The Detroit Lions were back at it for their second day of padded training camp practice on Tuesday.
Once again, I’ll preface the following by stating that it is still very early and one or two days of practice don’t always mean much in the grand scheme of things.
Much can still change, but looking under a microscope on just Day 2, there were a few interesting takeaways.
There is really no way to completely avoid injuries with such a physical game.
The Lions specifically were not very lucky a season ago in terms of good health, either.
In an unusual offseason, it was fair to wonder if there would be more injuries due to players not quite being up to par in terms of football condition.
Not having any data in front of me, it sure seems the injury bug has bitten more teams than usual so far -- the Lions being no exception.
After winning a nice one-on-one rep, 2020 seventh-round pick Jashon Cornell went down with a “pretty severe” apparent leg injury. He ultimately had to be carted off the field.
Obviously, you hope for the best and a speedy recovery, but it doesn’t sound like a short-term return.
Who knows if Cornell would even make the team. However, the potential loss further depletes a rather thin position.
Not to mention, signing replacements during this pandemic is not as easy as it was with pre-COVID protocols.
One quick note as well, running back Bo Scarbrough reportedly got a little dinged up, and was limited thereafter. Just something to keep an eye on.
2.) Kerryon Johnson scheduled rest day
Speaking of running back injuries, third-year running back Kerryon Johnson didn’t practice much after a busy first day.
As mentioned in my Day 1 observations, Johnson is still wearing a knee brace.
There were some initial concerns at the start of the day, but Detroit head coach Matt Patricia stated after practice that Johnson was scheduled to rest.
This could be the new norm moving forward.
It’s no secret that injuries have derailed Johnson’s career to date. He needs to remain healthy and fresh, and perhaps the best way is by limiting his usage.
On the positive side, the Lions have some solid depth in the backfield this season if Johnson can’t stay on the field.
3.) Another name added to the backup center mix
Beau Benzschawel is still sidelined, leading to some depth issues at the center position.
Behind starter Frank Ragnow, the Lions are trying to figure things out with a few different guys.
Jonah Jackson and Kenny Wiggins saw a few reps snapping the football on Monday, and now, you can add fourth-round rookie Logan Stenberg as a possible option as well.
In saying this, center is not Stenberg’s natural position, and he had some issues.
He had a snap over the quarterback’s head on one shotgun attempt, and then, was subsequently beaten by defensive tackle Frank Herron.
To me, Stenberg is a project player that has a pretty steep learning curve playing in a pro-style offense.
Still, he could greatly increase his value by providing more positional versatility.
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4.) The JACK
One of the biggest questions regarding the Lions' defense is who the predominant JACK backer will be.
It will likely be a committee. But so far, Christian Jones appears to be the front runner for the departed Devon Kennard’s role.
Second-year pro Austin Bryant is still on the physically unable to perform list, and rookie Julian Okwara was seen practicing with the second and third units -- without really standing out in a positive light.
Even though Jones was considered an off-ball linebacker in 2019, he lined up for 367 snaps on the defensive line as compared to just 191 plays as a linebacker.
However, from a pass-rush standpoint, Jones only had a total of 12 pressures on 126 attempts, according to Pro Football Focus -- which is nothing to get excited about.
Meanwhile, Jamie Collins has been lining up all over the place.
He has done his best work more as a stack linebacker anyway in his NFL career.
Personally, I’m glad to see him not being pigeonholed into an EDGE defender and being a versatile chess piece as advertised.
All in all, hopefully, Okwara can start to come into his own because the Lions desperately need a true pass rusher from the JACK position.
If not, Patricia better work some magic manufacturing pressure.
5.) Cephus’ game translating well
In back-to-back days, Cephus -- the first of two fifth-round picks made by the Lions this past April -- made some nice plays.
On Tuesday, he was able to catch a touchdown in 11-on-11 competition, and even got the best of Detroit's 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah on a couple of other occasions in one-on-ones.
Coming into the NFL, there was a lot to like about Cephus. He is well polished, can beat press coverage, has good explosion, uses his body well and can catch away from his frame.
His biggest downfall was obviously his speed -- or lack thereof.
Even without great foot turnover, he has a lot of attributes that make him difficult to handle.
Maybe his upside is limited, but his polished skill set allows for an easier transition at the next level.
Seemingly every season, there is always one wideout that is a training camp darling, but then severely underwhelms once the bright lights turn on.
I’m not saying that it will be Cephus who comes up short, though.
So far, so good for the rookie wideout out of Wisconsin.
6.) Okudah still finding his feet
One odd theme that keeps appearing is Okudah losing his footing.
From afar, it seems like something really small and insignificant.
Remember, he fell at the combine after high-pointing a pass, which resulted in him reluctantly withdrawing from the rest of the position drills.
On both Monday and Tuesday, he once again slipped on a couple of occasions.
Based on film review from his time playing at Ohio State, his footwork and balance were a couple of his most impressive traits.
Again, while it's probably nothing to worry about seriously, it is something I have noticed and wanted to at least bring up.