Lions training camp notebook: Day 13 wraps the pre-preseason slate

·6 min read

Wednesday marked the final day of Detroit Lions training camp practice open to the public. The fans in attendance on the beautiful morning after the rousing Hard Knocks debut did not get to see a great deal of heavy contact.

The 13th day of training camp was a lighter one for Dan Campbell’s Lions, who had one of the most physical and intense practices in years on Tuesday. Some fans grumbled about the lack of hitting, but Campbell stuck to his guns about keeping his players fresh and ready for actual games that matter.

Here’s what I saw, heard and observed during the final Lions training camp session before the preseason opener on Friday against the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Veteran day off for Frank Ragnow

Syndication Detroit Free Press

The Lions center got a well-deserved day off on Wednesday. Ragnow continues to look fantastic in drills throughout camp, and after besting many a strong effort from second-year DT Alim McNeill on Tuesday, No. 77 spent practice working on the side with trainers.

Ragnow has been very impressive in his return from toe surgery that cost him most of the 2021 campaign. McNeill has consistently wreaked havoc on all other blockers all summer, but Ragnow won almost every rep against the emerging standout in the last two padded practices.

Evan Brown took over for Ragnow in the pivot, just as he did last year. Brown’s game is more based on movement. Because the pads were off and contact light, we didn’t see much of Brown having to handle power. But he’s definitely got range in the run game from center that can be a problem for opposing linebackers. The Lions did a lot of designed cutback runs in the first portion of team drills and Brown consistently sealed off the backside LB when asked. He hung up Derrick Barnes beautifully to spring Jamaal Williams cutting back from right to left.

On the sidelines

Ragnow wasn’t the only player to get Wednesday off. He was the only one who is healthy, however.

Two defensive linemen, Julian Okwara and Levi Onwuzurike, both remained out with injuries. Onwuzurike has not participated since the first day in pads, while Okwara has missed all week with a leg injury.

Three wide receivers also sat out with maladies. Quintez Cephus is still sidelined and inactive in practice with a knee injury suffered early last week. The other two wideouts who missed, Trinity Benson and rookie Josh Johnson, each did some light running and conditioning work with trainers. Benson has missed the last two days with an apparent calf injury. Johnson has missed several days with an undisclosed injury.

Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu also sat out, as he has all week. It’s slowing Melifonwu’s conversion from cornerback to safety, unfortunately.

Don’t expect any of the players who missed Wednesday with injury to play Friday against Atlanta

4-minute drill

The final portion of practice saw the offense executing two different late-game scenarios. Four minutes on the clock, the offense had chances to run out the clock in one set of reps and then try and rally for a late score in the other.

Neither went particularly well, though the clock-killing exercise did pick up first downs on some well-placed throws by QB Jared Goff. A savvy RPO by Goff tucking and running chewed up a lot of yards and definitely agitated LB coach Kelvin Sheppard, who scolded LBs Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes for not properly defending the option.

Aidan Hutchinson ate up Penei Sewell–playing left tackle while Taylor Decker sat out team drills–on consecutive plays on the hurry-up offense set. Hutchinson sidestepped a lunging block to easily pressure Goff and force him into a harangued throwaway, then he blew past Sewell’s inside shoulder for a very quick sack on the next play.

Goff and the offense got the last laugh, however. DT Isaiah Buggs jumped offside on 4th down to extend the drive, and Goff threaded a sweet deep post to Amon-Ra St. Brown between the layers of coverage for a huge play that was counted as a score on the last rep.

Quick hits

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

–Malcolm Rodriguez continues to push for more reps with the first-team defense. He was noticeably more comfortable in coverage situations than Barnes in the team drills, and he outraced safety DeShon Elliott to a would-be tackle on the sideline. The late-round rookie appears to have leapt over Chris Board, Josh Woods, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Jarrad Davis and Anthony Pittman in the pecking order and is pushing Barnes–at least in the view of those of us in the media. It doesn’t hurt Rodriguez that Barnes continues to struggle with lateral range and closing speed.

–How I listed those LBs above is the basic depth chart order after Alex Anzalone, Barnes and Rodriguez. Board still gets some first-team reps so he’s certainly not out of contention to start, but that prospect seems to be fading by the day. Remember: the Lions only ever play two LBs at any one time; I haven’t seen a 3-LB set outside of short-yardage drills since one brief team drill on Day 2.

–Anzalone did not have an impressive day in coverage. He was late to flow outside on a swing pass that turned into an easy gain and out-of-bounds clock stop for the offense in the hurry-up. Later, he didn’t get enough depth when bracketing TE T.J. Hockenson and gave Goff a window to hit the Pro Bowl tight end between Anzalone and safety Tracy Walker. No. 34 was better on Tuesday but it’s still concerning.

–Austin Seibert hit all three of his FG attempts, while Riley Patterson was wide left from 44 yards to go 2-for-3. Seibert’s longest attempt appeared to have enough leg to be good from at least 58 yards and was dead solid perfect down the middle. Patterson did show the most leg on kickoffs I’ve seen from him to date, but Seibert still reliably nails the kickoffs deeper too.

–Jeff Okudah and Will Harris continue to split reps as the starting left outside CB opposite Amani Oruwariye. Okudah has been the more impressive cover man than Harris–or Oruwariye for that matter–for most of camp, but Wednesday wasn’t his best day. Harris made a couple of nice quick wrapups right after the catch and undercut a swing pass option that forced the QB to double-clutch. It was Harris’ best showing in at least a week.

–QB coach Mark Brunell met with the media prior to practice and discussed the backup QB battle between David Blough and Tim Boyle. Brunell assessed the race, noting “it’s close” and that it’s a decision Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson will make, not Brunell himself.

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Story originally appeared on Lions Wire