O'HARA: What we learned from minicamp

Head Coach Matt Patricia repeated in last week’s mandatory minicamp how he likes the teaching part of coaching in the offseason, and he walked his talk in the three days of practice.

Patricia is at home on every square inch of the practice field. That’s one of the things we learned – or at least had our memories refreshed about – in the two-hour sessions that were open to the media all three days.

Among the other things we learned: Two veteran running backs looked like they are at their peak; signing a veteran wide receiver, like the Lions did with Jermaine Kearse in the middle of minicamp or later, has been good business for the Lions in the past; what seemed like an experiment on the offensive line isn’t, and four things I noticed that stood out in minicamp:

We start with the head coach:

Man on the move: It would be inaccurate to call Patricia the coaching version of the Energizer Bunny, the character in the old commercials was battery powered.

Patricia has his own internal power source. He loves coaching, and it covers any unit – offense, defense, special teams.

Two examples within a 15-minute span at one practice:

He directed a pass rush drill – six defenders against five offensive linemen – emphasizing details to both sides.

Just after that, he was at midfield in a passing drill with the running backs, telling Zach Zenner and Theo Riddick how to avoid tacklers in the open field.

One note: The defense in the pass rush drill was made up of five veterans and one rookie – linebacker Jahlani Tavai, the second-round pick from Hawaii. Tavai did not look out of place or overmatched.

The late show: Kearse had been looking for a new team after two seasons with the Jets, and he finally landed with the Lions in time to take part in the last day of minicamp. His familiarity with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell from the five years they were together in Seattle should be an asset.

Signing near the end of the offseason program should mean nothing.

General manager Bob Quinn has had success before in signing veteran receivers late.

In 2016, Anquan Boldin signed the day before training camp opened. He had 67 catches and eight TDs in what proved to be his 14th and final season. That same year, the Lions signed Andre Roberts in mid-June. He had 14 catches playing a limited role on offense and two punt returns for touchdowns.

Better late than never, when there’s a need.

Center stage: It caught the attention of a lot of people when the first videos surfaced showing Frank Ragnow practicing at center. That was a switch from left guard, where he played every snap except one a year ago as a rookie, and it’s also at a position that’s been held down by Graham Glasgow.

Minicamp reinforced what seemed apparent in the OTA practices – that moving Ragnow back to center, the position he played at Arkansas, is not an experiment.

That opens the competition to both guards, instead of just right guard, where T.J. Lang retired after two seasons.

Holdouts: Cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. have missed all of the offseason workouts – including mandatory minicamp – because of contract disputes, as both have expressed via social media.

All of that eventually will work its way out in some fashion, but in terms of impact on the offseason program and minicamp, there isn’t any.

It’s part of doing business in the NFL. Everybody understands that.

View the best photos from 2019 Detroit Lions minicamp.

Four things I noticed:

Ty Johnson: It’s easy to be impressed with the rookie running back because of his speed. It’s a skill that stands out on every play. The details and assignments of a rookie guard, for example, aren’t as easily noticed. Johnson looks like a real prospect, but there’s still real football to be played.

Joe Dahl: The 2016 fifth-round draft pick is making a push at one of the guard positions after playing only 251 snaps in his first three seasons. He looks bigger, stronger and more athletic.

Da’Shawn Hand: The second-year defensive lineman has stayed late after practice, without fanfare, to help younger linemen. He has the makings of a natural leader.

Jarrad Davis: The third-year linebacker politely turned down an interview request from a reporter (not me) on the first day of minicamp, explaining that he had to lift. The next day, he approached the same reporter without being asked and told him he had time that day to do the interview. A class act – and it’s not an act.

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