From Eric Schlitt, LionsWire.com:
The Detroit Lions completed the sixth day of their 2019 training camp, and it didn’t take long before second-year safety Tracy Walker was making a ton of noise on the field.
Walker looks incredibly calm and confident
In a 7-on-7 drill, the offense was put into situations where they were asked to convert on third and long. T.J. Hockenson split out in the slot and ran an out route towards the sidelines. Matthew Stafford had an angle and let it rip, but Walker saw it coming, undercut the route and would’ve been dancing in the end zone if this were a game.
“I was playing man coverage and I just undercut T.J. (Hockenson)”, Walker said post-practice. “He ran his route and I read his route perfectly and made a great play on the ball.”
Walker would go on to have at least two more pass breakups in coverage situations, getting the better of Logan Thomas and Andy Jones. In goal line drills he used his strength to stand up C.J. Anderson, keeping him out of the endzone.
When asked how making plays on the field, like he did today, impact his confidence levels, Walker said, “Honestly, it definitely lets me know where I’m at right now. I still think I gotta improve. It still lets me know that I can be better.”
The game appears to be slowing down for Walker and when asked about it he confirmed that on Wednesday, “I definitely would say it is. I am getting more calm back there.”
I’ve been a Walker champion for quite some time now, and this year, I’m doubling down my efforts. We have yet to see how high his ceiling can reach, and this season, he’s going to shock people.
More notes on defense
Overall, the defense was very aggressive today. In addition to the Walker pick, the rest of the back-seven made multiple plays that would have resulted in pass breakups (PBU) or turnovers. In my notes, I had PBU’s for Walker (2), Teez Tabor, Quandre Diggs, Andre Chachere, and two for C.J. Moore.
Teez Tabor shined once again. After losing easily to Marvin Jones in one-on-one drills on Sunday. He improved and broke even with him on Tuesday. Now on Wednesday, Tabor was making plays on the ball and even dislodging it with a Charles Tillman-like punchout, forcing a fumble.
The other top corner-wide receiver matchup was Rashaan Melvin versus Kenny Golladay, and this has been a battle that the offense has continued to win. It likely speaks more about the emergence of Golladay, but Melvin needs to settle in or Tabor could end up as a starter.
The Lions ran a handful of one play training sessions, where the team was put in a situation that they had only one chance to convert, thus amping up the pressure to deliver.
It was fourth and goal from the five-yard line, the offense went empty and ran Hockenson across the back of the end zone. The defense dropped into a zone and when Hockenson traveled into Davis’ coverage area, Stafford tried to hit the rookie tight end but Davis made a brilliant diving PBU.
In one-on-one drills, linebackers and defensive backs (standing 1 -yard deep in the endzone) squared up against the running backs (at the 5-yard line) colliding to see who could outmuscle the other for the touchdown or tackle short of the end zone. Davis easily stood up C.J. Anderson and Mark Thompson in his reps.
Later in another team drill, Davis went down and looked a bit gimpy when getting up. He stayed on the field and did drills, but I didn’t see him take any more team reps. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise stellar day and it’s worth monitoring to see if this potential injury carries over.
If you were still one of the fans concerned about the Lions releasing Theo Riddick, the pass-catching efforts from Kerryon Johnson and Ty Johnson should help calm your nerves.
In one-on-one matchups with linebackers, Kerryon Johnson beat both Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, while Ty Johnson beat Miles Killebrew twice. Ty Johnson is incredibly smooth in his routes and made a brilliant catch in one rep despite solid coverage from Killebrew.
When the drill flipped and the running backs were asked to pass block the blitzing linebackers (a drill that heavily favors the defense), Ty Johnson twice picked up a rushing Tre Lamar, in one of only a few reps clearly won by the offense. Anderson and Nick Bawden also did well here, while Mark Thompson struggled after doing well in past practices.
Bawden also did well in run blocking stints during 11-on-11s, often clearing holes for Kerryon Johnson.
I mentioned earlier that Tabor had another solid day, he was only obviously beat once, and it took Kenny Golladay to do it.
Post-practice, Golladay mentioned that he did spend some time working on routes over the summer in California with Stafford — we previously only knew about Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola doing this — and spoke highly of new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, smiling and saying, “Coach Bev sets you up for success.”
After alternating guards every other day in the first week of training camp, the Lions have held steady with their starters through both days this week. From left to right: Taylor Decker – Kenny Wiggins – Frank Ragnow – Graham Glasgow – Rick Wagner.
The only change among the offensive lineman came at the second level, where Joe Dahl shifted inside to center and Luke Bowanko took over at left guard. Bowanko has had a nice camp and this exposure to guard is surely going to help his cause for the 53-man roster. Both Dahl and Oday Aboushi should be on notice.
After working on kick returns yesterday, the Lions shifted back to punting situations today. The usual punt return crew — Jamal Agnew, Amendola, Brandon Powell and Diggs — were back to field punts today, but the coaches spent a lot of time working on situational punting.
Sam Martin was asked to punt in a traditional fashion, looking to gain as much ground as possible, but he also worked on angled punts, coffin corners, and dropping punts inside the 5-yard line.
One notable play from this session came on a ball Martin dropped inside the 5-yard line. It was not fielded by a gunner and when it hit the ground, it ricocheted back towards the 10-yard line where Agnew was waiting. Agnew fielded the ball and sprinted up the field in very heads up play.
Bawden tried his hand at long snapping today, and despite getting expert advice from the goat Don Muhlbach, the results were not ideal. Respect Bawden for the effort, but this was a nice lesson in why Muhlbach is such a valuable player.
The Lions ended practice today by running sprints up the new hill they created for endurance training. Running in groups, players ran up the hill roughly six times (maybe more) as the pace between intervals increased with each lap. The drill was run by strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash.
As the team went through their normal cool down stretch period, some players split off into drills, but Isaac Nauta went back to the hill for more laps. After his laps, he made his way over to the jug machine to work on his catching skill set.
“The hard way is the right way,” Nauta said post-practice, “so I’m just trying to do as much extra as I can.”
He went on to talk about how the veteran players in the tight end room have helped him with the on-field knowledge. “I’ve learned a lot of great things from all of them. Iron sharpens iron, so, I just want to feed and learn as much as I can off of those guys. I’ve heard a lot of great things. Jesse (James) has helped me a lot in the passing game. JC’s (Jerome Cunningham) helped me a lot in the run game. Logan (Thomas), being a former quarterback, he is awesome with coverages and seeing that aspect of the game. So, everybody’s got a lot of positives that I’ve been able to learn from.”
Nauta has gotten off to a great start in the second week of training camp and the extra work is already paying off.