Through nearly four weeks of training camp practice, all indications are that Odell Beckham has been the same dynamic player in practice that he's ever been. On Monday, Detroit Lions All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay gave his recovery a ringing endorsement following the first of three joint practices between the Lions and Giants.
"He looks like he's going," Slay said, when asked how Beckham looks at this stage of his recovery. "He's catching the rock, and running the rock."
"He's always been explosive. He's never going to lose that, except when he turns 50, I suppose. But, he's always been explosive. Other than that, he's Odell. That's just it."
The running game showed some badly needed and long-awaited signs of life, mostly in the form of Kerryon Johnson. He had a team-high 67 yards from scrimmage, 34 of which came on seven carries. That's a fine debut, yet some of his best moments aren't reflected in the box score.
In the third quarter, Johnson stiff-armed one defender, then crossed-over another in the open field for a 57-yard run. It didn't count because of a Tyrell Crosby penalty, and that doesn't matter. This team is just trying to accumulate some talent in the backfield, and Johnson already looks the part.
The story said all three backs averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry. Abdullah continues to look good and is having a nice camp, we've reported over the last week. Some who follow the team feel Abdullah will make the squad as a fourth back, but Johnson is expected to be the star of the backfield as the season goes on with Theo Riddick the pass-catcher and Blount the change-of-pace and short-yardage back.
I'm starting to think Ameer Abdullah's chances of making the team are better than originally thought. He was listed as the starting kick returner on the club's first depth chart of the season, and sure enough, took the first reps there against Oakland. Plus, he was the featured back during two-minute drills, and even caught a nice pass out of the backfield to move the chains.
Related players: Theo Riddick
The writer says the Lions could go several different ways at the back end of their RB rotation. But he feels Abdullah is athletic and could be an insurance policy should Riddick get injured at some point. He added at this point in camp, he thinks Abdullah would make the team.
The story said Blount declined interviews Monday, so we don't know what the issue was that caused him to leave practice on Sunday.
It's unclear what exactly happened, but Blount headed for the locker room shortly after Detroit went through a couple rounds of Oklahoma drills. He was walking under his own power, though escorted by a trainer.
The practice was Detroit's first in pads, and several players noted how intense it was, both as compared to the last two days of practice as well as last year, the story said. New coach Matt Patricia is trying to ramp up the physicality, and that was easily evident in a series of blocking and hitting drills that were unveiled Sunday. That includes the Oklahoma drill, which was not run under former coach Jim Caldwell.
The Lions got a scare on Saturday when receiver Marvin Jones collided with cornerback DeShawn Shead. On Sunday, coach Matt Patricia downplayed the notion that Jones suffered any type of lingering injury.
“He’s good, he’s fine,” Patricia told reporters regarding Jones, via Tim Twentyman of the Lions’ official website.
Trainers had looked at Jones’ left leg after the practice mishap. He’s back at practice on Sunday, the first day of padded practices for the Lions, according to the story.
As characterized by an article appearing on the Lions’ official website (and of course that means nothing at all . . . other than it appears on the sliver of the Internet owned and operated by the Detroit Lions), RB Ameer Abdullah is on the roster bubble as training camp approaches.
As the story went on to say, the top of the depth chart will consist of veteran Blount, rookie second-rounder Johnson, and third-down-specialist-plus Riddick. Abdullah will need to win the fourth roster spot (or leapfrog one of the other three) in order to remain. That makes special teams a key for Abdullah, since any running back buried that deep will need to be able to do other things. And, as noted in the article, Abdullah spent time as the kick returner during offseason workouts.
Mike Clay of ESPN ranked the backfields of each NFL team, with the Philadelphia Eagles coming in at No. 18. From a post on NJ.com, here's Clay's reasoning:
"The Eagles leaned heavily -- and successfully -- on a committee last season, with LeGarrette Blount leading the way in snaps (337) and carries (173). Jay Ajayi joined the team in Week 9 and, including three playoff games, handled 39 percent of the backfield snaps during his 10 games. Blount is gone, but Darren Sproles is back after missing all but three games due to injury last season. Ajayi is expected to be the first man up in rushing situations, especially considering that his 2.4 YAC since entering the league is best among all backs with 500-plus carries during the span. Sproles is now 35, but he could still be the primary back on passing downs. Corey Clement was a solid find as an undrafted free agent last season who will see some snaps."
