The Detroit Lions hit the road this week for two joint practices in Indianapolis with the Colts on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Saturday's preseason matchup between the two clubs at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis at 1 p.m.
Joint practices are a way for teams to get in some really good work against different schemes and players in a controlled setting.
"We're going to get over 30 reps with our starters against very good competition, full pads and it's structured between (Colts head coach) Frank (Reich) and myself," head coach Dan Campbell said Monday.
"Man, we'll get all the looks we need to get, all the situations, it'll just be good. They're a good team over there, they know how to win, it's a winning program. (Colts general manager) Chris Ballard and Frank do it right, and that team, man, they're tough. So, this will be great, it's going to be great for us I can't wait."
It should be a fun couple practice days in Indy – filled with lots of observations – but here are five things in particular to look out for during the joint sessions:
1. SITUATION WORK
Campbell made the comment Monday that taking part in joint practices is like playing three preseason games in one week. There's expected to be a lot of situational team periods, but in a controlled environment, where the quarterbacks are off limits to contact and things of that nature.
It's an opportunity for Campbell and Reich to script some situations that might not coming up in a preseason game, but that both would love to see how their teams respond to before the start of the regular season.
2. GREAT TEST ON THE GROUND
The Colts are a physical, run-first football team with some nastiness in the way they come downhill in the run game. Indianapolis was second in the NFL running the football last year, averaging 149.4 yards per contest on the ground. Colts running back Jonathan Taylor led the NFL with 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Lions ranked 28th last season stopping the run, allowing on average 135.1 yards per game. Detroit's defense allowed 168 yards (5.8 average) in last week's preseason loss to Atlanta. This will be a great opportunity for Detroit's defense to get some great run-defense work against one of the best in the business.
3. 1-ON-1 PERIODS
One-on-one drills are going to be fun to watch, particularly the one-on-one periods between the offensive and defensive lines and the receivers and defensive backs. At this point in camp, Aidan Hutchinson and Penei Sewell are pretty familiar with one another and ready to go against some new blood.
Just how good can the Lions offensive line be? Indy has a pretty good defensive front. Can Hutchinson take his show on the road and continue the success we've seen in Allen Park the last few weeks?
The Lions secondary still has a lot of question marks and some starting spots to be determined. Will Jeff Okudah or Will Harris separate themselves from the other this week? Who emerges at the nickel? This will be a good couple days of one-on-one and team drills to see if players start to separate themselves from the pack with roster cuts looming in just a few weeks.
4. QB BATTLE
Minus the late fumbled snap, I thought quarterback David Blough had a really nice preseason debut last Friday. He's battling Tim Boyle for the backup spot behind Jared Goff.
Blough took all the second-team reps during Monday's practice in Allen Park. Will that be the case in the joint practices, or will he and Boyle continue to alternate with the second team on a daily basis? Is it Blough's turn to run with the second-team offense in Saturday's game? If so, how will he respond?
It's been a pretty close competition so far in camp between the two, with Blough having the slight edge from my observations. This week could go a long way in determining a favorite for the gig.
View photos from Day 14 of Detroit Lions training camp on Monday August 15, 2022.
5. OFFENSIVE OUTPUT
It took just 10 plays for Goff and the first-team offense to march 79 yards and score a touchdown on a D’Andre Swift's 9-yard run on their first and only possession of the preseason opener last week. Goff and the first-team offense have looked pretty good to begin camp. Goff has shown really good command of the offense and has built a nice rapport with a number of pass catchers. The offensive line and the run game, led by Swift, have looked good as well.
How will it all look against a different scheme and a Colts' defense that ranked ninth in the NFL in points allowed per game (21.5) last season. They were also 10th in rushing yards allowed (109.1).
If the starters on offense continue to look good and are able to move the football and make plays consistently through the joint practices and during Saturday's preseason game, the Lions might really have something.