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O'HARA: What we learned through two weeks of camp practices

Head coach Dan Campbell has been consistent in stressing that the Detroit Lions must focus on getting ready for the season and not get caught up in projections that they are the team to beat in the NFC North.

But Campbell feels no pressure from lofty expectations from Lions fans. That's what we learned in Campbell's response to a question about him possibly feeling more weight.

"No," he replied. "I don't feel weight. I feel wind under my freaking wings. That's what I feel."

The Lions are at a pivotal phase of training camp with the preseason schedule beginning and joint practices with the Giants and Jaguars the next two weeks.

Among the other things we've learned in addition to Campbell's eloquent take on pressure include the following:

The Lions have youth thanks to GM Brad Holmes' three draft classes; a new challenge in joint practices is coming; the NFL might eventually take kickoffs out of the game, but Lions running back Justin Jackson likes the thrill of the return game.

We start with the youth movement:

Players taken in Holmes' three drafts – 2021, 2022 and 2023 – are making their presence felt as starters or heavy rotation players.

2021: OT Penei Sewell, DL Alim McNeill, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, LB Derrick Barnes, DL Levi Onwuzurike missed all of 2022 with a back injury. DB Ifeatu Melifonwu and RB Jermar Jefferson have played sparingly.

2022: DL Aidan Hutchinson, WR Jameson Williams, one catch in six games in 2022 but a high potential prospect, DL Josh Paschal, S Kerby Joseph, TE James Mitchell, LB Malcolm Rodriguez, LB James Houston, CB Chase Lucas.

2023 – projections: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, splitting time with David Montgomery; LB Jack Campbell, high rotation if not starting with veteran Alex Anzalone; TE Sam LaPorta, starting; DB Brian Branch, heavy rotation; QB Hendon Hooker, recovering from knee injury; DL Brodric Martin, OL Colby Sorsdal and WR Antoine Green, promising prospects.

Higher speed: After practicing against each other in the offseason workouts and in training camp, the energy ramps up in joint practices.

The Lions have two practices before their preseason game with the Giants, then two more the next week vs. the Jaguars.

Veteran defensive lineman John Cominsky said it's a new experience for rookies.

"It's a little more intense," he said. "It's another step closer to a game-like situation."

His advice: "Don't be star struck by the moment. It's going to feel a little different -- a little more excitement. You have another team in.

"Be yourself and come out and play hard."

Keeping the kicks: The NFL seems to get closer by the year to eliminating kickoffs. Jackson has a vested interest in keeping the kickoffs. He returns kicks for the Lions – and he likes the action.

"You prepare the whole week just for that one opportunity," he said. "If it comes, we're definitely going to try to take advantage of it.

"It's a rush, especially if it's starting the game. You're potentially the first person to touch the ball and really get the party started.

"It's fun man. I love it."

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