Friday, August 4, 2017

Detroit Lions Training Camp 2017, day 3 of open practice, August 2nd

On my 3rd and final day at the Lions training camp I decided to sit in the same location as day 2 hoping they would do more on that side of the field, the used to in order to not tear up any one part of any one field too much, and that did seem to be the case this time as well. Unfortunately, my notes and roster sheets ended up in a car south of Chicago while I drove back to west Michigan arriving very late at night. I had my notes photo'd and emailed to me to complete this blog entry. Now for my camp report...

The first thing I watched was some kick/punt return work. A new body was added to the group, that being #36 Washington. The players working as returners in the various drills were numbers 10; 13; 17; 36 and 39. At one point in the practice the kicker failed to connect with the ball and the players just stood around... then the coach got after ALL of them for not taking off after the holder who still had the ball (and hadn't moved either). That seemed to get them all into the spirit of things.

Another series of special teams practice had multiple things going at the same time. In one part of the field they worked on catching the ball at the same time as 2 blocked 2 in front of the returner. The ball being fired from a jugs (tire) machine over the heads of all sets of players and coaches.

The second group was 3 blocking 3 with just about anyone pretending to be the returner (one of who was Muhlbach). And then yet another group was 2 on 2 doing blocking and gunner practice. While all that was going on further yet behind the jugs machine the QBs were practicing throwing to coaches in various out and in patterns.

Next up were the WRs doing various drills, most of it involving the end zone. Later they were joined by the QBs for more end zone work. The sets were different in that #9 Stafford did a lot of work only with the first 4 or 5 WRs and #14 would work with the rest, with #8 getting almost no snaps. After a number of sets going either up and in, up and out, at the corner pylon or a 1 yard short of EZ and then step in inches from that pylon... only after most of the WRs did this did #8 get a snap or two.

After all that occurred the DBs joined in to defend the various throws in or near the end zone. The defense was doing better defending then the WRs were with actual catches, so once again I'm not entirely sure if the point of the drill was defense, offense, both or what exactly.

About this time the rain clouds started moving in, then lightning to the NE of the fields. I started heading for my car and got on the road just as the skies opened up. So my last day of camp experience was cut about an hour short.

I was there with 2 of my grand kids. My grandson Tom (age 4) apparently has a thing for cheerleaders, especially redheads. Whilst my granddaughter (age 8) taught the cheerleaders one of her own cheers, she was a bigger fan of Roary, the mascot.

The face painting was all free, courtesy of the Lions. So were the various interactive games there. Only the merchandise and food costs anything, as even admission was free.

When my notes arrive back in Michigan next week I may make some more points, and I have a lot more pics to share as well, but without the notebook it's hard to know which pics belong to which notes. My overall impressions of camp where that they were a lot more organized then previous ones (going back to 1998) and the layout of the fans experience was the best to date since the Saginaw days. The food trucks were great, I even escorted (un-officially) Mrs Slay and baby back to the taco truck on day 3. The player I was most interested in was Golladay, and I think he's going to be a great player after his rookie year trial-n-error experience. Who wins kick returner is going to be an interesting fight, as will most positions on the team. Some very good talent will eventually be cut from the Lions roster, I look for some of them to catch up with other teams come September.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lions Camp 2017, Day 2 Public Access, August 1st

First set in front of me was QB and Centers only. Lots of snaps from under center and shotgun both. The QBs names are known. The 3 centers involved with the set were Swanson, Glasgow, and Leo Koloamatangi. The only centers remaining on the roster.

Saw 76 & 58 without helmets across the way. That's TJ Lang and Paul Worrilow.

Even further off in the distance they were having Kick and Punt Return practice... well, mostly catching the Kick or Punt actually. The significant part of that is who was trying out for the catching. They were #10 Jared Abbrederis, #13 TJ Jones, #16 Jace Billingsley (who had one drop), #17 Keshawn Martin, and #39w Jamal Agnew (the only defensive player trying out). In this limited set the best returners appeared to me to be Keshawn and Jamal, with Jared a close 3rd.

Further North I saw #21 with his helmet on working on his own and trying various spin moves (Ameer Abdullah).

