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TWENTYMAN: Minicamp Day 1 observations

Defensive day: The team went through a lot of situational periods Tuesday in the first day of mandatory minicamp practice and it was also a heavy red zone day. I thought the defense had a heck of a practice and won the day. This defense wants to get more hands on footballs and generate more turnovers. Linebacker Jack Campbell had two interceptions off quarterback Jared Goff (one tipped), safety Brandon Joseph had a red-zone pick off Goff, and cornerback Khalil Dorsey had a pick-six off backup quarterback Hendon Hooker. How much more of a playmaking defense the Lions are in 2024 is going to determine how much better of a team they can be overall.

Practice report: The only player not in Allen Park for the start of minicamp was cornerback Emmanuel Moseley due to the birth of a child. Everyone else was around, but some of the bigger names not taking part in practice included tackle Taylor Decker, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, defensive lineman DJ Reader, cornerback Terrion Arnold, safety Kerby Joseph, outside linebacker Marcus Davenport and cornerback Brian Branch. Gibbs, Joseph and Davenport were working with trainers off to the side.

Back-to-back scores: Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has 17 career red-zone touchdowns (including the playoffs) and has proven time and again to be one of the craftiest in the business near the end zone. That was on display Tuesday with back-to-back touchdown grabs in a team red zone period. The first he saw a soft spot in the defense over the middle and sat down between defenders. Goff found him for an easy score. The second was a boot play where he juked a defender off the line of scrimmage and beat him to the pylon for an easy pitch and catch from Goff.

Charting the QBs: The team ran a 7-on-7 red-zone drill to end practice with each of the three quarterbacks getting two separate sets of four reps apiece. Here's how they finished:

  • Goff: 3-of-8 with two touchdown passes to wide receiver Kalif Raymond. He went 0-for-4 in the last rep with the first-team offense and threw an interception that Campbell baited him into. It was a fine play by the second-year linebacker.
  • Hooker: 4-of-8 with touchdown passes to Raymond, running back Sione Vaki, wide receiver Maurice Alexander and wide receiver Donovan-Peoples Jones. Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez dropped an interception. Overall, Hooker tended to hold on to the football a bit too long in red-zone drills and earned the ire of head coach Dan Campbell for taking a sack instead of throwing a ball away on one rep.
  • Nate Sudfeld: 5-of-8 with two touchdown passes to wide receiver Kaden Davis and one to wide receiver Isaiah Williams. Don't be surprised if the battle for the backup quarterback job in training camp is tighter than people think between Hooker and Sudfeld.

Opportunity knocks: With Kerby Joseph rehabbing a hip injury, safety Brandon Joseph has gotten some first-team reps and has made some plays. He had a terrific interception off Goff in the red zone Tuesday.

"There has been noticeable growth from him last year," Campbell said of Brandon Joseph on Tuesday. "I would tell you even in this spring he's improved. He's a young guy that we like a lot. He puts the work in. He's smart, he's crafty. You really see him coming along here. There again, we're not in pads, this is early, but there is growth, we like where he's at right now."

View photos from Day 6 of Detroit Lions OTA practice on Friday, May 31, 2024 in Allen Park, Mich.

Vaki in space: The rookie running back had a couple nice touchdown catches Tuesday, one on a screen pass and the other on a diving reception at the goal line that earned some oohh's from his fellow teammates.

Vaki is going to get a lot of run on special teams but one area that has stood out to me so far this spring is his playmaking potential in the pass game. He's got great hands. It's something to continue to monitor come training camp.

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