There is no denying the loss of Blount is notable, according to the story, but the piece also feels Ajayi has proven to be a true No. 1 back and is expected to get a much bigger role that he's capable of handling. The story also said Ajayi has looked good this spring and appears to be in great shape.
“Megatron” retired in 2016 at the age of 30, and has been routinely asked over the past two-plus years if he is considering a return to football.
“I don’t want to play,” Johnson said when asked by TMZ Sports at Los Angeles International airport on Monday. “See these fingers, man? I ain’t trying to catch no more footballs.”
Johnson has never wavered on that stance, saying in January that he doesn’t miss playing football.
Kenny Golladay is 6-foot-4. He's listed at 218 pounds. He has 4.5 speed and can jump through the building.
And that's part of what makes him an excellent candidate to become the offense's breakout player of the year.
Golladay showed flashes last year when he caught 28 passes for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns. But if the offseason program is any indication, he's headed for even bigger things in 2018. He consistently chewed up the first-team defense, especially in the red zone, where he so deftly uses that rangy frame to go up and get passes even the likes of Darius Slay can't get to, according to the story. But fantasy expectations probably still need to be tempered for now because Tate and Jones still have a presence.
LeGarrette Blount, the team's leading rusher with 766 yards on 173 carries in 2017, is now with the Detroit Lions. And even with Darren Sproles poised to come back from his season-ending knee injury and promising second-year back Corey Clement in the fold, Jay Ajayi is poised to be the featured back.
"I'm pretty sure that Jay is excited about being able to go out there and dominate and being able to be that guy," assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley said. "I know Doug (Pederson) is excited about it also. We'll see."
Despite being in a committee last year after joining Philly, the loss of Blount should mean more work for Ajayi—even with Sproles and Clement in the mix as well. Ajayi is no stranger to being the featured back. In 2016, he had 260 carries, ninth-most in the league, on his way to earning Pro Bowl honors with Miami.
A 20-year-old Kerryon Johnson is the Lions' long-term play, which means they need to make him a long-term player. A metamorphosis is about to start. At Auburn, Johnson had to find ways to survive running into the teeth of athletic defenses like Alabama and Georgia with just 6 feet and 213 pounds to throw around. He weaved in and out of series but averaged 25 carries a game in his final 10 contests. He topped 30 carries three times along the way.
Johnson realizes he's likely not getting 25-30 carries a game at this point, especially with Blount as a bruising back who will run between the tackles and Riddick a proven pass-catching back. Johnson is only ranked 43rd on our list which means he's a depth option for now, but he could certainly have more value as the season goes on.
The Detroit Lions have desperately tried to improve what has been a weakness, signing and drafting players to improve their running game.
Detroit ranked last in the NFL last season in rushing offense and has been among the league’s worst on the ground offensively in recent seasons.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn has made it a priority to fix the problem.
The story said the newcomers will compete with or perhaps push out Abdullah in what has become a crowded backfield with running backs Riddick, Zenner, and Washington also on the roster. The team also selected lineman Frank Ragnow 20th overall to help give the run game a boost.
And while it has been eight months since his injury, Cook offered assurances and positive vibes Tuesday afternoon while speaking with the Twin Cities media.
“I’m still that same guy. You just have to pick up from where I left off,” Cook said. “I’m just going out there and playing football.
“I’m still Dalvin Cook. I haven’t left. The motivation is still there,” Cook added. “The talent is still there, just a little older – that’s it.”
The story went on to say in Tuesday’s session that was open to the media, Cook looked like his old self. He took a handoff and cut up the middle, showed some burst going out for a route and even stepped up in pass protection. We have Cooked ranked seventh among our RBs.
Lions running backs coach David Walker this week described second-round pick RB Kerryon Johnson as a "three-down player.”
However, the Lions would like to believe they’re in a spot where they don’t have to use Johnson as an every-down workhorse this early in his career.
It should be noted it was easier to forecast early volume as rookies for Gordon and Hunt, due to a lack of competition in the backfield at the time. However, at this point last offseason, there was certainly ambiguity in the backfields of Kamara on the Saints and Cook on the Vikings, for Cook at least until mid-to-late August. That type of ambiguity in the backfield can lead to discounts in fantasy drafts, where Johnson is currently being drafted in the eighth round or later. Detroit aggressively traded up for him, using premium draft capital in an offseason where they are looking to overhaul their running game.
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