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NOTEBOOK: Offense running more two tight end sets

Through the first three days of training camp practice, there's been a noticeable increase in the number of two tight end sets run by the Lions.

"Yeah, well, it's really always been something that we've had in our package for the most part," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's just kind of you have to do things according to what your personnel grouping allows and your best players allow in that regard so, yeah, we do have a few more guys at that spot."

Even without Eric Ebron, who is still nursing a sore hamstring, the additions of Darren Fells and Michael Roberts, along with Cole Wick being a year older and more experienced, has allowed the Lions to give their tight ends a  significant role on offense early on in camp.

"We are going to be able to incorporate (two tight ends) maybe a little bit more," Caldwell said. "But often times those things go game by game depending on what we face, but we certainly do have some possibilities."

Last year, Stafford completed 22 of the 26 passes he threw when the Lions were in two tight end sets, but only 15.7 percent of all of his pass attempts last season were directed toward tight ends, according to STATS, INC., which ranked 35th among all quarterbacks who threw at least 50 passes last season.

Having the personnel to run more of those sets, especially when Ebron returns from injury, will offer Jim Bob Cooter some more versatility in his offense.


Detroit's defensive line depth is being tested early on in training camp with Ziggy Ansah and Armonty Bryant beginning camp on the PUP list and Cornelius Washington sitting out Tuesday's practice after injuring an ankle Monday. That's three of Detroit's top four players at the position on the mend.

Kerry Hyder Jr. and second-year player Anthony Zettel were the first-team edge rushers when the Lions went to team drills on Tuesday.

Bryant and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton are facing suspensions to begin the regular season, which will further complicate the depth chart early on this season.

Less than a week into camp, is this cause for concern?

"I think we'll have the numbers, but if we don't have the numbers, we'll develop iron-men," Caldwell said. "Guys who can just go the distance and play a little bit longer and a little bit more frequently and we might not be able to sub as much."

Caldwell is confident that won't be the case. There's still more than a month to go before the start of the regular season, which gives players like Ansah and Washington time to get back onto the field.

But, if needed, Caldwell will be adaptable when it comes to his defensive line depth.

"I think that's one of the most important things about this game, it forces you to adapt," he said. "It might look one way one day, everybody's talking about how much depth you have at this particular position, you get a couple of injuries and the picture's changed. You go from a veteran group to a group that's rather young.

"So, it's up to you to find a way to overcome that. We don't look at anything as a hindrance. So, what I'm saying to you is, whatever it takes, we're going to have a group out there ready to rush the passer, ready to defend the run, and play and play hard."


The Lions practiced in full pads for the first time Tuesday, which meant offensive linemen and defensive linemen took part in live one-on-one passing drills.

Hyder said after practice that work in padded practices against the offensive linemen is invaluable.

"You don't get a lot of live reps like that," he said. "Whenever you can get a chance to go against some quality guys that we have over there. Man, it's the best work you can get.

"You can't simulate combo blocks and that kind of stuff. You have to get into the real deal."

Those drills typically draw a big crowd from the personnel department, and Caldwell says they're a terrific evaluation tool.

"When you do get live reps against guys in terms of pass-rush technique, combination blocking inside, things of that nature, those are extremely vital," Caldwell said.

"Those are the things that get you ready because you can't do a thousand of them. You like to get as many as you can, but those you do get, they are quality reps and the guys look forward to it."

As for who might have stood out in Tuesday's one-on-one linemen drills, go check out the observations from Day 3 of training camp.


Players still on PUP: Ansah, Bryant, T Taylor Decker, T Corey Robinson and DE Jeremiah Valoaga

Players still on NFI: P Sam Martin

Tackle Greg Robinson took part in team drills for the first time in camp. He split first-team reps with Cyrus Kouandjio.

Not practicing Tuesday were: Tight end Eric Ebron, guard T.J. Lang, linebacker Nick Bellore, defensive end Cornelius Washington, safety Tavon Wilson and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston.

Safety Don Carey returned to practice after coming off the PUP list Tuesday morning.

View photos from the first padded practice of 2017 Detroit Lions training camp.

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