I find myself waffling between waxing rhapsodic about the hedonistic pleasures of brewing coffee, and writing about the whole weekend’s worth of Detroit Lions training camp action. I know what you folks have come here for, though, so I’ll get right to the good stuff:
- Though many insist on 100% arabica beans in their espresso, I’ve found that a well-selected robusta bean can add a lot of bite and body to an otherwise . . . oh. What? . . . *sigh* . . . fine.
- It’s no secret that the Lions’ new defensive scheme is going to rely heavily on the play of the tackles to stop the run. With veteran run-stuffer Grady Jackson likely to miss the first few games of the season—and likely to be on a limited-snap leash after that--the Lions will desperately need at least a couple of the guys behind him on the depth chart to make a big impact. Saturday’s conditioning tests saw two young defensive tackles make statements, indeed: Sammie Hill failed the conditioning test given to all players prior to the first practice. We’re assured this doesn’t mean much; Hill passed the test later in the afternoon. Hill himself blamed it on trying too hard to ‘wow’ with his long shuttle time, and running out of gas before he could finish. However, this conditioning test was like homework—all of these players passed these tests at the conclusion of minicamp. Seeing Hill on the sidelines for the first Saturday session because he failed the conditioning test was not a great sign. Landon Cohen, however, blew everyone away by benching 225 pounds an incredible 50 times. For perspective, B.J. Raji did 33 reps at the combine; Sammie Hill did 27. Cohen’s a very interesting case study. When I reviewed the Lions’ 2008 defensive tackles in my Old Mother Hubbard series, this is what I said about him:
“Cohen was a seventh-round draft pick last year from Ohio. Not the Buckeyes, the Bobcats. He was a destroyer up the middle, despite his relatively light 6'-4", 278 lb. physique. Interestingly, Cohen was a 4-year letterman in track at his high school in Spartanburg, SC. Track! At Ohio, Cohen played the nose tackle position despite being a little undersized for that, even by MAC standards. And yet, he was 2nd-team all-conference his senior year, with 59 tackles (27 solo), 12.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks, starting all twelve games. Despite being a little taller, and notably thinner, than fellow rookie Andre Fluellen, Cohen is listed on the Lions depth chart as a nose tackle. He saw time against several teams, setting his career high in tackles against the Colts (4). I didn't get to see much of him, but from what I can find in scouting reports, he has excellent technique and leverage, helping him make up for his lack of beef. He seems to excel in initial burst and shedding blocks with quick moves, but doesn' t have the range or athleticism to run around making plays on the edge or in space. According to the info I can find, he's at his best as a one-gap upfield rusher. Bottom line: Cohen is a true 4-3 one-gap nose tackle who was born a little too small. If he could add a lot of bulk he could stay at NT--otherwise, he's another 4-3 UT/3-4 DE project.”It looks as though Cohen’s doing everything he can to add the bulk and strength he’ll need to stay at DT; this should be a very interesting position battle, indeed.
- There was a lot of talk about the QB position coming into the weekend. Though impressions of how each quarterback “looked” seemed to be heavily informed by the observer’s favored starter for the year, there was consensus on one issue: Matt Stafford is the real deal. Scout.com’s Nate Caminata, the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski, and—astonishingly—the Grand Rapids Press’s Brian VanOchten all agreed: Stafford carried himself with a veteran’s poise and confidence--even motioning for a PI call after one threaded-needle pass fell incomplete! He appeared completely comfortable with the playbook and the speed of the game, and has eye-popping physical tools. All three agreed that while Duante Culpepper looked sharp, he might already be the 1b to Matt Stafford’s 1a. Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press, however, appealed to caution, imploring the Lions to keep Matt Stafford on the pine, regardless of performance. I enjoy Rosenberg’s work, but I couldn’t disagree more. If Stafford’s relaxed, comfortable, confident, and executing better than anyone else, what possible reason could there be to hold him back? Rod Marinelli held Drew Stanton back in 2008—reportedly, until they got off the schneid. Stanton’s still waiting for his chance.
- Speaking of DS, his performance on Saturday left a lot to be desired. Rumor has it that he threw several ducks, looking far behind Stafford and Culpepper in execution, leading forumgoers to call for his head—or at least his roster spot. However, I’ve been cautioning against having this knee-jerk reaction. Stanton simply isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to blow you away in practice. He’s not a shorts-and-T-shirt passer, he’s a gamer who makes it happen when it counts. On Sunday, they ran through extremely harsh two-minute drills, and what do you know? Tom Kowalski went out of his way to praise Stanton’s crisp execution. Good on you, Drew. Keep fighting--you deserve it.
- Finally, Martin Mayhew had a nice little session with reporters, going over all the recent roster changes. Mayhew said that he’s “happy” with the linebackers and running backs; there’s a good mix of talented, impact veterans, and talented, developing youngsters at both spots. Beyond that, Mayhew said he was pleased with the amount of raw physical talent at quarterback. However, he refused to go any further than that, declining to say he was done working on any other unit. Clearly, while he didn’t say a single negative thing about anyone on the roster, he sees holes at every other position group—which is good news, because I see them, too! Mayhew said the Lions’ brass has “areas of concern”, and efforts to address them are ongoing.
Lots of good stuff from this weekend—and more is coming, because the Lions should be wrapping up the morning session as I write this!