Lions camp observations: RBs shine in scrimmage
Here are some notes and observations from Detroit Lions' training camp practice on Saturday.
■ The Lions used their Saturday morning session to conduct an annual full-team scrimmage, which is normally held at Ford Field. The game consisted of two 30-minute halves with a running clock, pitting the first- and second-team units against each other.
■ The first half was ugly. The second-team offense jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to a desperation heave down the sideline from Matt Cassel to backup running back Dwayne Washington on third-and-long. The throw should have been broken up by Rolan Milligan, but the safety whiffed on the ball, allowing it to sneak through to the back.
■ LeGarrette Blount dominated the first series for the first-string offense, carrying the ball twice and serving as the target of Matthew Stafford's first two throws. But the drive quickly fizzled when safety Tavon Wilson denied a pass to tight end Michael Roberts on third-and-8.
■ The first-team offense got on the board with their next series. Following a botched punt by Sam Martin, Ameer Abdullah gained 10 yards on a pair of carries and Theo Riddick extended the drive with a lunging grab on third down. The possession came to a halt after a holding penalty and back-to-back drops by Michael Roberts and Kenny Golladay, setting up Ryan Santoso to blast home a 53-yard field goal that knotted things up, 3-3.
■ The coaching staff chose to pin the second-team offense at the 1-yard line to start the ensuing possession and it didn't go well. After gaining 18 yards on the first two plays, including a Washington 10-yard romp around the left side, a false start penalty and Jeremiah Ledbetter sack backed the offense up again. Kenny Wiggins, curiously playing center, sent a low, shotgun snap past Cassel into the end zone, where the QB was touched down for a safety by Jeremiah Valoaga.
■ The 5-3 advantage was extended to 8-3 before the half. On fourth-and-1 near midfield, Jake Rudock connected with Theo Riddick on a short out route that the back turned upfield for a 24-yard gain. The drive ended in a 33-yard field goal after Ricky Jean Francois and Anthony Zettel combined to bat down a third-and-3 pass in the red zone.
■ To open the second half, Stafford led the first-team offense into the red zone with three first-down throws to Marvin Jones. A successful fullback dive by Nick Bellore converted a third-and-1, but Nevin Lawson came up with a run stop against Blount on first-and-goal and broke up a pass intended for Golladay on third down to force Stafford and company to settle for yet another field goal.
■ The lone offensive touchdown came on the next possession. Cassel made two of the nicest throws of the day, hitting Hakeem Valles on a corner route against Miles Killebrew, then Sean McGrath down the seam for a big gain two plays later.
On first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, the defense came with an all-out blitz. Cassel countered with a fade to rookie receiver Teo Redding, who hauled it in over Josh Okonye.
Going for two, Valles got free in the back of the end zone and Cassel delivered a strike to tie things up at 11.
■ It remained tied until the closing minutes of the scrimmage when Cassel tried to hit an outside receiver with a quick pass that was broken up by Teez Tabor. Linebacker Darnell Sankey was able to snag the deflection out of the air and return it 60 or so yards for the pick-six.
■ The Lions made a transaction in the morning, announcing the signing of wide receiver Brian Brown. To clear room, the team released Dom Williams, who had signed one day earlier.
■ Among the players to stand out in the scrimmage, Kerry Hyder is looking closer to full speed with a sack and run stop near the line of scrimmage and Abdullah and Washington both ran the ball well. Wilson, Lawson and Slay were all excellent in coverage for the top defensive unit.