Five Lions trending up after first week of training camp
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions completed their first week of training camp and have the day off on Monday. Heading into the second week, here are five players trending up.
► Tight end T.J. Hockenson
Sure, there are things for Hockenson to improve upon, namely with his blocking, but the first stretch of camp couldn't have been much more promising for the first-round pick out of Iowa.
As a pass-catcher, Hockenson is exceeding high expectations. He runs routes to all depths and has showcased outstanding hands and body control. Where he continues to shine the brightest is in the red zone. Working in the confined spacing, he's getting quality separation on his routes and catching everything thrown his direction. He's owned the back corner of the end zone on flag patterns, catching at least four scores in that area.
Detroit's other tight ends also have performed well when working inside the 20-yard line, and the group is shaping up to be a position of strength.
► Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
From the moment he was signed in March, Melvin looked to be the top contender for the starting outside job opposite Darius Slay, but a sluggish performance in the early portions of the offseason program left the competition open heading into camp.
It's still too early to suggest someone has won the role, but Melvin is starting to stack together good practices and is putting some distance between himself and the other contenders on the roster.
As he's adjusted to the scheme and techniques, Melvin has looked more comfortable in coverage. His footwork has been sharp, putting him in position to make plays on the ball. That was his calling card prior to landing in Detroit. He easily intercepted a pass intended for Kenny Golladay and added a couple more breakups throughout the first few practices.
► Running back Ty Johnson
It was a shame to see Theo Riddick's lengthy and productive run with the Lions end so unceremoniously, but that's the nature of the NFL, and the team was simply getting ahead of the curve on its numbers game in the backfield.
Obviously, Kerryon Johnson is the real deal, and C.J. Anderson and Zach Zenner are good complements, but Riddick's release speaks well to what the Lions have seen from Ty Johnson, the sixth-round pick out of Maryland.
With a sturdy frame and track speed, Ty Johnson already has flashed his ability to get the edge on outside runs. Plus, he remains in the mix for the kickoff return job, where he'll have a better opportunity to state his case during the preseason games.
► Defensive lineman Kevin Strong
Although there's little concern about any long-term issues, Detroit's defensive line is beat up at the moment. By the time the team finished practice on Sunday, they only had four healthy options of the 14 on the roster.
But bumps and bruises created opportunity for others, and Strong was one of those four young linemen who received a significant increase in reps because of the depth chart decimation in front of him. With that extra time, the undrafted rookie out of UTSA made a reasonably strong impression.
Despite high temps with equally high humidity, stamina didn't seem to be an issue for the 6-foot-4, 285-pounder, who was moving well throughout the session. He was the only lineman consistently having success in one-on-one pass rush drills, working both inside and outside techniques, and he carried over his ability to penetrate in full-team work.
The Lions' D-line is loaded with talent, but there's always room for at least one surprise to make the roster. Strong put his best foot forward out the gate and will look to build on that early momentum.
► Wide receiver Brandon Powell
Powell was one of those surprises last year, earning a roster spot after a stellar training camp and preseason. And he's getting plenty of reps in practice, including some creative run and short pass looks, suggesting the Lions want to continue to explore the shifty slot receiver's potential in their new scheme.
Like Ty Johnson, Powell will get the opportunity to bolster his case in the return game.