Lions camp observations: Good day for the defense
Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from Wednesday's Detroit Lions' training camp practice.
■ In the third consecutive padded practice for the Lions, the defense came out the clear winners in the majority of the day's activities.
Starting with the individual drills, the defenders had a better day. In a zone blocking drill, which pit tight ends against edge rushers, both Anthony Zettel and Christian Jones broke through the edge contain of Levine Toilolo, Sean McGrath was forced to hold Alex Barrett and Kerry Hyder was able to shed Luke Willson to finish a rep.
When the Lions incorporated motion for the tight ends, they struggled more. Willson, who had been excellent with his blocks earlier in camp, lost two reps and Barrett got the best of Toilolo.
■ In pass protection drills, rookie Frank Ragnow had some struggles, dropping an individual rep to veteran Ricky Jean Francois and struggling to pick up stunts in a timely manner when working in tandem with Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow.
In full-team work later in the practice, Ragnow ended up on the ground on back-to-back plays, which is never great.
One defensive player who stood out in the drill was linebacker Freddie Bishop. The 6-foot-2, 259-pounder rushes with active hands and uses his natural leverage to bend around bigger offensive linemen. He bested offensive tackle Brian Mihalik twice during individual reps, then came clean on a stunt working with defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter against the starting right side of the offensive line, Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang.
■ In one-on-one drills between the defensive backs and receivers/tight ends, undrafted rookie receiver Deontez Alexander had a rough practice segment, dropping a deep pass and getting muscled off the ball by safety Charles Washington, who nearly picked off the comeback route.
Another safety, Miles Killebrew, has been performing better in this drill in recent practices and recorded a breakup against Toilolo.
■ Fifth-round draft pick Tyrell Crosby really moves well in space. It stood out when he got to the second level in a hurry and bodied a linebacker on a bubble screen.
■ Darius Slay's football IQ and route recognition propelled him to an All-Pro season last year, but he got way out of position when offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter dialed up a flea flicker, leading to a huge gain for receiver Kenny Golladay.
■ Earlier this offseason, I thought Jake Rudock's performance was well ahead of veteran Matt Cassel, but that gap is closing quickly. As Cassel gets more familiar with the scheme and his new teammates, he's performing much more consistently. He showed excellent touch on a deep ball down the middle to tight end Marcus Lucas during full-team work.
■ If you blinked you might have missed it, but the Lions ran a more traditional Oklahoma drill for the first time. A defender and ball carrier went head-to-head in a 5-yard square box. It was a little frantic, but a couple reps caught my eye, including Golladay bowling over cornerback Nevin Lawson and linebacker Jarrad Davis laying the wood to rookie running back Kerryon Johnson.
Perhaps the most impressive rep went to 190-pound cornerback Jamal Agnew, who was able to drive Golladay out the side of the box.
Speaking of Agnew, he had a nice pass breakup in team drills, anticipating a quick out and driving hard on the ball for the knockdown.
■ The Lions have been aggressively mixing and matching players along their defensive front seven, but one guy who got noticeably more burn with the top unit on Wednesday was Jean Francois.
The team seemed be easing the veteran in to start camp since he wasn't on the roster during the early stages of the offseason, but his familiarity with the scheme is helping him get acclimated quickly.