2024 Detroit Lions Week 1 OTA observations: Positional breakdown

2024 detroit lions week 1 ota observations: positional breakdown

2024 Detroit Lions Week 1 OTA observations: Positional breakdown

The Detroit Lions concluded the first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Thursday with their third practice—the first in front of media.

While at this point in the offseason, it’s always important to remember that the pads aren’t on yet, and full contact is not yet permitted. That said, we were on site Thursday, and here’s what we noticed from a beautiful Thursday afternoon at Allen Park.

Quarterbacks

It was a slow start from Jared Goff and the offense, with Goff’s first three passes during 11-on-11 play all falling incomplete. But as practice continued, Goff settled in nicely with a few rhythm passes and a beautifully thrown deep ball to Jameson Williams (more on that in a minute).

Thursday was our first look at Hendon Hooker for an entire practice since Detroit drafted him last year. Personally, I thought it was a very mixed bag from the second-year quarterback. The ball does jump nicely off his hands, and he can really put some zip on it. He roped a few passes up the seam that some starting quarterbacks probably couldn’t throw. However, the accuracy was inconsistent, at best. A couple of passes probably should have been picked off. That said, he did connect on a deep shot.

The biggest question Hooker faces at the next level is his processing skills, and I saw both some of the good and bad with him on Thursday. On one rep, he took way too long to check down the ball to Tom Kennedy, giving Amik Robinson time to read the play and nearly pick it off. On the very next play, he patiently made his reads, found running back Jake Funk, and placed the ball where Funk could catch and turn upfield.

Running backs

It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from a running back room when they aren’t getting tackled, but I will note that not only did Sione Vaki work on the “starters” side of the field during walk throughs (remember, Jahmyr Gibbs was out), but he also made a couple of nice plays. On a pass from Hooker that was over his head, Vaki hauled it in and turned it upfield for a 20+ yard gain during 11-on-11s. This is the second straight practice where I’ve made note of his natural hands in the passing game.

Tight ends

I don’t have any significant notes from the tight ends group. There wasn’t a notable standout with Sam LaPorta not present.

Wide receivers

Let’s talk Jamo. Dan Campbell heaped some high praise on the third-year receiver, and it was easy to see some of the growth he was talking about. Jameson Williams looked more relaxed out there and didn’t look like he was overthinking everything like last year. He was more detailed in his route running, and the dude can still fly.

But he’s not quite there yet. During walkthroughs, he appeared to make a mistake, hit his own helmet a few times, and huddled back up. Then, during those 11-on-11s, remember that dime from Goff I was talking about? He dropped it. Granted, he was running at full speed and it was a full extensions of his arms, but he has to pull those in if the Lions are truly going to trust him to be WR2. (Kindle Vildor was a couple steps behind in coverage). Williams did make up for it with a 20-30 yard catch during an end-of-half drill.

Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that it appeared Antoine Green was getting primary work with the first-team offense with Donovan Peoples-Jones getting sprinkled in. The only notable play from either was a 20-yard gain from Peoples-Jones with the second-team offense.

The play of the day came from Kaden Davis—a rookie minicamp tryout who ended up signing with the team. Davis was closely covered on a deep shot from Hooker, but found late separation against Vildor for a huge gain and a touchdown. Worth noting that Jamo was one of the first down the field to celebrate the big play.

Offensive linemen

With Frank Ragnow and Taylor Decker out, here’s a look at the offensive line rotations. There was some mixing and matching, but this was the most common lineup for each team:

OL1 (from left to right): Dan Skipper, Graham Glasgow, Michael Niese, Kevin Zeitler, Penei Sewell

OL2: Connor Galvin, Christian Mahogany, Michael Niese, Netane Muti, Colby Sorsdal

OL3: Giovanni Manu, Bryan Hudson, Kingsley Eguakun, Matt Farniok, Colby Sorsdal

What’s notable here is that it appears Sorsdal may be transitioning back to his college position at tackle. I saw him play both the left and right tackle spot on Thursday.

As for the rookies, Giovanni Manu remains solely at left tackle (at least as I saw), but will have to work his way up from deep in the rotation. Mahogany got some work at left guard after working on the right side during rookie minicamp.

Defensive linemen

The defensive line was missing a few key players on Thursday: no DJ Reader, Josh Paschal, Marcus Davenport, or James Houston. The person who seemed to benefit most in terms of playing time was Levi Onwuzurike, who regularly was seen with the first-team defense. CFL start Mathieu Betts also got some work, and was the primary JACK linebacker for 7-on-7s.

That being said, the two biggest defensive plays were made by the two best defensive linemen on the team. Aidan Hutchinson batted down a pass on a misdirection screen play. On the next series, Alim McNeill whipped around on a stunt play and picked up what would’ve been an untouched sack (backup center Michael Niese appeared to misread the play).

I know a lot are predicting a breakout year for second-year defensive tackle Brodric Martin, but he, too, will have to work his way up the depth chart, mostly working with the second team on Thursday.

Linebackers

With no Alex Anzalone and a limited Derrick Barnes, there was a lot of Jack Campbell and Malcolm Rodriguez out there with the first-team defense. I don’t have too many notes from the linebacker group, but Campbell did draw the unfortunate assignment of covering Amon-Ra St. Brown on one rep, and it went about as well as you’d expect, with the All Pro receiver gaining a couple yards of separation on a crossing route, before stopping on a dime, turning the other direction and beating Campbell upfield.

Cornerbacks

Rookie Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. were both very limited participants on Thursday, with Arnold playing a little more than Rakestraw.

When both were sidelined, the starting lineup was mostly Carlton Davis and Kindle Vildor on the outside and Amik Robertson at the nickel.

Of anyone at practice, I think Davis may have stuck out to me most as the best performer of the day. He went toe-to-toe with St. Brown a few times and came away with one pass breakup. I only saw him give up a single reception all day, and it was an underneath pass to Kalif Raymond for a very small gain.

“He’s been a player that wants to get in somebody’s face and challenge him,” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Davis before practice. “There’s nothing changed about that. He did (it) when he was in Tampa. I know he expects to do the same things here. So he fits like perfect for what we’re trying to do.”

Robertson also showed nice closing speed on a pass that he nearly intercepted from Hooker. Other players who notched pass breakups on the day: Khalil Dorsey and Vildor.

Safeties

With no Kerby Joseph or Brian Branch, Ifeatu Melifonwu was the primary starter with both C.J. Moore and Brandon Joseph splitting time alongside him. Melifonwu nearly started practice with an interception on a poorly-thrown ball from Goff. Backup Loren Strickland nearly did the same thing on an overthrown ball from Hooker.

Situational drill

Near the end of the practice, the Lions had the first and second-team offense try to score in a very specific situation:

35 seconds left, starting at their own 28-yard line with only one timeout

The first-team offense was relatively successful. After a pressure from McNeill forced an incompletion, Goff found Jameson Williams for 25-30 yards, and the Lions called a timeout with 23 seconds left.

On the next play, Goff found St. Brown for 9 yards, and they followed it with a spike. After a throwaway on third down, the Lions settled for a 52-yard field goal attempt.

Both Michael Badgley and James Turner attempted the kick from there, and both made it with plenty of distance to spare.

The second team was slightly less successful. A checkdown to Shane Zylstra picked up just 7 yards and forced the first timeout. An in-breaking route from Peoples-Jones picked up nearly 20 yards. But after spiking the ball to stop the clock, Hooker managed just a couple more yards, setting up a field goal from about 60 yards.

While both Badgley’s and Turner’s kicks had enough distance, only Badgley’s made it through the uprights, while Turner was a few yards wide right.

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