Head coach Matt Patricia has given the Detroit Lions a heavy dose of drills to create turnovers at the start of training camp. That's nothing new, considering how turnover margin is a key statistic in deciding the outcome of games.
Patricia has a flip side in his turnover drills. He turns them around to stress the defense keeping the ball after taking it away.
Seeing how Patricia emphasizes ball security on both sides of the ball is one of the things we've learned at the start of Rocket Mortgage training camp. Patricia also has a memory from a playoff game 12 years ago that reinforces his emphasis on ball security for all players.
Among other things we've learned: Putting a heavy load at the end of practice is part of Patricia's focus on conditioning; veteran safety Glover Quin has a training camp ritual that has nothing to do with superstition; there are clues that might show rising stock for rookies and that it's obvious at times how much players enjoy competing one-on-one.
We start with security, and an anecdote from Patricia:
Finders, keepers: Once the defense gets the ball on a turnover, Patricia wants to keep it. That's the purpose of reversing drills to strip the ball. The defense does it to the offense, which is common. The offense doing it to the defense to get the ball back isn't as common.
Patricia added a wrinkle to the drill on Monday. The offense tried to strip the ball from defenders running with an interception.
Patricia inherits a team with a good record in turnover ratio. The Lions tied for fifth in the league last year with a turnover ratio of plus 10. They had 32 takeaways, third most in the league.
The Patriots were 11th at plus six, with 18 takeaways. The Patriots traditionally rank higher than that. They were at plus 12 in 2016, with 23 takeaways.
Patricia cited a play from a 2006 season divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Chargers to emphasize the importance of retaining possession. It was the third of Patricia's 14 seasons as a Patriots' assistant.
The Chargers had a 21-13 lead with less than seven minutes left when Chargers cornerback Marlon McCree intercepted a pass. However, Troy Brown stripped the ball away from McCree and the Patriots recovered. The Patriots drove to a touchdown and game-tying two-point conversion, then won the game on a field goal with 1:14 left.
Patricia recalled the play in detail at his Monday presser.
"That's one of those coaching moments you never forget, the importance of both sides of the ball and ball security," he said. "So we try to do that as much as we can."
View photos from Day 4 of 2018 Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage
Late load: Practice periods aren't thrown together randomly. There's a reason for the order. Obviously, stretching is at the beginning. Not so obviously, Patricia has some of the heavy drills –- like short yardage – at the end.
"A lot of times in practice, I'm trying to wear them out," he said. "And I'll put some of the more difficult periods at the end of practice, where they are probably the most fatigued or tired mentally, especially."
Fatigue causes mental mistakes, especially late in the first half or late in the game. The better a team is conditioned, the more likely it is to execute well in those critical situations.
Glover's cover: Safety Glover Quin has his game face every year in training camp.
He doesn't shave, and he lets his hair grow out.
His beard was beginning to show when he talked to reporters on the first day of camp, and his hair stuck up above a bandana.
"I never get a haircut in training camp," he said. "I cut my beard all the way down so it can grow out. And my hair's long."
Status clues: Teo Redding of Bowling Green and Brandon Powell of Florida have a couple things in common. Both are wide receivers in camp as undrafted rookies, and they've both made good impressions.
Physically, they couldn't be more opposite. Powell is 5-8 and 181 pounds. Redding is 6-1 and also 181.
Redding and Powell were used in punt return drills Monday. That at least could indicate that the coaches want to see how they perform playing on special teams, a prerequisite for most backups.
Camp competition: It's obvious at times that players like to compete, and that's probably more the case with receivers going against defensive backs than most other positions.
It's pure one-on-one competition most of the time. There already have been some good battles, with Kenny Golladay going against Darius Slay, Marvin Jones Jr. against DeShawn Shead and Golden Tate working the middle against whoever is in there.
It's fun to watch. Who wins? The higher the level of competition, the more the team wins.