On Wednesday, July 30 the Detroit Lions practiced away from their usual Allen Park practice facilities at Wayne State’s own Adams Field.
The Lions went through a routine practice showcasing position drills, individual drills, seven-on-sevens and situational scrimmages. This public practice allowed me to walk away with a few different impressions and topics of discussion heading into the Lions’ first preseason game August 9 against the Cleveland Browns.
Players that did not impress
Fans this year are excited about this year’s first round draft pick, tight end Eric Ebron out of UNC. Ebron was compared to Vernon Davis in his pre-draft analysis and has the potential to jump right into being Matthew Stafford’s third-most targeted ball catcher behind Calvin Johnson and offseason acquisition Golden Tate.
However, at Wednesday’s public practice Ebron did not give enough for me to fully commit to the hype. A couple of catches were shadowed by a few drops throughout the practice. Now of course this is not enough evidence to be overly critical, but there is still time for Ebron to get his route timing and his chemistry with Stafford down pat before the start of the regular season.
Players that impressed
Lions fans that have been keeping up this offseason have probably heard second string quarterback Dan Orlovsky talk highly of sophomore running back Theo Riddick. Many critics, myself included, have been a bit skeptical about this statement, but Riddick put my skepticism to bed when he showed flashes of brilliance on Adams Field. Riddick had several great runs and even catches out of the back field. He showed tremendous breakaway speed on the edge and quick acceleration after the catch.
Running back Joique Bell had a very nice practice as well, showing quick feet and deep cuts in his runs. He did not catch as many balls as Riddick, though he had a few. Bell most notably took upper body hits like a champ, and showed how complete of a runner he can be. Look out for Bell.
New to the squad this year is wide receiver Golden Tate. Tate is coming off of a Super Bowl win and great campaign of 64 catches and five touchdowns, finishing just shy of 1,000 yards on the run-first Seattle Seahawks team. The reason the Lions went out and signed Tate was for his low drop rate, only missing five of the 149 passes thrown his way, the surest receiver in the game last year. This pattern did not falter in practice, with Tate catching every ball thrown his way, scoring a few touchdowns and even stretching the field in a sideline to sideline run after the catch. Tate along with a dynamic running back duo and help from a rookie tight end give franchise quarterback Stafford no reason to fail.
The Gong Show
Who is the Detroit Lions kicker?
That’s right, nobody knows yet, and that’s because it’s currently being played for. The competition is heavy between draftee Nate Freese and lefty kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. Freese was 100 percent last year for his Boston College team making 20/20 field goals.
Tavecchio has been in the league two years with stints on the Packers and 49ers, missing a starting chance on both squads. Wednesday’s practice showed how close the competition was when both kickers made all four of their kicks ranging from 25-45 yards, each kick getting farther and farther.
The question remains unanswered, so fans might have to wait until the end of the preseason for their answer.
Mikel Leshoure looked very healthy and capable in the few reps he received in practice. The linebacking corpsheld pretty tightly in coverage, forcing Stafford to dump the ball to his running backs more often than not.
Joseph Fauria caught a red zone touchdown pass and proceeded with a dance even though it was just practice.
Ndamukong Suh was looking incredibly strong as usual up the middle, putting pressure on Stafford on a lot of his dropbacks.
Where were they?
Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson were dressed and on the field but they were not easy to find. Neither participated in bigger drills, and if they did it was only for a rep.
Without players in full pads, a finger cannot be placed on how well the defense is starting to look. There were passes broken up and a lot of pads popping at practice, but once it is hitting time, fans can hear about what shape the defense is in. Players will be in full pads all next week heading into their preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns August 9.
Chris Boggus is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports