The Lions hit the road to take part in two joint practices with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday and Wednesday in Napa ahead of the team's first preseason game of the year in Oakland against the Raiders on Friday.
This will be an opportunity for head coach Matt Patricia to take his team on the road for the first time and compete against someone other than their own teammates. The next two days, and of course Friday's first preseason game, should be an extremely useful evaluation tool for him and his coaching staff.
"Real good opportunity for us to go out and just see somebody else," Patricia said. "Different scheme, different players, different strengths and weaknesses from that standpoint. Getting a good evaluation of our guys."
"This really gives us a good opportunity to just have a little bit of a different perspective on some of the things that we can do against an opponent in a very controlled manner. So, that's all part of it, which is critical."
Here are five things to watch out for during joint practices:
BREAKING UP THE MONOTONY
After nine days of competing against the same players wearing the same Lions jersey, joint practices are a welcome change from the norm in the dog days of August. This is an opportunity to compete against fresh blood and new players with different skillsets they know nothing about.
The competition level always amps up during these joint practices. One-on-ones are always a competitive portion of Lions practice, but when the guy across the ball is wearing a different jersey, those competitive juices ramp up even more. Add the crowd and double the coaches watching, and this can get pretty intense. For coaches, this is some of the best evaluation they'll get in the entirety of training camp.
The Raiders revamped their passing attack this offseason in an attempt to give gun-slinging quarterback Derek Carr more options in the passing game. The Raiders now feature a pass catching trio of Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant, which could be the deepest receiving corps Carr has ever had.
That should be a good test for Darius Slay, Glover Quin and the rest of that talented and deep Detroit secondary. Seven-on-seven and one-on-one passing drills will be must-see TV in Oakland the next couple days.
The Lions have a nice setup in Allen Park. They have two outdoor fields, an indoor field, and all their meeting rooms and film sessions take place in one useful building. Training camp is very convenient in Allen Park.
Taking the operation on the road puts players out of their comfort zone and gives coaches an opportunity to see how they respond. This is especially true for young players, who will be making their first extensive road trip as professionals. Sometimes coaches can learn a lot about a player by getting them out of their comfort zone and testing their ability to adapt.
PHYSICAL RUN GAMES
It's been well documented this offseason how the Lions made it a point of emphasis to become a more physical football team, especially when it came to running the football. The signing of LeGarrette Blount and the drafting of Frank Ragnow and Kerryon Johnson are examples of that.
Oakland would also like to have a physical run game featuring bigger running backs Marshawn Lynch and the newly acquired Doug Martin. They have an old school coach in Jon Gruden, who talked this offseason about the new blocking schemes upfront, getting a tight end that can block, and adding a fullback to the roster. He's hoping that leads to a more physical running game.
Which of these similarly revamped run games can impose their will on the other? Who comes out of these two days feeling better about their play in the trenches?
NO MACK, BUT STILL GET IRVIN
There is no Khalil Mack in Raiders training camp as the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is holding out due to a contract dispute. That's too bad for the Lions, who would have loved to measure themselves against one of the league's best pass rushers in practice. Mack has recorded double-digit sacks in each of his last three seasons.
Detroit will still have to contend with hybrid linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin, who is coming off a career-high eight sacks last season and has 37.0 for his career. Irvin is a crafty veteran, and Detroit's edge blockers should get some good work in the next two days going up against him.