The entire WR corp moved over in front of the stands I was at and practiced various routes that each broke at 3 yards out. First set was out 3 and 90 degrees straight over. Only drop was Abbrederis, but I couldn't tell if it was on him or the coach throwing the ball out. Next set was break 3 yards out then go off at a 45 degree angle... catching the ball over the shoulder. All did well at that one. I thought I was on to something when I noted who went left out of break and who went right, but the very next set they all switched sides, so nothing there. One non-performance note: there are only two Lions wide receivers with a number in the 80's, all the others are from 10 to 19. Most of those with an 80ish number are tight ends. The two in the 80s are #83 WR Dontez Ford and #84 Michael Rector.

During all the sets Golden Tate would throw the ball he just caught to a fan and have him throw it back to him before getting it to the coaches helper to put it back into use for the set. Must be he hasn't been restricted from fan interfacing as of yet.

Next WR set involved the WR catching the pass in what would be over the middle about 5 yards or so deep then trying to split a double tackle (coach on right and left with pads on arms). All WRs did okay on this but Billingsley did have a drop while spinning to make the contact.

Then I looked across the way and saw AA running with the rest of the RBs doing some kind of slot receiver drill. So no longer practicing on his own. I made note that Tion Green flashed (was noticed) in a couple of drills including this one.

The next WR drill was back to running the players in the same order as yesterday, no changes.

Now the QBs who were drilling with only the centers come over and join the WRs for a few sets. First up was two QBs throwing to two WRs at the same time, one WR going right, one going left. Harder then heck to keep track of who did what with this kind of drill. One set was at roughly 25 yards out, one set was at 15 yards or so, then one was at like 45 yards. All the QBs who took the time to set and throw made the passes look easy as can be. At first, #8 wasn't setting his feet and was having trouble but he finally came around. Trouble not in as way off, but still off and not looking fluid.

After those sets the QBs and the WRs go over to in front of the VIP area and join the DBs who were doing drills of some kind way over there. This is kind of normal, having one corp of players practice together then eventually joining up with another corp and growing the size and number of players involved in each drill. By now it's 4:25pm and 87 degrees. I did note that only Stafford worked with the WR and DB combined sets while #14 worked further away throwing to (or handing off to) RBs and they worked with the OL and DL corps. #8 watched with special teams guys.

I think this was actually a DB drill as I saw the ball hit the ground multiple times, but being 120 yards away or so that's just a guess. I did see #24 (Nevin Lawson) knock down #15 Golden Tate fairly hard with they made contact during the play (not intentionally). There was a lot of hard pressing going on by the DBs all drill long.

Another drill appeared to me to be all about the QB making play call changes at the LOS then executing the final play before a timer went off.

The groups split up again and it looked like the back 7 worked against barrels that were in formation with helmets placed on top of the barrels. I've no idea what the drill was all about.

During the 11 on 11 drills I noted that Cole Wick made a nice catch and move to get YACs. He was the only dude big enough for me to notice with the unaided eye from the distance involved. It wasn't just the distance, but the other 68 guys not involved in the set were standing along the sideline which placed them about 70 yards from me all but blocking the view of the practice for a good 10 minutes.

The 7 on 7 drills after that were completely impossible to see from my location.

After that ended there was still about 10 minutes left but they all went into doing stretches and things instead of sets. After that, there was some one on one work from a few, a number of other players went to the sidelines to sign autographs, the rest either continued stretching or went inside.

I caught a pic of the camera booth under one of the 3 hoods they now have with their new HD camera poles:

Since there is no tackling allowed, and the QBs and RBs can't be hit, it's pretty much impossible to tell how the talent looks on defense. For that I can't wait for the Jets pre-season game. The offense might all come together, but since the D can't press it's hard to know how the OL will hold up. Once again, preseason games. So even though they aren't doing anything more then the basics in these public practices at least in just the first couple of days the roster does seem to know what they are supposed to be doing... unlike a couple years ago when it looked completely chaotic.

I have yet to write my final camp blog for day 3, and I need to come up with a means to get the pictures inserted, I will be doing so over the next 72 hours or so.

