The Detroit Lions' rookie class of 2021 is comprised of seven players that the organization targeted to aid in the retooling process.
Early in training camp, all eyes will be on offensive lineman Penei Sewell, as he begins to take the steps needed to master playing at the right tackle position.
“It’s about just taking it day-to-day and rep-to-rep, because what can happen with those guys -- he’s got the talent, he’s got the ability -- is not to lose confidence," Lions head coach Dan Campbell told reporters.
Sewell is expected to improve at a steady rate, due to battling against Detroit's outside linebackers, most notably Romeo Okwara.
For Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill, their acclimation process will also be sped up by the quality of the Lions' offensive line.
“You’re talking about ‘Twinkle Toes?’ Until we get in pads -- we like what we saw in the spring. ... We got to see a lot more of McNeill. We like where he’s at, at this point. I would say that," Campbell said. "You guys got a little taste to watch him and all of that. But, we’re not in pads.
"I think McNeill potentially has more rush ability at this point. We’ll find out. You really feel like John (Penisini) is more of a first-, second-down nose, goal-line, short-yardage, base, and you feel pretty good about that. Whereas we feel like Mac’s going to be able to do those things, but he has flexibility to potentially to play the three-technique if need be in four-down, or even more out to defensive end in base. Some of that four-high stuff. Again, we’re so early right now. Until we get in pads and get going, we won’t truly know. But, we kind of feel that way.”
Wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown has the potential to make the quickest impact on the roster, as he has worked hard each and every day of training camp.
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It has been reported extensively that St. Brown consistently catches an extra 200 passes at the conclusion of training camp practice via the JUGS machine.
His efforts in the slot early have been impressive, and he appears dedicated to proving many in the league wrong for passing on him in the draft.
For linebacker Derrick Barnes, it may take just a little more time to earn reps. He will likely be behind solid veterans to start the season on the depth chart.
"He's young, and he's still learning. But, as a football player, he is a run-and-hit type of guy," veteran Alex Anzalone told SI All Lions Monday. "He's big, he's stocky, he's fast. He obviously can do (a) bunch of different things. I know he has an on the ball, pass-rush type of background in college. Hopefully, that will help him in the league."
Cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu and running back Jermar Jefferson will benefit tremendously from the work that is set to take place over the next couple of weeks at the Lions' Allen Park practice facility.
With Duce Staley and Aubrey Pleasant drawing rave reviews the first week of camp, both will have coaches who will draw the best out of them.
General observations of Monday's practice
- Unfortunately for quarterback David Blough, his wife did not qualify for the 400-meter final at the Toyko Olympics. In a pouring rain, Gonzalez did not finish in a high enough position to advance.
- Members of the Detroit Pistons visited, as general manager Troy Weaver and head coach Dwane Casey paid a visit to Allen Park.
- Wideouts Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman both had productive mornings on Monday. For Williams, he had a nice one-handed grab during early drills, while Perriman was the recipient of Jared Goff's best deep toss of the practice.
- Rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu had his first rookie moment, as he was observed to have lost his footing and fell on a solid move at the line of scrimmage from Perriman. Fortunately for the rookie, the pass went to the opposite side of the field.
- Linebacker Anthony Pittman gave the defense a second straight day with an interception, as he picked off a David Blough pass.
- Linebacker Derrick Barnes was observed running sprints in between the two practice fields during the early portion of drills.
- Undrafted free-agent wideout Sage Surratt made his presence felt on Monday, as he secured multiple receptions and showcased his size and speed. He had one opportunity for a deep ball reception, but Blough could not connect with him.
- Safety Tracy Walker was the player most invested on Monday in learning from the video board featured near the bleachers that the fans will occupy. On Monday, Walker was curious to discover if he had more of an opportunity to jump the route to aid the secondary.
- Wideout Victor Bolden was targeted on back-to-back reps, including on a solid throw from Goff. Bolden has continued to make a case for himself to be part of the 53-man roster early in training camp.
- While I can't go into specifics, there may be more razzle-dazzle involving Jamaal Williams in this offense than just his dance skills in between reps.
- The Lions will finally wear pads on Tuesday, as league rules prevented them from wearing them after the off day on Sunday.