The Detroit Lions have concluded their first week of OTA practices, with one of them open to the media.
It’s early in the OTA process, but it’s never too early to have some takeaways from the first week.
Here are my five takeaways from the first week of OTAs:
1. Young players getting opportunities early
The list of players working off to the side with trainers, or not taking part in the voluntary practices altogether, was a virtual who’s who of the Lions roster. Defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman, wide receiver Kenny Golladay and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. didn’t take part in practice. Cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. aren’t in Allen Park for the workouts.
We saw defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand get reps inside alongside A’Shawn Robinson on the first-team defense. A number of the young receivers got quality work with Jones and Golladay watching. Teez Tabor got first-team reps at cornerback, and so did Jamal Agnew in the slot.
The NFL is all about taking advantage of opportunity. Those veteran players sitting out or working back from injury likely don’t have to worry about their starting spots being taken, but for the players trying to earn backup roles or roster spots, getting the early reps this spring certainly helps in that regard.
2. Tight ends expected to get significant use in Darrell Bevell’s offense
The Lions ran a goal line drill against the defense using just tight ends during Tuesday’s practice. I can’t say I’ve ever seen that before. I view that as an indication that the position will be have some prominence in the new scheme.
Rookie T.J. Hockenson made a number of terrific plays in the open period and looks the part of a first-round pick. Jesse James has a huge frame, and showed some good athleticism for a player his size (6-7, 261). I expect to continue to see a lot of use from the position.
3. Danny Amendola could end up being a security blanket for Matthew Stafford
Watching Amendola on Tuesday, he hasn’t lost a step at age 33 and is really crafty working the interior. He has a knack for separating from defenders and finding the open spots. He and Stafford hooked up a number of times.
If that continues, I can see some real trust forming between those two, with Amendola getting a chance to be a security-blanket-type receiver for Stafford in the middle, much like Golden Tate was for many years.
View photos from Day 1 of 2019 Detroit Lions OTAs on Monday, May 20, 2019 in Allen Park, Mich.
4. Frank Ragnow looks the part at center
Ragnow dominated the position in college at Arkansas, earning the second highest grade among interior offensive linemen from Pro Football Focus coming out of school behind only Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson. He didn’t allow a sack in 1,242 pass-blocking snaps at center in college.
Ragnow would be the first to admit that he had an up and down rookie campaign at guard. He struggled at times against some of the league’s really explosive defensive tackles.
Whether the position move is permanent or part of a plan to develop some versatility upfront, Ragnow does like being back in the middle.
“The transition to left guard was a little more difficult because I hadn’t played it before,” he said. “I’ve played center before, so I guess there’s some familiarity there. It’s smoother.”
Ragnow said he likes making the calls and leading the unit, and looked like a natural there on Tuesday.
5. Five players looking to return punts
Jamal Agnew was an All-Pro punt returner two years ago as a rookie. He’s electric with the ball in his hands in open space. He’s still the favorite to win punt-return duties in the fall, but things can always get tricky when talking about the 46-man roster. Teams like options.
Also returning punts Tuesday was wide receiver Danny Amendola, who has a career 9.5-yard average per return on 185 returns.
Wide receiver Tommylee Lewis was also back there. He has a career 9.3-yard average per return.
Wide receivers Brandon Powell and Tom Kennedy were also part of the five-man contingent returning punts in the open OTA practice.