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TWENTYMAN: 5 players who impressed at Lions minicamp

The Detroit Lions concluded their mandatory three-day minicamp in Allen Park this past week, so let's take a look at five players who caught my eye.

It's worth noting here that there are no padded practices in minicamp, so it's hard to evaluate the big guys up front, but here are five players who stood out to me:

1. Tight end Sam LaPorta

LaPorta is an explosive athlete at the tight end position and has quickly become a favorite target for Lions quarterbacks, especially in the red zone. He's smart and picks things up fast. He's going to get an opportunity to make an early impact.

Outside of the quarterback position, tight end is the toughest position for rookies to come in and be really productive at because there's so much thrown on their plate from position versatility, protections and learning the run fits. Still, LaPorta seems to be picking it up pretty well. He stands out every time the Lions hit the practice field.

View photos from Day 3 of Detroit Lions minicamp on Thursday, June 8, 2023 in Allen Park, Mich.

2. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld

There's been a lot of talk about the backup quarterback job in Detroit behind Jared Goff. Will the Lions add to that room with another veteran before training camp? Maybe. But I have to say I was pretty impressed with how Sudfeld played this week running the second-team offense.

He didn't look like a guy who has played in just six career games and attempted 37 passes in four years. He stood tall in the pocket and was decisive and accurate with the football, leading the second-team offense down the field time and time again in situational periods against the defense.

3. Safety Kerby Joseph

Joseph had an early interception in a team period Wednesday undercutting a deep shot by Goff trying to connect with wide receiver Kalif Raymond. He nearly had another pick later in practice covering wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown at the goal line where St. Brown got away with OPI.

Joseph is benefitting from having safety Tracy Walker back in the fold and the addition of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who is playing both safety and nickel corner for Detroit early on. Joseph has some of the best ball skills of any defender on the roster, and he's been around the ball a lot this spring.

4. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs

It's hard to evaluate the run game in the spring when the pads are off and there's limited contact. When the pads come on in camp and the backs start getting knocked around a bit that's when we'll really start to evaluate the run-game portion of Gibbs' game.

The speed, space and receiving element of his game is a little easier to judge in the spring, and that's been impressive. He's had a couple drops, but the thing that impresses me about him is he doesn't slow down or break stride when catching the ball. It's always away from his body, and his run-after-the-catch speed and agility is at another level.

He caught a ball Wednesday in space over the middle and I heard a teammate shout 'goodbye.' He's already earning that kind of reputation among his peers that when he has a gap or a little bit of space, a big play is expected.

5. Cornerback Starling Thomas V

The undrafted free agent out of UAB stood out enough that he earned a mention from head coach Dan Campbell for his play the first couple days of minicamp. Thomas got his hands on a lot of footballs over the three days of practice and he's got a high compete level. He fits into that group in that regard. It's a crowded secondary with all the new additions, but Thomas made a good impression and will look to build on that come training camp.

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