Miles Killebrew doesn’t mind that he was cast as the victim in one of the highlight plays in the Detroit Lions’ scrimmage at Ford Field.
He shouldn’t, either.
Killebrew was in the right place at the right time, and he did the right thing on a play that ended in a touchdown catch by rookie tight end Isaac Nauta.
“It was a good catch,” Killebrew said. “It was a good ball. It was a great route. I liked it because it was a competitive rep all the way through.
“That was an excellent example of a practice rep. It was perfect timing ... a perfect catch. I tried to be in the best possible position for that play.”
Killebrew did something on the play in addition to being in the right position that head coach Matt Patricia appreciated. Killebrew competed all the way, but he was careful not to create contact with Nauta that would risk sustaining an injury.
Patricia talks often about players “taking care of each other” in practice to reduce the risk of injury.
“Killebrew was in really tight coverage there, too,” Patricia said when asked about the play. “We’re not trying to come down and land on anybody too tight there, and risk injury.
“They both tried to play it in a safe manner that was also competitive. So that was good.”
Killebrew has been one of the core players on special teams since coming to the Lions as a fourth-round draft pick in 2016. He was drafted as a safety and played that position primarily as a backup his first two seasons.
Killebrew played a career-high 353 snaps at safety in 2017. He was switched to linebacker in training camp last year and did not play on defense but continued in his role as one of the top players on special teams.
He has remained at linebacker this year. He should benefit from the experience of last season at linebacker, plus having a full offseason and training camp this year.
“Right now, I’m working with the linebackers,” he said “I’m playing a lot of special teams as well. I say it all the time – I’m a football player. Whatever the coach needs.”
View photos from Day 11 of Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage.
Killebrew didn’t have to adjust only to a new position last year. There also was a different scheme than the one he played in his first two seasons under former head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff.
“I’m trying to learn daily how I can get better at it,” Killebrew said. “To just have another year in this scheme is huge. You can see a difference, not only with myself, but across the board with a lot of guys.
“Another year of getting in there. Another year getting familiar with the calls. Another year in this role is paying off on the field. I like to think I have an ability to adapt.
“That’s something I try to hone in on every day – trying to adapt better.”