Training Camp 2017, Day 1 Public Access, July 31st

Okay, a summary and some details of my day at the first open practice.

First, the entire experience has been changed, and almost all of it is better, imo. Instead of the port-a-jons just being at the entrance to the practice field they were spread out all over the public access areas. So too were the bleachers. And upon entry, the cheerleaders. Also retail shops, food trucks, and there was more games too at more then one location. There was a lot less seating on the east side and a lot more seating on the west side of the practice areas. Enough to hold all who want to show up, no one was or will be turned away (unless they try to bring in stuff they aren't supposed to). They had real shuttle buses to the parking areas, not just mostly missing golf cart driving ladies. They even changed the practice jersey's. Every since watching Barry Sanders practice in Saginaw the practice jersey's had a number only on them. This year, first time, the name was also on the back above the number. So much easier not having to look in my printouts to see who is doing what (usually after the day is over).

Second, the practice area is still 3 football fields. Two side by side, one edge-wise at the north end of the first two. I sat on the west side facing out over all 3 fields towards the inside practice building and offices of the Allen Park facility (see pics).

Now, as you can see, it is no easy task watching things on the far fields. The actual practice has the players all over both ends of all three fields. It's completely and utterly impossible to watch all of things happening. The best you can do is watch what's in front and occasionally check out some of the stuff further out.

At the end of practice a few players and others went to the fences on the west, south, and east sides of the fields to sign autographs. My granddaughter got signatures from LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin & C Leo Koloamatangi, then after heading out got one more, from the head coach himself.

The whole thing was about 35 minutes of checking out the exhibits, shops, food and games... then about 1 hour and 50 minutes of actual practice, then about 40 minutes of autographs. Now some notes I took....

The first part of practices usually involve position groups doing some fundamental practice of one kind or another, before things pick up into 7 on 7s and 9 on 9s and so on. So positiuon groups practice notes...

An example of how hard it is to know what they are working on (aside from the distances involved and the multiple things going on)... one of the first things in front of me was a number of wide receivers trying to get out of being double teamed... or was it a bunch of DBs practicing how to double team a single wide receiver? Or was it both at the same time? I watched the whole thing, I can not tell you which it is.

At first I noted Quin and Slay without helmets inbetween two groups basically throwing high balls up for some kind of self practice (interceptions/hands stuff). The whole while they were doing it, about 6 or 7 minutes, Slay was basically jogging in place, Quin was not moving as much.

Most of the guys who are supposedly hurt were either not dressed or dressed but without helmets. Not yet sure if there was a rhyme or reason to it.

Next practice I caught was with all 3 QBs doing a 3 step drop, a lateral move to either direction, then making a 30 yard(ish) throw. I'll just say this part right now instead of repeating it a hundred times... #14 Ruduck appeared to me to be less productive then #8 Kaaya, and #9 Stafford was better then either by miles and miles. But I already know that most won't care how well he or they practice, only how well they play. So I really didn't watch the QBs so much as the rest of the team in this practice.

Next up in front of me were various WR practices, with lots of fundamentals and route tree practices. The ball was thrown by a coach, no QBs near me for any of it, and there was a lot of it. Each WR went through the practice no matter what it was, then a different practice with them would start, 1 snap per WR for each set. I noted that Billingsley appeared to be one of the shortest WRs of the corp. That Golladay one of the tallest, and when running, one of the smoothest. He has long legs and strides really fast. Reminds me of a certain recently retired Lion WR (as far as height and speed goes, no other comparison intended). I say that because as I was noting these things down they ran a set with the WRs high stepping through a rope like ladder layed out on the ground, then after about 12 steps they had to cut left sharply. The only WR to not make that catch was Golladay. I'll probably mention a couple of other drops by others later, but for the most part, there really wasn't that many drops during the entire practice.

During these WR sets every once in awhile Tate III would motion for a fan to throw their personal football out to him on the field, the fan would, then Tate would throw it back, then he'd get back in line for the next set. He was the only player to really interact with fans during practices. Not sure if he'll be called out on it, but that's the kind of stuff he's done every year since the first year he played in Detroit. He's just a really cool player not afraid of the fans and likes to interact with them.

