One of the biggest areas of improvement for the Detroit Lions through 11 training camp practices has been the play of their secondary. There have been more interceptions, more hands on footballs and just overall stickier coverage than we've seen from that unit in years.
What has to excite Lions fans is the fact that we still haven't seen a big piece of that secondary out on the field yet as veteran cornerback Emmanuel Moseley continues to rehab a torn ACL.
Moseley was absent from the first 10 days of camp for medical reasons that neither he or head coach Dan Campbell wanted to go into detail about. Moseley was back in Allen Park and out watching practice Saturday as he continues to rehab and work himself back.
"I was feeling pretty good and things happen and right now at this time I'm feeling pretty good," Moseley said after practice.
He has a target of when he hopes to come off the PUP list and return to practice but said that could change. When the time is right to get back on the field that's when he'll be back, and he can't wait for that time to come.
"Once I get out there, I'm going to be excited for it," he said. "I'm not going to throw no numbers out there or a timeline but when you see me out there know that I'll be very excited."
Moseley tore his ACL last October after starting five games for San Francisco and allowing just a 66.9 passer rating when teams threw his way with no touchdowns. In 11 starts in 2021 that rating against was a mere 65.6 with no touchdowns allowed. When he comes back he's expected to push Jerry Jacobs for first-team reps at outside cornerback opposite Cam Sutton.
DEFENSE LOOKS BETTER PREPARED
One thing that's become clear through the first couple weeks of training camp practices for the Lions is how much better prepared Detroit's defense is to counter how offenses attack them.
The addition of veteran defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and his ability to play deep safety, nickel corner and play in the box provides the kind of versatility that allows defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn to put a lot of different packages on the field.
When Gardner-Johnson is in the slot we've seen a lot of Kerby Joseph and Tracy Walker at safety. But when Gardner-Johnson shifts back to safety next to Joseph it's allowed Glenn to use talented rookie defensive back Brian Branch in the slot, and that's probably Detroit's best pass defense in the secondary along with Sutton and Jacobs at the two outside cornerback spots.
Detroit's versatility and depth is starting to show itself on the edge too. They've got some players who've shown an ability to drop and play in space, and that creates some unique blitzing and pass-rush combinations.
"I think we are in the beginning stages here of we feel some versatility beginning to show itself," Campbell said recently of his defense. "And that's because we've got some guys that are showing up. I think we may be able to have some versatility here and we can have different packages and we can do different things out of those packages.
"That's really what you want. It's no different than offense, you want to feel like you have versatility to attack anything, any team you're getting ready to play, whatever they're able to do, you want to be able to counter it with what you have and it's no different on defense, because every offense we're going to face is different. You want to know you've got enough ammo, not just the players, but the versatility in those players, schematically, to neutralize your opponent."
SPECIAL TEAMS COMPETITIONS
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp will have decisions to make at kicker and long snapper as those training camp competitions continue on into the third week of camp.
Riley Patterson and Parker Romo are competing to be Detroit's kicker in 2023, and Scott Daly and Jake McQuaide are battling to be the long snapper.
"I am excited about the two guys we have (at kicker)," Fipp said Saturday. "We feel like we have two guys. One that has a lot of leg talent in Romo. He's got a lot of leg talent and maybe he needs a little bit more development, but we feel like he's done a nice job.
"Then a little bit more consistent and younger player in Patterson, who obviously we know a lot about. The truth is he's really coming along, and his leg strength has really increased. He looks really good."
On the long snapper front, Fipp said he and Daly had a conversation at the end of last season where Fipp told Daly he didn't think he made the step forward he wanted to see from him. It's part of the reason why the Lions signed McQuaide, a 12-year veteran, to promote competition and push Daly to make that next step.
"We thought he got better but maybe he could get better at a faster rate and sometimes competition helps accelerate that process," Fipp said.
Fipp said if that competition between Daly and McQuaide ends up even, then Daly will get the nod and McQuaide knows that.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
After the recent news that Detroit sold out all of their 2023 season tickets, Campbell was asked Saturday if he feels any extra weight on his shoulders given the financial commitment from the fans and the high expectations that continue to surround his football team.
"I don't feel weight," Campbell said. "I feel wind under my freaking wings. Truthfully."
- The Lions signed cornerback Tae Hayes and wide receiver Avery Davis and waived defensive lineman Zach Morton. The team also waived/injured cornerback Jarren Williams.
- Young Red Wings stars Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond were spotted Saturday at Lions practice.