The Detroit Lions recently concluded their mandatory minicamp, comprised of nearly the entire 90-man roster.
The buy-in to start the regime of head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes has allowed the coaching staff to begin to install the "core" of all three phases of the game.
"We’ve kind of got the core in," Campbell said ahead of the final minicamp practice. "The core of the offense and defense and special teams, we’ve at least kind of built somewhat of a foundation; they actually know what it looks like. Now, when you go into camp, they know what it looks like. Now, we can start to really coach up the details, because look, we’ve thrown a lot at these guys."
Here are the main lessons learned from the Detroit Lions' 2021 minicamp.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson will be one of the focal points of the Detroit Lions' offense
Quarterback Jared Goff would be wise to target Hockenson as much as possible in 2021.
The growing connection between Goff and Hockenson was on display all week, as the 23-year-old tight end is set to take the next step in his career.
In a two-minute drill -- with the offense starting at its own 25-yard line, down 24-20, with 1:48 left in the first half -- Goff targeted Hockenson on four-of-eight passing attempts.
The drive concluded with Hockenson catching a touchdown pass against linebacker Alex Anzalone.
Detroit will feature a tandem of running backs who are ready to compete
For the first time in a long while, Detroit will feature two running backs who both could conceivably be a threat out of the backfield in the passing game.
D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams both were featured in the passing game, and the Lions' minicamp was highlighted by a spectacular one-handed grab made by Swift while draped by linebacker Jahlani Tavai.
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Victor Bolden and Amon-Ra St. Brown both demonstrated that they should be paid attention to when training camp begins at the end of July.
The talented rookie wideout demonstrated precise route-running and attention to detail, while Bolden made himself known with a solid performance all throughout minicamp.
"It’s his ability to separate," Campbell said about Bolden. "And, even some of the little things -- not only just separation, but you can see him -- he’s another guy that’s taken to coaching. Shoot, we had one-on-ones yesterday, and one of the routes he ran, just the way that he worked the leverage of the defender but was also patient to get his depth and then come out of the route, quarterback friendly. Not only was it a really sharp route, to have the explosiveness he has but also to have the wherewithal to set the route up like he did, the patience enough to get the depth. It’s like a quarterback’s dream, because you know exactly where the guy’s going to be, how he’s going to run the route. It’s kind of those things. You do see this quickness about him, this speed. But, also, there’s some detail to what he’s doing, and that’s encouraging."
The Lions' secondary is improved, but still needs work
The additions of Quinton Dunbar and Corn Elder will aid the Lions' secondary, while rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu learns the ropes his first season in the league.
The secondary showed improvement all week, as second-year defensive back Jeff Okudah looked confident and relaxed the first day of minicamp.
Safeties Will Harris and Tracy Walker should thrive in the new split-safety scheme. Mike Ford appears to have taken on the challenge of improving his game, as he made several plays while at the slot cornerback position.
According to The Athletic, "The Lions still likely need to consider adding more at safety before training camp starts. Too many question marks back there at the moment. Walker made some plays this week, was in great spirits and continued to work Thursday. That’s a plus. Will Harris has made a few plays this week -- but he still has a ton to prove. It still feels awfully light back there in proven depth."
Linebacker Jahlani Tavai has earned the respect of the coaching staff
Arriving into workouts down 17 pounds, the third-year linebacker has put himself in position for more playing time.
His movement was more crisp, and he showed slight improvement in coverage all week.
The additions of Anzalone in free agency and Derrick Barnes via the draft will make it tougher for Tavai to see the field, but he has put himself in position to remain on the roster in 2021.