Eventually I realized, that unlike past years when there was no rhyme or reason to the order in which players would run a set, that every practice set had the guys go out in the exact same order. First WR would be Tate, Second would be Jones Jr, Third would be TJ Jones, Fourth would be Billingsley, and Fifth would be Golladay. Every set. All 8 or 10 or 12 of them, however many there were. I didn't write down the rest of the order because by the 5th dude I realized it wasn't a depth chart kind of thing, nor a seniority kind of thing, nor a salary kind of thing, in fact, I have no idea what criteria they used to set the order... I just know they followed that order every set.

Oh, I had made a note at this point that the 2 camera platforms that had been used for the past 19 years of practices were not present, instead were 3 camera poles... with a base station. I got a look inside one of the stations, there was like two 25" tv monitor inside for the camera man to use and a means of directing the cameras on the poles to cover whichever field or part of the field they needed to cover. Looked like hi-def and definitely hi-tech stuff. Other then the portable goal post system, and the one net to catch field goal tries, the camera poles were the tallest objects on the south, east and west sides. The north side has a lot of light poles to light that field for late practices. In this pic is some of the south side objects including one of the camera poles.

For a while I had seen #2 (Redfern) out running 60 or more yards with no helmet (and he's pretty fast too). Later though, I saw him with a helmet on holding for Prater.

I had made a note about there being a come back route set for the WRs, probably because it always upset me the Lions rarely ever use the come back route but they did practice that set with all the WRs this first day out.

I also noted that there was a missed catch in one set but it wasn't a drop, #8 threw it too high. This caused the whole set to be stopped, some coaching was done, then the set continued. First time, only time, I saw that. This was (obviously) after the coaches stopped throwing the balls and the QBs joined in to do the throwing.

Later #8 throw another ball a bit high, but #11 Marvin Jones Jr made a great one handed grab. Shortly after that, not sure who threw it, but Golladay made a great two handed grab on a high ball. Most players wouldn't have been able to reach high enough to get two hands on the ball that play. And later yet Billingsley had a drop, the ball appeared to me to be on target.

That was pretty much it for drops or missed catches but I didn't see all the plays for all the practices obviously. I noted there was a slot route practice for WRs, RBs, and TEs but it was way across the field, so like 130 yards away or so.

All three QBs and various players did a drill of lining up and throwing for several plays then doing a spike to stop the clock. QB #14 either messed it up or the OL did and that series was interrupted.

My notes say that #2 had his helmet on and kicked a 33 yard field goal that not only cleared the goal posts but nearly cleared the net beyond it. Heck of a leg. Later, Prater made a 60 yarder after doing mostly 40 yarders all practice.

Next I noted to myself that #14 needs a lot of work. Not sure what he did to make me write that down.

As the temp hit 88 degrees towards 5pm I realized why these first 3 days were all set to start at 3:30pm... to get the team out in the hottest part of the day. There's no 2-a-days any more, no stamina practices or grueling all day stuff. So coach is using the sun.

Next was the 9 on 9 and 7 on 7 stuff. All of that was done on the east side, in front of the VIP tent, so hard for us non-season-ticket-holders to see clearly. I did notice something new there though. There was a portable stand with about 4 steps up to the landing that was located about 20 yards behind the QBs... on it was a camera man with a portable camera filming the entire set or sets of plays. Never saw a portable stand out on the field before for more film... and I assume it will be used to see who needs what fundamental stuff after watching 9 on 9s. Oh, and the 9 on 9 had refs, with whistles, and down markers on the sidelines. The whole thing.

#87, Fells, is a big boy, easy to see even at 90 yards away.

#38, Tion Green, also flashed a couple of times, caught my untrained eye more then once.

The last practice I caught appeared to be a 1 or 2 minute drill that was to end in a field goal. While they did take the portable field goalposts down there to do this series, the net was not there, the ball would nearly hit the port-a-jons on the SE corner of the spectator area.

All in all, an interesting day, lots of new stuff never seen at a Lions practice before.