Lions-Colts joint practice Day 1 observations: Offense rebounds after slow start

Detroit Lions’ joint practices with the Indianapolis Colts kicked off on Wednesday afternoon in front of a jam-packed audience with a surprising amount of Lions fans in attendance. As expected, it was a high-intensity practice with plenty of trash talking, big collisions, and emotions coming from each sideline.

Due to the layout of the practice—one field lined up end-to-end with the second field—I was only able to catch observations from one side of the ball. Wednesday I thing to watch the Lions offense vs. the Colts defense. On Thursday, I will switch up and watch the Lions defense against the Colts offense.

I’m changing up the format a bit for these observations, just going in chronological order.

Attendance/Injury updates

The regulars remained out for Wednesday’s practice: DT Levi Onwuzurike, EDGE Julian Okwara, and CB Ifaatu Melifonwu.

Despite leaving Monday’s practice, starting offensive guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai was a full participant. Coach Dan Campbell said he had a spasm earlier in the week but is “fine.” Cornerback Saivion Smith was back, too, after missing Monday’s practice.

While Quintez Cephus remains at practice, he did not participate during any team drills as he continues to work his way back from a lower-body injury suffered early in camp.

Rookie guard Kevin Jarvis, however, was not participating in practice. It’s unclear what he’s dealing with, but he did travel with the team and watched from the sidelines.

The big injury news of the day, though, was tight end Devin Funchess suffering an upper-body injury toward the end of practice. He looked to be favoring his right shoulder, but we likely won’t get an update until Thursday.

1-on-1s

RBs vs. LBs

After the teams warmed up on their own, the first intersquad drills were one-on-ones, and that really set the tone for the entire day. Originally, I was planning on watching offensive line vs. defensive line, but quickly my attention was drawn to running backs pass protecting against Colts linebackers.

Per usual with these drills, linebackers typically have a strong advantage here, and at the start of the drill, this was no exception. Colts starting linebacker Zaire Franklin was particularly strong in this drill—and he let everyone know about it. For the rest of practice, Franklin and Jamaal Williams were in each others’ faces.

The most impressive rep from the Lions came from D’Andre Swift, who completely locked down reserve linebacker Sterling Weatherford for several seconds. Jamaal Williams let everyone on that field know about it, too.

OL vs. DL

Eventually, my attention drifted back to the big fellas, but I only caught two reps for the first-team offensive line: Colts defensive lineman Grover Stewart (a starter) pulled a nice swim move to get by Frank Ragnow, and Penei Sewell did a great job locking down Kwity Paye.

It wasn’t pretty for the reserves, though. Logan Stenberg really struggled during the one-on-one period. I had him down with four decisive losses on the day, mostly to Colts backups.

If there was a single Lions depth offensive lineman who stood out in a positive way, he was Tommy Kraemer, who held Eric Johnson and Tyquan Lewis at bay, but Johnson later got him with a nasty spin move.

WR vs. DBs

I didn’t see a ton of these one-on-ones, but DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds both got separation on individual reps I saw. Unfortunately, Jared Goff was not at his best during this portion of practice.

7-on-7s

The Lions’ offense really struggled to move the ball against the Colts’ defense during these drills, with Indianapolis’ linebacking corps really giving them fits over the middle. Franklin recorded a pass breakup on Kalif Raymond, and Bobby Okereke nearly picked off Goff on a pass attempt to Raymond.

Goff and the offense had a little more success attacking the perimeter of the defense, connecting on a short slant to Raymond and a 5-yard out to Amon-Ra St. Brown.

After practice, Goff admitted it took him and the rest of the offense some time to adjust to the Colts’ different defensive scheme.

“We were settling in there early and kind of getting our feet wet with what they’re doing defensively, and I know certainly I was,” Goff said. “But I think everyone just needed a few plays to settle in and once we did, we felt really good, and I thought we practiced well.”

When the Lions and Colts faced off in full-team drills, it was obvious they had found a comfort level.

11-on-11s

first-team

The Lions’ offense didn’t find much on the ground in their first two full-team reps against the Colts, but on the next three plays, they picked up 15+ yards on each. First, Goff found St. Brown on an inside post for around 20 yards. Next, on a well-sold play-action pass, Goff found Trinity Benson for another 20 with Stephon Gilmore in coverage. That opened up the run game, as D’Andre Swift found the right end for a gain aright around 15 yards. On that play, TJ Hockenson was blocking downfield, locked up with Colts cornerback Kenny Moore. After the play was well behind them, Moore tossed Hockenson into a few people on the sidelines, but thankfully no one was hurt.

In the second set of 11s, the Lions’ offense practiced situational downs—mostly third down. The first-team offense earned a new set of downs on three of four plays—with St. Brown, Reynolds, and Raymond all gaining at least 10 yards on receptions. The only stop the Colts got was a run play up the middle in which Swift was stopped by Paye.

The next set of full-team drills favored the Colts, as I only had the Lions successful on two of four reps. A quick run to Williams picked up about 8 yards, and Shane Zylstra appeared to just barely pick up a third-and-2. On the other two plays, Brock Wright was blanked by a Colts linebacker for an incompletion, and a third-and-7 draw play came up a few yards short.

Team drills closed with red zone plays. St. Brown scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass with Brandon Facyson in coverage—and promptly punted the ball in celebration. Swift also found the edge again, scampering in from 6 yards out thanks to a Zylstra block. The Lions would have scored three touchdowns in a row, but Reynolds dropped a fairly easy touchdown pass to end the drill.

second team

Generally speaking, the second-team offense struggled against the Colts. Tim Boyle served as the team’s No. 2 quarterback on Wednesday and did not score during red zone drills—although Zylstra came pretty close to dragging his feet in on the last team drill of practice. Kalif Raymond got behind the Colts’ secondary on at least two occasions, but Boyle overthrew him once during 7-on-7s and underthrew him during 11-on-11s.

Punt returns/coverage

The Lions looked clearly ahead on special teams drills—both in terms of punt returns and punt coverage. Opening as the returning team, Kalif Raymond broke out a big gain during one of the few full-team reps while Godwin Igwebuike and Craig Reynolds completely locked up a gunner on a two-on-one drill. It was during this drill in which the only true scuffle of the day happened. I didn’t really see exactly what happened, but Saivion Smith was involved.

When things switched over to coverage teams, the Colts only managed to return one of three punts, with one going over the returner’s head and another high enough to warrant a fair catch. Again, it was Igwebuike who stood out during gunner drills, beating the coverage soundly during his rep.

odds and ends

  • Tough day for Craig Reynolds, who was bowled over during pass protection drills and had a fumble.
  • With no Cephus in team drills, both Benson and Tom Kennedy got sprinkled in with the first-team offense.
  • Matt Nelson continues to struggle as the team’s primary backup swing tackle. However, newly-added Kendall Lamm continues to impress me more and more each day.
  • Yes, this happened:

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