Sat, 08 Oct 2022

TWENTYMAN: 10 players who stood out in camp practices

Detroit Lions
08 Aug 2022, 20:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

We are 10 practices into training camp after Saturday's Family Fest practice at Ford Field. It's been a good start to camp for head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions, with the first preseason game slated for Friday at Ford Field against the Atlanta Falcons.

There are always players who stand out early in camp, but there's a lot of camp and three preseason games to go.

But early on, here's my look at 10 players who have stood out:

1. Quarterback Jared Goff

Goff seems to have picked up right where he left off last season when his passer rating of 101.8 in his final six starts (3-2-1 over that span) was the sixth best in the NFL. He and new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson built this scheme around the things Goff likes and does well, and he's looked sharp with a great command of this offense early on.

2. Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson

There are a lot of expectations that come with being the No. 2 overall pick, but Hutchinson has tuned out the noise, put his head down and just gone to work. He's got terrific length with a nice tool kit of pass-rush moves and a motor that never quits. He's making an impact both on the edge, and when the team shifts him inside at the three technique. He's been everything the Lions hoped and more to start camp.

3. Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez

He might be the biggest surprise of camp so far. The best way to describe Rodriguez's game is that he has a terrific nose for the football. He's got some of the best instincts I've ever seen from a young linebacker. He diagnoses things happening in front of him very quickly and then uses his 4.5 speed to explode to the football. He's not a big guy (5-11, 230), but he can deliver a pop, and he always seems to be in the right spot around the football. He's been drawing pretty high praise from coaches and teammates.

4. Running back D'Andre Swift

Swift worked hard this offseason to add muscle to his frame in hopes of being more durable (7 games missed the last two seasons combined). But the added muscle hasn't slowed him down a bit. In fact, he looks as speedy and as shifty as ever. He's been a real problem to defend in the passing game during camp.

5. Defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor

This might not be a familiar name to Lions fans, but it seems like I'm writing his name down a couple times during every practice for making a play. The undrafted rookie out of Appalachian State has a long road to making the roster in a crowded defensive line room, but he's making a good early impression as a disruptive player who can play in the opponent backfield. He's been a nice surprise.

O'HARA: Benson looking to show he's more than just a speedsterCamp Notes: St. Brown working to increase his yards after catchTIM AND MIKE: Detroit Lions Family Fest practice observations6. Starting offensive line

It didn't feel right to single out one player here. More than any other position group on the field, the offensive line has to play as one cohesive unit for it to function the way it's supposed to.

Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Penei Sewell have been really good as a unit to start camp. There was one practice earlier this week where the o-line and d-line were doing pass-rush drills, and the starting o-line won every rep. The offensive line is expected to be one of the best units in football, and there's nothing they've done in the first 10 practices of camp that leads me to think otherwise.

7. Wide receiver DJ Chark

Chark was signed by the Lions in the offseason to give them some juice on the outside and provide a vertical threat for the offense. It turns out Chark is much more versatile than just a deep threat, but that's where he has really stood out early in camp. He's made a number of plays deep down the field, and if that continues into the regular season, it's going to open up so many possibilities for other players like wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, tight end T.J. Hockenson and Swift.

7. Defensive lineman Charles Harris

Harris had a breakout season for the Lions last year by leading the team with 7.5 sacks. He earned a contract extension because of it, and hasn't let his foot off the gas since. He's been a fixture on the left side during camp. When he's on the outside and Hutchinson lines up at the three technique inside, they've been a terrific duo. They really rush well playing off each other and they've been a problem duo early in camp.

8. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown

He's picked up right where he left off last season as being a volume target for Goff. He's so crafty in the middle that he always seems to be open. He's got some of the best hands on the team and has flashed some wow plays early in camp. He's worked hard to improve his run-after-catch ability, and that's shown up early in camp.

9. Linebacker James Houston

The Lions viewed Houston as a hybrid LB/DL in the spring, but he's become much more of a pass rusher early in camp than a linebacker who plays in space. He had 16.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss at Jackson State last year and you can see why when the pads come on and he gets after the quarterback. He single-handedly derailed the second-team offense's two-minute period in practice Friday with two sacks. Like Rodriguez, he's undersized (6-1, 241) for the position, but he just has a knack for getting after the quarterback.

10. Kicker Austin Seibert

Seibert is battling Riley Patterson for the Lions kicking job. Through the first 10 practices, Seibert hasn't missed a field goal when given a team rep in practice. There's still a long way to go in that competition, but Seibert has been very consistent early in camp.

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