The Detroit Lions were without two big offensive weapons for most of the first day of joint practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars Wednesday.
Pro Bowl wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown injured his right lower leg early in practice when a defender fell on his leg in a 7-on-7 red zone period. St. Brown limped off the field and was immediately approached by a trainer. He tried walking it off on the sideline for a few minutes but was ultimately sent over to get his right ankle area re-taped.
After the new tape job, a trainer put St. Brown through a battery of tests including sprints and cuts, but he did not return to practice. We'll likely get an update on St. Brown's status Thursday from Lions head coach Dan Campbell in the morning. The fact that he was running and cutting and trying to come back is a positive sign.
A little later in practice second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams was running a go route down the right sideline when he slowed up and grabbed at the back of his right leg around his hamstring area. He immediately walked off to get attention. He was spotted a little later walking off the practice field gingerly with a trainer and into the facility. Campbell will also likely provide an update on Williams' status Thursday morning.
The Williams injury in particular comes at a time when the Lions are trying to get him a ton of reps both in practice and the preseason to get him locked in before he has to leave the team at the beginning of the regular season for a suspension. Any significant time missed by him would derail the plan to give him a heavy workload over the next couple weeks.
SKILL POSITION TEST
The Lions hosted the New York Giants last week for joint practices and the preseason opener. Campbell is excited about the different challenge Jacksonville presents to his players this week, particularly his defense.
"I know defensively, their (offensive) skill position is going to be a great test for us," Campbell said. "The receiver, tight end position as a whole, and the pass game is going to be big, and this (running) back. Just what they do schematically with those weapons.
"This is really going to be some great looks for our defense, our backend, and our linebackers. And then our front. And particularly what I mean by that is our o-line versus this d-line. They have length they have ability, they got speed on the perimeter – pass rush, so I think those two things are what I'm looking most forward to. There will be big tests for us."
The Jaguars were a top 10 offense in the NFL last season behind Pro Bowl quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Running back Travis Etienne was a 1,000-yard rusher and wide receiver Christian Kirk had over 1,100 receiving yards and eight scores. Also new to that receiver corps is Calvin Ridley, who can fly.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson was all over the field for the Lions' defense in Wednesday's joint practice, forcing a couple fumbles and making a few more plays.
"You lead by example, and you lead by action," Gardner-Johnson said after practice. "Everybody knows me to talk but when you back it up you can talk as much crap as you want to."
Gardner-Johnson did plenty of that Wednesday too, a couple times getting under the skin of the Jaguars offensive players.
"I think when I play at a high level it feeds some of my teammates," he said. "I really see myself as making impact plays for myself. Like, energizers for the team."
Gardner-Johnson tied for the league lead with six interceptions in only 12 games last year but he's also shown to be a willing and aggressive tackler so far in physical or live periods of practice. He said if a player wants to be the most feared defensive back in the game, they have to be able to tackle. That's something he has worked on and is trying to apply to the field whenever he gets the opportunity.