Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lions Training Camp 2014 - Part II

I only made it to two practices, but in those two practices I saw many things I have never seen before (at a Lion's camp) and I've been going to them since that first year they went to Saginaw, when was that, in 1997 or 98? I noticed one thing different before even leaving home; and that was that the Lions practices were at different locations and at different times lasting different lengths of time each and every day. This year, practices were held at Wayne State, Allen Park and Ford Field. They started as early as 8:30am or as late as 7:30pm, and all hours in-between. Some practices were 1 hour and 10 minutes, some 2 hours and 5 minutes, others an hour and around 45 minutes or so. I knew before even going to Detroit that things were going to be different, I was curious to see just how.

On Wednesday I made my way to Ford Field where I got a great seat a few rows up at the 50 yard line, though I hadn't realized it was on the opposite side from where all the reporters were. No matter, a Lions practice is always scattered all over the field, I was sure to see a lot from this vantage point. I did. Before practice started various players came out on the field to work on their own stretching or whatever (kickers tend to kick, etc). This year Golden Tate came across the field with a football to around the 30 yard line to my right and threw the ball into the audience. I thought he gave a ball away to someone in the stands then the ball came whizzing back out to Tate and he caught it. He proceeded for the next 15 minutes or so to throw the ball into the stands to those seated on my side of the field anywhere from one end zone to the other end zone, and as many as 30 rows up. I was impressed with his accuracy, always hitting the person standing up waving for a pass, and further impressed with most of the fans who were able to throw it back to him fairly close to where he stood at the time. Most impressive of all though was just his interaction with the fans. Various players in the past have joked around a bit, perhaps threw their gloves into the stands after practice, but I have never seen a player play catch for around 15 minutes before a practice session started.

Following that the players lined up on the field for a team wide stretching session. This I have seen before, every year I went in fact, though this time it was Offense to the far side, QBs in the middle, and Defense closest to my side.

Just a note here, this did not happen for all that long, and even less the next day at Allen Park. Appears the players are expected to loosen up on their own prior to practice starting. If there is suddenly a large rash of tight hamstrings this season it might because players aren't working on their own enough to loosen up before games. I'm hoping that this doesn't come to pass

In my notes at this point I wrote about how Muhlbach, Butler and Tavecchio were all working on holding, hiking, and kicks while #6 (Martin) and #3 (Freese) were mostly standing around. I thought at the time that this didn't bold well for Freese, who appeared to me to be slacking off when he should be working on his craft. I realized later that that wasn't the case, more on that in the future.

Finally the whistles blow and the official start to practice begins, right on time (I had gotten there about 40 minutes early). The first drills they worked on at Ford Field was squib kicks. #3 and #5 (Freese and Tavecchio) were the kickers, the returners (due to it being squib kicks) were #34 (Montell Owens), #44 Chad Abram, #41 Theo Riddick, and #45 Jeb Collins. Next they worked on regular kick offs, but not so much the kicking off or the returns, but worked on staying onsides each kick. From there it was Punts and the punt returners were #15 Golden Tate, #21 Reggie Bush, #12 Jeremy Ross, #40 Steven Miller, #84 Ryan Broyles and #83 Patrick Edwards. #31 Rashean Davis was next in line when the whistle blew, time was up, on to the next series of drills.

I had already noticed that Ebron was not in pads, then I spotted #13 TJ Jones also out of pads. It wasn't until after I got home 2 days later that I realized another standing around was Ziggy Ansah. Anyway, at this point they broke up into position groups and each group took up in a different section of the field to do work. It is completely and totally impossible to watch all of it when this happens. In fact, it's hard just to concentrate watching the one group do their drills from beginning to end. Later, when the groups join back up to drill, I was able to do more play-by-play in my notes. The other thing that happens is the crowd, they stand up in front of you to get concessions, or hit the john, or find their kids, whatever. If they're in your row you need to make room for their exit. It's all the time too, still, I managed to spot things here and there, sometimes bad, sometimes good. For the most part, it's all just one small handful of seconds out of weeks of practice sessions, all of which is filmed for later review by the coaching staff, though I found I wanted to hit re-wind on my non-existent remote control to replay things and see what I missed on any and almost every drill.

