Camp observations: Defense makes like rough on Matthew Stafford
Allen Park – Here are some notes and observations from Monday’s Detroit Lions training camp practice.
• Whether you want to credit the defense for tight coverage or blame the quarterbacks for forcing the ball into tight windows, it wasn’t a strong day for the offense. Safety Don Carey intercepted a pair of passes, including one during a full-team scrimmage off starter Matthew Stafford. Top backup cornerback Darrin Walls batted away two throws, one of which was a deep look from Stafford to Golden Tate. Even the linebackers got in on the action with Kyle Van Noy and Tahir Whitehead deflecting away passes over the middle, both intended for tight end Cole Wick.
Safety Tavon Wilson also managed to come up with an interception, bodying tight end Orson Charles off the ball in one-on-ones. The coverage was excellent, and the fact that rookie Jake Rudock was the quarterback on the play shouldn’t impact the perception of the result in this instance. Wilson added a pass breakup in full-team work later during the practice.
• Up front, defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry was disruptive, showing up in the backfield on multiple passing plays.
• Wide receiver Andre Roberts seems to be gaining ground in the receiving competition. He ran a pretty out and up, badly burning cornerback Keith Lewis in one-on-ones. Roberts is earning more time with the second unit. Combined with his long kickoff return in the mock game on Saturday, things are trending up for the veteran.
• Jay Lee also continues to make a strong impression in that receiving battle. His best play from the practice came when he converted a third-and-long on a deep out route against Johnson Bademosi. Lee also easily beat cornerback Alex Carter deep in two-on-two work.
• The two-on-two drill between receivers and defensive backs replaced the typical one-on-one work. It allowed the receivers to work in tandem on route concepts.
• In a rare moment, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin yelled at a player on Monday. I can’t recall ever seeing the coach raise his voice, but he was clearly frustrated with some communication issue with the defense.
• Coach Jim Caldwell also exhibited frustration when a player dove for a football. Caldwell is adamant about players not leaving their feet during these practices, risking unnecessary injury.
• I noted the Rudock interception above, but he also made an incredible throw, finding Theo Riddick on a perfectly placed deep pass as the running back ran a wheel route while being tightly covered by linebacker Josh Bynes. The throw was a frozen rope, dropping just beyond Bynes’ reach over Riddick’s shoulder 20-plus yards down the field.
Rudock is coming along nicely. He makes plenty of mistakes, and his lack of experience is apparent with how quickly he tucks and runs during passing situations, but he has exhibited a strong, accurate arm that is able to make nearly every throw. Also, at this point, he’s often trying to fit the ball into non-existent windows as he adjusts to the speed of NFL defenses.