Glover Quin says it's a "night and day" difference in the comfort level Detroit's secondary has at this point in training camp vs. last year.
The biggest difference is the fact that the Lions return all five starters from a season ago.
Detroit added depth and youth, and is much deeper in the secondary than they've been in a number of years, but the fact that all five players – Quin, Tavon Wilson, Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs – are all returning starters has that unit way ahead of the curve, in Quin's opinion.
"Just communication," Quin said. "Seeing things the same way. When you have guys from different places all come together, everybody might look at the grass and say it's different. Some might say its green. Some might say, 'well, it looks brown to me.' Somebody might say, 'it looks white right there.'
"When you can all be together and see the same picture and know what each other is thinking, that's when you can play and that's when you can have fun and that's when you can fly around."
Last year, Wilson was new to Detroit after signing as a free agent. He was learning both his new teammates and Teryl Austin's scheme. It was also Lawson and Diggs' first season as full-time starters.
There's a comfort level between all five players heading into their second season together as a unit, and it could lead to better consistency.
"I think you can see for the most part is the communication aspect of it," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said about getting all five starters back in the secondary. "They have a good sense of one another, they know the strengths and weaknesses of one another as well, but also I think they communicate within the system a lot better."
Quin is certainly the leader in the secondary, but Caldwell was quick to point out that one of the benefits with having everyone back is that he doesn't have to lead so hard.
"A couple years in the system—Glover (Quin) knows the system extremely well," Caldwell said. "There was a time when he had to get pretty much everybody else lined up because he usually is a little bit more advanced. He's kind of that second level thinker, right?
"But, now we've got quite a few other guys that have a good sense of how things should be done, so it's helpful when you've had them around. Plus, if they have a little talent to go along with it, it makes it better."
It was an abbreviated return, but it was certainly good news for Eric Ebron and the Lions that Ebron was able to put on pads and take part in some of practice.
After individuals, Ebron took the pads off and worked on the side with trainers, but Caldwell said after practice he expects Ebron to rejoin the team in a full capacity next week sometime after sitting out since the first day of training camp with a hamstring injury.
"Yeah, he'll probably be back next week for us, rolling along," he said.
"He's a weapon. I think when you look at a guy who's caught around 60 balls last year, every year he's almost doubled his output. We don't anticipate he's going to double his output this year ... I think he's going to be able to do a little bit more damage."
Ebron is an explosive threat from the tight end position. He finished in the top 10 among tight ends in both receptions (61) and yards (711) last season while missing three games due to injury.
"I think you'll see some of that explosiveness come out," Caldwell said. "He's a capable guy, you just have to keep him healthy."
The film from the last two days of joint practices with the Colts will be a huge teaching tool for Lions coaches, especially with rookies and young players.
View photos from 2017 Detroit Lions training camp practice with the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 11, 2017.
"Yeah what happens with most of the young guys is they learn some lessons," Caldwell said. "We talk to them about, 'You better stay low. If you don't you get drove off the ball.' I mean, just a lot of little things in terms of wide receivers, defensive backs, tight ends, all of the fundamentals."
"They come to light when you practice against somebody that you don't really know exactly how they function – How strong they are, how fast they are. So, any deficiency that you have in your technique is going to show up out here. So, more than anything else, it illuminates some of the issues that they have so we can work on them."
Players still on PUP: DE Ziggy Ansah, T Taylor Decker and T Corey Robinson
Players still on NFI: P Sam Martin
Not practicing Thursday: Guard T.J. Lang, defensive tackle Jordan Hill, tight end Tim Wright, running back Mike James, tackle Cornelius Lucas and linebacker Nick Bellore.
Ebron and defensive end Cornelius Washington were limited participants.