The Notebook

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NOTEBOOK: Harris notches first NFL touchdown

It is pretty much the same for all rookies when they get to the NFL and start practicing and playing games with the veterans. The speed of the game at the NFL level is a big shock for most, and everything seems to be moving 100 miles per second.

The more practices rookies get under their belt and the further we get into the preseason, the game begins to slow down a little bit.

Detroit Lions rookie safety Will Harris says that’s the case for him.

Detroit’s third-round pick out of Boston College this offseason finally feels like things are beginning to slow down for him. He says it’s what helped him make his biggest impact to date in Detroit’s 30-23 loss to the Texans Saturday night in their second preseason game.

Harris scored his first NFL touchdown on a 19-yard fumble recovery in the second quarter. He also had a nice pass breakup on a 3rd and 8 play that forced a punt. He led Detroit’s defense with six tackles in the contest.

“I’m just trying to learn how offenses are trying to attack us, knowing and trying to master and perfect my role within the defense,” Harris said after the game. “And, using the coaching and the techniques from practice and trying to apply them on game days and just keep compounding those good habits and try to get better at something every day.

“So, the game is definitely slower than it was when I first came into practicing with these guys. But, I’m receiving a lot of help from the coaches obviously, but especially the older guys in the DB room and they have really taken me under their wings and I ask them about everything - their game experiences and the whole nine.”

Harris has consistently been rotating in as one of the first sub-package players on defense in practice. He has even rotated in some with the first-team defense at safety.

He has size, speed and all the physical tools coaches love at the safety position. He’s smart and instinctive, and when the game really starts to slow down for him, he showed Saturday he can make plays.

Harris’ confidence is only going to build after Saturday’s performance. That’s good news for Detroit’s defense.

JOHNSON IN FORM

Second-year running back Kerryon Johnson got only three carries against the Texans, but a couple of those were strong runs for good gains. He finished averaging 5.3 yards per carry, a touch under the 5.4 average he finished his rookie season with, which was the second best average in the NFL.

Johnson is having a good training camp. He’s out to prove he can be a big component of this offense both as a runner and a pass catcher, and that he can be reliable after missing six games last season due to injury.

NO BITE IN RETURN GAME

Detroit hasn’t gotten much in the way of a special teams return game these first two weeks of the preseason.

The Lions averaged just 2.7 yards per punt return and 14.0 yards per kickoff return Saturday in Houston. Those numbers were slightly better vs. New England last week – 7.0 and 24.3 – but there hasn’t been a lot of explosiveness in the return game from former All-Pro Jamal Agnew and the rest of the return crew.

“I would say nothing that really stands out in my mind right now from that,” Patricia said of the return game. “We’re going to keep digging on that and try to do a little bit better. The hard thing about special teams, again, is that you can’t simulate a lot of it in practice, and some of the things we’re doing in the game aren’t necessarily, scheme-wise, things that we would be doing in the regular season. So, it’s a little bit of a fine line.”

In that regard, Patricia kind of gave the media a 'stay tuned' after Saturday’s game, indicating there was more to come from a scheme perspective.

View photos from the Detroit Lions at Houston Texans Preseason Week 2 game at NRG Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019 in Houston, Texas.

RECEIVERS MAKING PLAYS

One of the fiercest competitions on the roster right now is for the No. 4 and potentially No. 5 receiver spots.

There’s a lot of names vying for just a couple spots, which is why Lions coaches must have liked to see a number of those players step up and make big catches Saturday in Houston.

The Lions had 15 different players catch a pass against the Texans. Detroit’s top five receivers Saturday were all players competing for roster spots behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.

Brandon Powell finished with three catches for 53 yards. Rookie Travis Fulgham had a key 35-yard grab on Detroit’s first touchdown series on offense. Andy Jones set up Detroit’s first touchdown with a 48 yard grab getting behind Texas defenders down to the Houston 5-yard line. Tom Kennedy had a couple nice grabs and rookie Jonathan Duhart had a terrific 28-yard reception along the right sideline in the second half.

It is the job of the players to make the decision for the front office and coaching staff on who to keep and who to cut at receiver as tough as possible, and all involved did just that Saturday night.

EXTRA POINTS

  • The only player that appeared to leave the game with an injury Saturday was Lions safety C.J. Moore. No update was given on his status.
  • Detroit gave up just two sacks against the Texans after allowing nine to the Patriots' defense last week.
  • The Lions had eight penalties totaling 97 yards. It's an area to improve heading into next week’s third preseason game.

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