O'Hara's Monday Rundown: Impressions of rookie mini-camp

Posted May 14, 2012

On the last drill of the last day of the first mini-camp of his pro career, Riley Reiff was one of the men out front.

The Lions closed a three-day rookie camp Sunday with wind sprints - repetitions from the 25-yard line to the end zone and back.

Reiff finished second in a group of offensive linemen.

It was a good end to a good start for Reiff, an offensive tackle from Iowa who was drafted on the first round and 23rd overall by the Lions. And it really wasn't a surprise to anyone, least of all head coach Jim Schwartz.

"He was running against other offensive linemen," Schwartz said. "He wasn't beating any DBs or wide receivers. You'd expect that from him. He's a first-round draft pick.

"The reasons we said we drafted him - former tight end, good athlete, smart guy, been from a good program. If he's falling out in that drill, we probably misevaluated him."

There are legendary stories of high draft picks showing up in camp out of shape and either heaving their guts out after running sprints or simply shutting down.

Those days are mostly gone because of the workout camps set up by agents to prepare their clients for the draft. They run, lift and train for dollars up till draft day. A bad workout for the scouts, or being out of shape, can drop a player's draft position and cost him money.

Obviously, mini-camp is a small first step for Reiff and the rest of the Lions' rookies. They won't have contact in full pads until training camp.

Still, there are signs - good and bad - in mini-camps, and this week's Monday Rundown focuses on the Lions' rookie camp - from Reiff down to fourth-round pick Ronnell Lewis and undrafted free agents Kellen Moore and Alonzo Lawrence.

There's also a look at issues impacting contract negotiations with defensive end Cliff Avril - and I think it's becoming less likely that he'll be a Lion in 2013 - a brief scouting report on rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and a preview of Calvin Johnson delivering the ball, not catching it.

We start with Reiff:
1. The Life of Riley: Referring to the old TV show of that name starring William Bendix (he once played Babe Ruth) gives away my age, but Riley Reiff's in a good spot with the Lions.

There is no immediate pressure on him to start on opening day. That doesn't mean he won't, and the logical spot would be at right tackle, where Gosder Cherilus has been the primary starter since his rookie year of 2008.

Reiff was primarily a left tackle at Iowa, and he divided time on both sides in camp.

Rookies join veterans in the offseason workout program on Monday. The Lions have a core of veteran offensive linemen. It's a solid, tight group, and they'll break Reiff in on life in the NFL. There could be some hazing - like buying donuts.
"Whatever happens, happens," Reiff said. "I'm just a football player. I do anything they tell me to do."

He's also looking to learn about the pro environment.

"Absolutely," he said. "It's like anything. You look how they carry themselves, how they act on and off the field. You learn from them."
2. Muscle man: Reports of Ronnell Lewis' upper-body development were not exaggerated. Lewis was into power-lifting before he was recruited to play at Oklahoma, and the results are apparent.

His trapezius muscles - basically, the cords that run from the shoulder to the neck - look like park benches that could comfortably accommodate a couple on each one.

Lewis had the nickname "The Hammer" at Oklahoma. When asked what qualified as a good hit, he replied: "When your opponent is lying on the ground."
3. Lewis vs. Reiff: A play Sunday could be a primer for training camp. Lewis was lined up left defensive end, across from Reiff at right tackle.

Lewis got off on the snap with a quick outside burst. Reiff reacted quickly, keeping Lewis outside as a ball-carrier cut inside on a running play. Lewis and Reiff both reacted quickly and ran downfield in pursuit.

More to come, we can assume.
4. Kellen Moore: Moore's prolific passing stats, 50-3 won-lost record at Boise State and being bypassed in the draft made him a popular interview target in the mini-camp. He handled the situation with good grace and humor.

On Sunday, someone noted that his locker is between Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford.

What's it like to have his nameplate between theirs?

"You guys will probably forget about me very quickly," Moore said.
5. Moore-Edwards connection: Wide receiver Patrick Edwards of Houston is another player with huge stats who was not drafted. He has the school's career record with 43 TD catches and the school and Conference USA record with 4,471 career receiving yards.

On one play Sunday, Moore led Edwards perfectly for a catch behind two defensive backs as Edwards cut to the sideline, then ran into the end zone with the ball.

Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson sprinted some 50 yards to the end zone to compliment Edwards on the catch and running the route.
6. Alonzo Lawrence: Lawrence was a highly rated high school safety who started his college career at Alabama and transferred to Southern Mississippi. He said he didn't see eye-to-eye with Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Lawrence would up playing at Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi.

Lawrence has a huge tattoo on the front of his body. There is a football with a ring on top and underneath the words "Married to the Game."
7. Jenkins report: He was one of the most talented cornerbacks in the draft, but his off-field issues made him a second-round pick by the Rams.
I'm on record as saying I wouldn't draft Jenkins in the first two rounds because of the risk his problems present. I don't second guess any team not drafting him, including the Lions.

Jim Thomas, the highly respected beat writer who covers the Rams for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, offered this appraisal of Jenkins' performance in mini-camp in an email exchange:

"He looked smooth in his backpedal, broke on the ball well, and broke up some passes. There were a couple of times where he struggled in coverage ... got turned around or was beaten. But it's easy to see that the guy has some talent."
8. Avril in Detroit: No figures have been made public of demands of offers in contract talks between Avril and the Lions, but there is little doubt that both sides are far apart on what they consider the fair market for defensive ends whose production is similar to Avril's.

Last year, the Panthers signed Charles Johnson to a six-year, $72-milliion deal. Last week, the Cardinals signed Calais Campbell for five years and a reported $55 million, with $31 million guaranteed and $30.25 million of it paid in the first two years.

The Lions put the franchise tag on Avril, which gives him a one-year contract worth $10.6 million. He has not signed the tender and is working out on his own rather than attend the offseason program.

Under NFL rules, a long-term deal cannot be negotiated after July 15, meaning Avril will play on the one-year contract if there is no new contract by that date.
9. Megatron: Calvin Johnson has been invited to throw out the first pitch Friday night before the Tigers-Pirates game at Comerica Park.

Matthew Stafford threw out the first pitch in a game last month.

Just wondering: will any local TV station show Johnson making his pitch?
10. Lions helping Tigers: Johnson is a good choice to throw out the first pitch. His star is rising locally and nationally.

But the Tigers need hitters, not another arm.

Maybe Calvin will take Louis Delmas, Stephen Tulloch and Kyle Vanden Bosch along.