On June 4th I was given the rare opportunity to attend a Detroit Lions practice session because I am a season ticket holder. During the practice I noted numerous things, some good… some bad. Here’s the skinny on what I saw.
Bill Bentley Is A Stud.
Bill Bentley is entering his third year in the NFL, which so happens to be the year in which most players break-out and find success on the field. If Bentley’s performance on the practice field is any indication of how he will perform, then Lions’ fans are in for a real treat.
I first noticed Bentley during practice while the team was working on punting. Bentley was lined up as a gunner (the man in charge of tackling the punt returner) and each time he would easily make it to the returner at the same moment the returner received the punt. None of the Lions other gunners’ were able to do this, they came close, but nowhere near as close as Bentley. In fact, he was so good at it, that special teams coach Jon Bonamego gave him a lot of praise for his hard work.
The next thing I observed from Bentley that had me in awe was his play at the corner and nickelback positions. During the practice the Lions worked on 11-on-11 drills and it was obvious that the Lions’ defense was ahead of the offense in terms of preparedness and Bentley exploited that. He had an interception, at least one pass break-up, and what would have been a couple of tackles if the pads were on. It certainly looks like Bentley is on his way to have a great season, perhaps a Pro-Bowl season. The Lions’ need some help in the secondary and Bentley looks to be a big contributor in that regard.
No Nick Fairley, Ezekiel Ansah or Chris Houston
Nick Fairley wasn’t at OTAs on Wednesday, though he has been at some of the practice sessions. Fairley missed practice due to his sleep apnea surgery he had weeks prior. Fairley has commented on the surgery saying that it has helped him sleep better, giving him more energy for the football field. He believes he will be 100% for training camp. Another thing to note with Fairley is that he has lost about 30 lbs. and is around the same weight he was when he played at Auburn. Martin Mayhew decided not to use Fairley’s fifth year option due to inconsistencies and weight issues. Is this the year that Fairley keeps the weight down and shows Lions what he can really do?
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Ezekiel Ansah wasn’t on the practice field on Wednesday, as he is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Coaches and Ansah have said that he should be back by training camp. It should be noted that Ansah has been at practices learning Teryl Austin’s new defensive scheme, but hasn’t been able to actually get reps in on the field.
Chris Houston has been absent from most of OTAs due to toe surgery he had weeks prior. This is bad news for the Lions because their secondary has been suspect and Houston desperately needs the reps. His play was subpar last year and he is looking to bounce back. Perhaps, the toe surgery will make all the difference and Houston will be the playmaker we know he can be.
Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, and Ndamukong Suh are Rock Stars
I would assume that if you are reading this, you are probably a Lions’ fan and I don’t have to tell you that Johnson, Stafford, and Suh are held in high regard. But, if you thought that perhaps the loyalty of the fans was wavering, it isn’t. As players filed out to the practice field, each of these three men were greeted by loud cheers of joy. Fans went crazy, they screamed, jumped up and down, and I think I may have seen a tear or two.
It’s undeniable that these three men carry the largest burden when it comes to the team. Not only do these three make the most money on the team, but their names are synonymous with the Detroit Lions franchise. When the Lions succeed, they are given the credit… but the same can be said for when they fail. If the Lions are going to win the division and perhaps the Lombardi, it will be because these three men stepped up and led their fellow Lions.
Offense Struggles Against Defense
It’s common for NFL defenses to be ahead of NFL offenses during spring and summer practices. Offenses have to learn lots of specific plays, while defenses are learning general schemes instead. Due to this, I have to admit that the offense looked a bit rough, while the defense looked great. As the offseason progresses and the offense becomes more familiar with the playbook, this will even out. With that said, practicing against a solid defense can only improve the Lions’ offense. Well, there you have it, my observations from OTAs.
I know this is the fan-boy in me, but I have to say this is going to be a great year for the Lions.