The Detroit Lions conducted their three-day mandatory minicamp this week, which was a good opportunity to continue the install of their new offensive scheme and resume technique and fundamentals work, which is a big part of the spring practice time. There are no pads and no hitting this time of year, so it’s a good opportunity for players to hone their fundamentals and work on some of the little things before training camp begins.
It was a good three days in that regard for the Lions. Here’s a look at a few of my takeaways from minicamp:
1. Practice pace
There’s definitely a better understanding amongst the players in terms of the expectations head coach Matt Patricia has for the tempo and pace of practice. There are a lot of moving parts to Patricia’s practice, and players are in and out of individual, group, team, 7-on-7, special teams and other periods all throughout the course of practice. Some periods may last just three minutes and then it could be off to the adjacent field for a different period.
There were times last year when Patricia would get on the players for not operating with enough pace at practice. There were even instances when he made everyone go back the period they were just coming from, do another rep, and then hustle to their next period.
There’s been none of that this offseason. It’s just a much smoother operation all around.
2. Mr. Hustle
It’s fun to watch veteran wide receiver Danny Amendola practice. Everything is 110 percent with him. He’s been an early favorite target for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the two seem to be building a pretty good rapport. I’ve even spotted them doing one-on-one work together during an individual period.
Amendola seems to be a perfectionist. He can get animated when things aren’t done right, and holds himself to a high standard.
3. What a difference a year makes
That's certainly the case when it comes to the tight end position. General manager Bob Quinn spent a lot of resources this offseason trying to upgrade the position, including the selection of T.J. Hockenson with the team’s first-round draft pick. The team also added free agents Jesse James and Logan Thomas. All three players have stood out at times in the passing game due to their athleticism.
Any upgrades the group might provide the team from a run-blocking standpoint will be determined in training camp when the pads come on.
So far, the group passes the eye test in terms of being dynamic in the passing game. If minicamp is any indication, that group will play a big role on offense.
4. Skill positions
I look at this group as a whole with some of the additions they’ve made this offseason and see real potential. Hockenson, Amendola, James, running back C.J. Anderson and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse have been added to an already good young trio of running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.
It’s a group that offers a wide range of skill sets, and should afford the Lions the opportunity to play just about any personnel grouping offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell wants to run.
Golladay and Jones sat out minicamp as they’re rehabbing injuries, but when they return, Detroit should have good talent and depth at the skill positions.
5. Missing stars
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr.'s 353-pound frame is hard to miss at practice. So, too, is the fun-loving personality of cornerback Darius Slay. The pair are arguably Detroit’s two best players on defense. Neither attended the mandatory minicamp.
Patricia and the players in Allen Park said they're focusing on the guys in attendance and controlling the things that can be controlled, but from the outside looking in, the absence of those two was noticeable.
Both Slay and Harrison are fun to watch at practice for the way they make a hard game look easy to play. Hopefully, come training camp, both players are back in the mix.