LIONS INSIDER

TWENTYMAN: 5 takeaways from OTAs

Posted Jun 11, 2017

Tim Twentyman gives his 5 takeaways from OTAs.

The Detroit Lions completed their 10 allotted OTA practices, and next up is their mandatory three-day minicamp this week before an extended break leading into the start of training camp.

There’s no pads or hitting in OTAs, so what we saw during the three open practices has to be put in that context, but there were still some notable observations.

Here are my five biggest takeaways from OTAs:

1. ROOKIE FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We got our first look at this year’s rookie class on the field with the veterans. Here’s some quick first impressions:

Jarrad Davis: Slotted right into the MIKE and didn’t look out of place at all. He’s calling the defense, and his speed and coverage ability look to be an early upgrade at the position.

Teez Tabor: He looked to be full go in the final open practice after being eased back in (hamstring) the first couple weeks. The first thing that jumps out about Tabor is his size. He’s very well put together. He made a nice interception on Matthew Stafford last week, and speed hasn’t appeared to be an issue with him so far.

Kenny Golladay: He’s been one of the youngsters who’s stood out to me early on. He’s made a bunch of big plays and has a knack for getting open. We’ll see if that continues once he gets bumped and jammed in training camp.

Michael Roberts: He’s still coming along. He had a chance to make a big catch down the field last week, but let the ball slip through his hands. The tight end position in the NFL is tough on rookies.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Speed. That’s the thing that jumps out about Reeves-Maybin. He’s a bit undersized, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed and an ability to run in coverage.

Jamal Agnew: He’s going to try and wear a lot of hats for this team. He’ll try to push Quandre Diggs for time in the slot, but he’s also throwing his hat in the punt return competition. He looked very natural doing it on a windy day last week.

Jeremiah Ledbetter: I can honestly say I didn’t notice Ledbetter much during the three open practices. That’s not a knock on him, it’s just hard to evaluate interior defensive linemen without pads or hitting.

Brad Kaaya: He throws a pretty decent ball, but he’s still picking up the offense. In team drills, the ball doesn’t come out as quickly as it needs to, and he’s often been taking off and using his feet once the protection breaks down.

Pat O’Connor: The youngster earned some kudos from his teammates in the individual portion of practice last week during sled drills. He’s quick out of his stance, and won his rep. We’ll see what he can do when the pads come on and the one-on-one matchups with the linemen begin.

2. DECKER INJURY

The first big injury blow of the 2017 season affects the offensive line as left tackle Taylor Decker is out indefinitely after undergoing shoulder surgery last Monday.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell will update Decker’s status at the start of training camp at the end of July, though he stated he didn’t think Decker’s injury would cost him all of the 2017 season.

The team has three in-house options in Corey Robinson, Joe Dahl and Cornelius Lucas.

General manager Bob Quinn also signed veteran free agent tackle Tony Hills to help fill that void until Decker can get back on the field.

Dahl took most of the first-team reps in last week’s open practice. We’ll see how the reps are split up in minicamp.

3. STIFF COMPETITION DEVELOPING

Caldwell has been very clear that he operates a “rep chart” in the spring and not a “depth chart.” The true competition begins when training camp starts.

Watching the three open OTA sessions there are three spots in particular where the competition should be very fun to watch in the coming months.

CornerbackDarius Slay is the only player guaranteed a starting spot. After that, it’s an open competition among the other 10 corners on the roster.

Starters Nevin Lawson and Diggs will have to fight off the likes of Tabor, Agnew, DJ Hayden, Johnson Bademosi and others.

ReceiverGolden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Golladay appear to be locks. The real competition will be for the remaining spots.

Two names to watch early on in that competition are TJ Jones and Jace Billingsley, who look to have a leg up on the others at this point. But there’s obviously a long way to go.

Linebacker – Davis is expected to man the MIKE spot, but the WILL and SAM spots are up for grabs. Tahir Whitehead is being shifted over to the WILL, but he’ll have to beat out veteran Paul Worrilow and Reeves-Maybin. Antwione Williams is a big, physical player, and he’ll be fighting for playing time as well.

The Lions play two linebackers in their sub package around 60 to 70 percent of the time, so this competition really comes down to who develops as the second-best linebacker next to Davis.

4. STAFFORD ON POINT

It’s year nine for Stafford, so we shouldn’t be too surprised by this, but he’s looked very sharp this spring.

He’s coming off one of the best seasons of his career, and he’s 100 percent healed from the finger injury that hampered him at the end of last year.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said he and Stafford are really on the same page this spring in terms of what they’re seeing in coverage and what check downs are the best for that look.

This is the second full season for Stafford in Cooter’s system, and he looks very comfortable. The ball is coming out quick and on target, and the offense is humming. Sometimes during this time of year, it’s noticeable that the defense is ahead of the offense. Not this spring.

5. ABDULLAH IN THE BACKFIELD

The Lions are a different offense with running back Ameer Abdullah in the backfield. That was evident in the final open practice last week.

Abdullah had a couple nice cutback runs, and showed great burst after breaking through the line on one run.

Later, he was swinging out of the backfield on a pass play with Miles Killebrew rushing to cover, and Abdullah put his foot in the dirt and cut up field. Stafford found him streaking down the sideline for a big play.

He’s the best two-way back on this roster, and this offense is noticeably different with him on the field.