fired twice, courtesy of Bruce Hector and Jarrad Davis.

While Kalil Pimpleton is a great story and is indeed hiccup quick, it will be a powerful task to remove Caliph Raymond who has had a really solid day. Raymond is just as dynamic and brings the experience and confidence of the coaching staff to the competition.

Aside from a few first-team snaps, Cephus has seen some time outside and in the slot with the second team, although he has been knocked down more than once by many playmakers.

In what appears to be a trick to get noticed, Trinity Benson celebrated after each catch, although the dive was probably legitimate.

Due to a lack of depth in the tight end on Thursday, Wright and Zylstra shared their starting responsibilities, but Zylstra was the main beneficiary of the overtime, making some solid moves.

EDGE blades

This was my first time seeing Aidan Hutchinson doing the training reps live and he looks very good. His movements are easy and he has an underrated flexion which helps him lengthen as a passing player. After playing against the reserves last week, Hutchinson was in the first team this week, rotating or playing against Charles Harris who is adapting very well to the new pattern.

In team drills, Hutchinson and Harris changed sides frequently, and the rookie also kicked inside technique 3 in one-minute drills. Hutchinson positioned themselves next to a defensive attack from Jashon Cornell, with Harris and Julian Okwara flanking them on the edges.

Speaking of Julian Okwar, he was lining up all over the pitch on Thursday, playing multiple roles on multiple lines. Okwara saw repetitions at the end of the defensive, got up on the edge, positioned above the A break, the defender off the ball and fell into range. He has usually traveled with edge breakers in individual exercises, but is not limited to that role alone.

It’s not entirely clear whether the SAM lineage defender / hybrid edge rusher position will be a technical starting role in defending the Lions base, but it certainly looks like a role the Lions plan to lean on, and Okwara is clearly the best option for the job.

Okwara’s on-site support should come as no surprise: rookie James Houston. He also found himself on the pitch in obvious overtaking situations in high rotation, including against the other team’s offensive in one-minute drills.

The new addition, John Cominsky, is as fit as advertised, but the Lions are slowly adjusting to the pitch, so it’s hard to feel him yet.

Inner Defensive Line

Michael Brockers returned to the team this week and was immediately inducted into the starting line-up. In the base formations, he was positioned alongside Alim McNeill and was supported by Levi Onwuzurike. McNeill and Onwuzurike look further than last season, especially McNeill whose strength and balance have been evident in both team and individual exercises.

Aside from these three – all of which seem to be squad castles – Jashon Cornell is the next best liner to date in an OTA. Cornell saw initial reps on 11-on-11 as well as subpackages, and produced, including series-ending registration on Goff and first-team offense during the one-minute drills.

Since Penisini is not located in Allen Park, this has opened up other possibilities for reservations. Bruce Hector also registered the sack on Thursday, and his hands looked faster than last season. While UDFA rookie Demetrius Taylor – who has fast feet but has to marry them in his hands – is back to nasal slide repetitions instead of Penisini.


Chris Board was the storyline for this position group on Thursday as he saw a noticeable increase in the number of photos, mostly over Derrick Barnes but also in place of Alex Anzalone. These three have seen most of the first team snaps and may start splitting up early.

Most of the time, as expected, the Lions used two linebackers, but used four in the subpackage concept, with Houston and Jarrad Davis on the edge, and this is where Davis recorded his bag on the Boyle.

Jeff Okudah

Jeff Okudah’s recovery from Achilles’ injury was an exciting journey, but it left him hungry to return to the field. After attending tutorials at last week’s OTAs, this week he expanded his activities to tutorials and individual exercises, releasing only full team exercises.

“I feel like I’m hungry, as if I haven’t eaten in years,” Okudah told the media after the practice. “This hunger has been with me since the injury. Really, even before the injury. I’ve had this feeling for about two years, man, just this hunger. I’m ready to go out and play the best I can, honestly. “

Okudah is not only busy while he is on the pitch, but during the part of the training where he is not allowed to access, he has a playing card in hand and is mentoring newcomers and second graders on their assignments. The Lions closed day 7-on-7, and when players like Cedric Boswell, Jermaine Waller and even AJ Parker came out on the sidelines, Okudah waited for them and shared his thoughts.

We saw that leadership last year with Okudah and Jerry Jacobs, and the results have benefited both players: Jacobs on the pitch and Okudah during his recovery.

“There were times I almost felt like I was playing Jerry, you know?” Okudah said. “Me and Jerry had all these conversations, we took him under our wing at the training camp. Just seeing him develop was so fun for me because it showed me that the things we talked about can be translated into a game. It gave me so much confidence that when I come back I can do it because we had these conversations and we discussed in detail how we are going to attack these receivers. ”

Defensive back

When Okudah sits on the bench during team exercises, Will Harris still sees starting repetitions during his stay. Harris really does seem to be putting in a corner and has been in good positions throughout the day, including dropping a pass during the St. Brown. Harris’s scope for second-class play is a good benefit for the coaches, and it will be interesting to see if the next year under defense coordinator Aaron Glenn and coach DB Aubrey will help him further in the game.

Mike Hughes spent most of his time outside last week but got a lot of slot work this week supporting AJ Parker. Hughes’ versatility makes him an attractive option for composition.

Rookie Chase Lucas returned to the field this week and also made time on the field with the third team. At the end of the day, he skipped the Pimpleton route and got on the ball for the PBU, almost securing the interception.

Speaking of takeovers, after safety budding Joseph relegated to the role of robbers and chose Boyle during his team exercises, it is worth noting that he already lined up in the next game, which is illustrated by his range. It’s early and there are things to clean but looks very similar to the Day 2 selection.

While Melifonwu was not on the pitch to receive security training, Horn Saivion Smith took a look at the safety issue. Weighing in at 6 feet to 1.190 pounds, Smith’s special teams skills have kept him in Detroit, and if the former corner of Alabama could show a certain range of positions, it would certainly increase his chance of remaining remaining.

Brady Breeze – another solid member of the special team – was also awarded time among the upper groups. He saw working with the other team at both safety points during team exercises.

Special teams

The Lions did a couple of comeback drills on Thursday, giving us a chance to see a potential return pool. Igwebuike, a returning starter, did not participate, which opened the door for others to gain repetitions.

DeAndre Swift was first, followed by Caliph Raymond and Trinity Benson. Later they were joined by Kalil Pimpleton and Craig Reynolds. Without sanitary pads, there isn’t much to figure out, but these are names to keep in mind.

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