The Detroit Lions have completed their mandatory three-day minicamp in Allen Park as the team got a lot of good work in with one more week of OTAs on the schedule before summer break.
Teams are limited in what they can do in minicamp with some of the rules on contact and intensity, but it's an important time of year for head coach Dan Campbell and his team to get the young players and the new guys up to speed so they can hit the ground running when training camp begins.
Here are five takeaways I had coming out of minicamp:
1. Secondary is much improved
There were a number of passes that fell incomplete and it was more difficult for Lions receivers to gain separation against Detroit's revamped secondary this week.
"It's been much stickier and harder for us to gain separation at this point in OTAs and I think they've done a hell of a job making it harder on us and growing as a unit over there," quarterback Jared Goff said of Detroit's improved secondary.
The additions of Cam Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley and Brian Branch are making an early impact for the defense. Coupled with the return of safety Tracy Walker, who missed most of last season with an Achilles injury, there's a lot of excitement for what an improved secondary could mean for Detroit's defense overall in 2023.
2. Gibbs and LaPorta will be fun to watch
Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta are expected to play significant roles in the Lions' offense early on, and their playmaking ability in the spring has been undeniable.
Gibbs is a smooth and fluid runner with terrific burst and balance, but what has really been impressive is his ability as a route runner and pass catcher. He caught one pass in space Wednesday over the middle and never broke stride, taking it to the house. His ability to be versatile is going to allow the Lions to use him and veteran running back David Montgomery on the field together at times.
LaPorta is an explosive athlete at the tight end position and has gained separation from defenders pretty effortlessly so far. He's been a favorite target of the Lions quarterbacks, especially in the red zone.
Outside of the quarterback position, tight end is the toughest for rookies to make an immediate impact because there's just so much thrown on their plate learning essentially three or four different positions at once plus all the protections and run game responsibilities. Still, LaPorta seems to be picking it up pretty well. He stands out every time the Lions hit the practice field.
3. Goff is in a good place
Goff, 28, is heading into his eighth NFL season and his second working with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. He's coming off arguably his best season as a professional in 2022 and is enjoying getting into the nuts and bolts of Johnson's offense.
"I think we're able to dial in a little bit more into the details and we're able to tweak things a little bit more as opposed to learning a new offense and really learning the basic stuff," he said. "We're able to get into the weeds a little bit and it's been fun."
Goff has complete command of this offense and the protections, and watching him operate at minicamp it's clear he's 100 percent dialed into Johnson's scheme.
4. Edge depth
Aidan Hutchinson is coming off a rookie campaign where he was the Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up after recording 9.5 sacks and three interceptions. He's expected to be even better in Year 2 with an offseason to transform his body and tweak some of his deficiencies. Hutchinson is all about ball, and he enjoyed making that the focus of this offseason.
Veteran Charles Harris has gotten most of the run opposite Hutchinson with the first-team defense. Harris played in only six games last year because of a nagging groin injury, but he's only two years removed from a 7.5-sack season in 2021.
James Houston stormed onto the scene last year with eight sacks in his last nine games. He's been disruptive in team periods in this week's minicamp, which means he's picking up right where he left off last season. Veteran John Cominsky was re-signed this offseason. He's another productive edge guy who can also shift inside. Cominsky makes everyone around him better.
View photos from Day 3 of Detroit Lions minicamp on Thursday, June 8, 2023 in Allen Park, Mich.
Veteran Romeo Okwara is back after missing most of last season with an Achilles injury. He was a 10.0-sack performer in 2020 and said this week he feels back to his old self again. This is also an important fourth season for Julian Okwara to try and earn a role.
Last year's second-round pick, Josh Paschal, is playing both inside and on the edge in practice, and will compete for edge reps as well.
That's a pretty crowded edge room with a good mix of veterans and youngsters all vying for playing time. It will be interesting to see who separates themselves coming out of the spring heading into training camp.
5. Linebacker competition is one to watch
The Lions re-signed veteran Alex Anzalone in free agency. He has been handling the MIKE duties, as expected. The Lions drafted Jack Campbell No. 18 overall, and there's always an expectation for players taken that high to have an early impact.
Veteran Derrick Barnes was playing pretty well at the end of last season, and he's picked right up where he left off and is getting the majority of the run next to Anzalone with the first-team defense at the other stacked linebacker spot. Barnes and second-year linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez aren't going to relinquish playing time to a rookie without a good battle come training camp. Veteran Jalen Reeves-Maybin will also be in the mix.