The WRs did some crossing routes into the flat (what would be just in front of the linebackers if there were any in this drill) and a ball was thrown to them by one of the coaches (the QBs were off doing something in another area of the field). Each WR gets one route. One ball. First in one direction (and they all caught it) then the other direction, they all caught it this time too except for #18 (Durham). The next drill by the WR group was a crossing route but the ball was intentionally thrown behind them. In this drill each WR has to spin around to make the catch (while running full speed the other way). The only drop in this drill was by #83 Patrick Edwards. If there were more drops by anyone (and there might have been) I didn't get to see it what with all the people coming and going in my row and the row immediately in front of me.

The next drill saw the DBs joining the WRs and practicing jams. For the DBs, it was working on how to jam effectively a WR at the line of scrimmage. For the WRs they were working on defeating the jam. Since we fans want both sides to win, we always lose (well, one player wins, one loses, but we don't want anyone losing, right?). A couple of notes I made on this drill, #1 Peacock easily defeated #45 Seisay, or was it #45 Seisay totally blew the jam on #1 Peacock. I'm afraid I can't tell, certainly Peacock was able to easily complete his route is all I know. During this drill it was Slay on CJ and both nearly went down when they tangled up their feet during the jam. Both regained their balance and Slay managed to stick with CJ the rest of the route. Right after this #39 Hester and #84 Broyles made contact and Hester quickly removed his glove and came towards the sideline. I knew he had jammed a finger or something, and sure enough, the trainer met him with a roll of tape and taped his thumb/hand/wrist. He then put his glove back on and re-joined the DBs. These guys do not want to skip a drill.

The next drill saw the QBs join in. This drill was a sight for sore eyes. I have been complaining for years how none of the WRs EVER come back towards the QB when he has to scramble like many other teams do. This drill was a come back drill. The route the WR ran was out, then a full stop and a few steps back towards the QB for the catch. Stafford was perfect on all 5 of his passes during this drill. That too was a sight to see. Absolutely perfect mechanics and spot on perfect passes every time. After everyone got one shot at this drill there was a short coaching session (to which I could hear nothing) and then the WRs each ran an curl out route (or whatever it's called when they go out roughly 10 yards then curl out towards the sidelines). #14 Franklin missed #86 Payton but that was their one chance to do this drill, no repeats. I realized two things at this point in time. One, Orlovsky looks like a stick man next to the other QBs (tall and thin) and that this coaching staff runs through every drill once, no one gets a 2nd chance no matter who it was that messed it up. That doesn't mean they don't work on things in their respective positional drills, just that when position groups work together you get one chance to do it right... just like in a game situation. Everything is filmed, from at least two angles, and everything is reviewed by the coaching staff (and likely graded or otherwise noted) after every practice. When you only have so much time to do your practices you don't have time to stop and do it again, over and over, only moving as fast as the slowest (to learn). I would think this means you don't want to be that guy on film who constantly makes errors. You want to be the guy who does thing so well it sticks out (I call this "flashes"). If you're a player, you want lots of flashes and no negatives, both in the locker room and on film. (That didn't exactly sound right, oh well, you know what I mean).

The next set of drills were run plays. I wrote down that Riddick and Miller were working with Orlovsky or in other words, they are the 2's. Bell and Bush were with Stafford (the 1's) and Bell flashed a great play. Then all of a sudden the QBs were switched up and Stafford was with the 3's (Leshoure and Winn). I presume this was to see how the running backs did with the different QB's, giving one constant and one variable instead of two. Before this set of drills were over, both Riddick and Bush flashed good (borderline great) plays.

My impressions of the Ford Field practice to this point was that some players on offense are starting to stand out, mainly Stafford, CJ, Tate, Bell, Bush, Riddick, and a few others. I was offense heavy because that is who was practicing in front of my part of the field. Had I been sitting elsewhere my report would've been totally different as I would've been watching entirely different position groups practice. If you try to catch everything you miss just about all of it. I had even jotted down the following at this point in my notes; "hard to keep track of 3 drills at once". I also see in my notes that I am not yet half way done with Ford Field but it's nearly 3am so the rest will have to wait until tomorrow afternoon. Thank you for joining me this far and I promise there will be more, a lot more, to come.

1 comment:

Arges said...

great stuff, keep up the good work!