Lions observations: Matt Patricia works with talented yet unproven LB group

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
View Comments

Matt Patricia hasn't been able to be as hands-on with his coaching as he'd like this summer because of the Achilles injury that has restricted him to watching practice from the seat of his ATV.

Whereas Patricia would place himself in the middle of some drills last year, throwing passes to his defensive backs or demonstrating technique for linemen, he has been removed from the action at training camp for safety reasons.

But at the end of Sunday's practice, Patricia was able to let the teacher inside him come out a little when he spent 10 to 15 minutes huddled with the team's linebackers going through corrections from the day's drills.

Ranking the Lions' Top 100 all-time players ]

Matt Patricia watches Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) and Jahlani Tavai go through drills July 30.

"Just some things that gave us some issues in practice, some things we just wanted to clean up," linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said. "Kind of just had little misunderstandings about it as a whole, so we just wanted to get that fixed."

The Lions spent part of practice working on their four-minute offense and defense, with some situational plays mixed in.

And while it's unclear exactly what Patricia felt needed correcting, it was obvious he was in his element doing it.

He gathered the linebackers for a brief talk after practice, still sitting on his ATV, then had them walk through a series of play fits. After going through one batch of corrections, Patricia gathered his linebackers again, then the group lined up once more to run through another set of corrections.

Jahlani Tavai, left, and Jarrad Davis during practice July 27.

We all know the strength of the Lions defense is a line that includes Trey Flowers, Damon Harrison and Mike Daniels — the latter two still haven't practiced this summer. The weakness is the unsettled cornerbacks corps behind Darius Slay.

The linebackers are the wildcard of the defense, with Jarrad Davis perhaps poised for a big year, Devon Kennard and Christian Jones returning as starters and some promising but unproven depth in Jahlani Tavai, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Miles Killebrew.

Patricia coached linebackers for five seasons with the New England Patriots, and on Sunday he took extra care to make sure they were doing things right.

Unpopular opinion: The Lions' left guard options played well vs. Pats ]

More observations from Sunday's practice:

• The Lions have an off day Monday and a short practice Tuesday before leaving for Houston for a week of work against the Texans. Matthew Stafford should be back by then after a few days of team-prescribed rest, and perhaps Marvin Jones, too.

Jones, coming off season-ending knee surgery, declined an interview request coming off the field. For the second straight day, he was out for early warmups then went inside the facility where he spent the bulk of practice working.

Marvin Jones at Ford Field on Thursday.

"We’re just trying to keep an eye on the volume that we give him as we work through it," Patricia said. "We’re kind of at the midpoint of training camp right now. We’re constantly evaluating those guys as far as their work load, their repetitions, and the count of how many plays they have had to make sure we’re getting them enough to prepare. Then certain points of practice if we feel if the practice emphasis might swing into something different than those repetitions might go down and if there is something more productive, we can do with those guys then we’ll do it at that time."

• Two defensive backs had impressive pass breakups Sunday. Slay leads the NFL in PBUs since he entered the league, so it's no surprise he ripped a completion out of rookie Travis Fulgham's hands on the final play of a four-minute period late in practice. Fulgham had Slay beat on the play, a pass down the sideline from Josh Johnson, but Slay reached up between Fulgham's arms for the PBU as the receiver tried to secure the ball.

Rookie Amani Oruwariye also made a nice diving breakup of a David Fales pass to Tom Kennedy on the goal line. 

More:Lions rookie Will Harris' first NFL game experience 'a dream come true'

• If it seems like Andrew Adams gets a mention here every other day, well, that's because he intercepts a pass about that often. Adams picked off an overthrown Johnson pass to T.J. Hockenson on Sunday. By my count, that's at least his fifth interception of the summer.

Andrew Adams defends Isaac Nauta during practice July 30.

It's not that Adams plays sticky coverage on receivers or tight ends. He was beat by Jesse James in one-on-one drills Sunday when he didn't turn his head and play the ball. But he's always in the right position on the field.

• More from one-on-one receiver drills: Isaac Nauta shook fellow rookie Will Harris with a nice move on the final play of the period. Nauta's offensive teammates oohed and aahed because a push-up was on the line — then groaned almost in unison when Nauta dropped the ball. Nauta, who tight ends coach Chris White called the most sure-handed tight end in the draft, also had a drop in last week's exhibition game.

• Rashaan Melvin also had a pick on a push-up play, when he made an easy grab on an underthrown Johnson pass to Kenny Golladay.

• Receiver Chris Lacy made the catch of the day when he plucked a ball out of midair on Slay. Lacy continues to shine in practice and has a roster spot in his sights. 

Trey Flowers took his first rep in one-on-one pass rushing drills of camp, and it came from an interior line spot against right guard Graham Glasgow. I'd say Flowers and Glasgow wrestled to a draw, with Flowers eventually getting by him but not in enough time to impact the would-be play. Flowers should start at right end this fall, but I imagine he'll rush inside plenty on third downs.

Trey Flowers stretches during practice in Allen Park, May 30.

• Ryan Pope hasn't been very good all camp, but he had his best day in one-on-one drills Sunday. Pope, who has had trouble with quick edge rushers, stonewalled Kennard on one of his reps. 

• Fred Jones got some first-team work at defensive tackle. Jones had the Lions' only sack against the Patriots, when he came off a block to crunch quarterback Jarrett Stidham midway through the fourth quarter.

• Joe Dahl took first-team reps at left guard Sunday for the second straight day, while Kenny Wiggins once again worked right tackle with the second-team in Tyrell Crosby's absence.

• Last thing, with that aforementioned off day Monday and light practice Tuesday, the next batch of observations will come Wednesday when the Lions square off with the Texans for their first of two joint practices.

More:This Detroit Lion turned a $500 weight loss challenge into an NFL opportunity

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

View Comments