ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions finished up their second open organized team activity of the offseason and once again, defense was well ahead.
So what else happened?
Here are some observations from the second week of organized team activities here in suburban Detroit.
For the second straight open practice, the defense appeared to be well ahead of the offense. Some offensive players downplayed this a little bit, but during team periods it became fairly obvious how far ahead the defense was compared to the offense. It really didn’t matter which group (ones, twos or threes) were out there, Detroit’s defense -- particularly its secondary -- was continually around the ball and either making plays or breaking up passes. It didn’t happen as much against the first unit, but the second-and-third-team defenses also had a far more dominant line.
To highlight one of the players on the line, rookie Caraun Reid particularly impressed. He often beat his defender and ended up in the backfield. He appears to be picking things up fairly quickly.
Looking at the offense -- drops could still be an issue for this team. Multiple players dropped passes throughout the day, including two from Golden Tate, who has some of the best hands in the NFL. Considering the issues this team had with that a season ago, it is still a bit concerning these issues remain. How big of an issue is it? Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said he was perturbed about the drops during practice.
One player who didn’t drop much -- if anything, from what I observed -- was Kris Durham. The receiver is in a fight for a roster spot and he had a pretty good showing during the open practice Wednesday. He ran crisp routes and looked like he had picked things up quickly. Plus his hands, which were an issue at points in 2013, appeared to be pretty good.
When Lombardi was asked about the offensive players that stood out other than Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Tate, Lombardi mentioned Jeremy Ross, Kevin Ogletree and Theo Riddick by name. Ogletree wasn’t there Wednesday -- more on that below -- but Ross has looked much bigger and could be in position to have a heavier offensive role this season to go along with his returning duties.
There might be a kicking competition after all. Giorgio Tavecchio was impressive Wednesday, making all four of his kicks during a designated field goal period, and a 56-yard field goal to give the offense its only win during the two-minute scenario at the end of practice. Nate Freese, meanwhile, hit on 3 of 4 field goals during the designated period and missed a 46-yard field goal during the two-minute period. Freese likely still has the upper hand to win the job, but Tavecchio might make it difficult on the seventh-round pick.
Best player of the day might have been cornerback Darius Slay. I talked with him a bunch over the past two weeks about his improvement. He has really shown better recovery if he gets beat early in a route -- that recovery speed showed up at least once Wednesday -- and better coverage skills as well. He is not going to be an All-Pro or anything in 2014, but he could ease some concerns about the cornerback position if he continues to improve.
Players not at practice: Nick Fairley, Chris Houston, Ogletree. Players there but not participating: Joique Bell, Brandon Hepburn, Chris Greenwood. Players limited Wednesday: Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones. Glover Quin also didn’t appear to practice in much of the full team drills. Regarding Ogletree, Lombardi said he missed practice because of some dental work.
Speaking of the secondary, Bill Bentley also looks a lot more comfortable this season. Spoke with him after practice and asked him why that was. He turned it around and asked me why I thought that. I was pretty honest in that he looks more instinctual this season and perhaps a touch faster. He agreed and said (paraphrasing) he essentially had no choice -- it was his third year, he had to start playing better.
Talked briefly with defensive lineman Devin Taylor after practice and he discussed playing inside as well as outside this season -- a role Jason Jones could have inhabited last season before his injury. Taylor is doing this in hopes of making himself more versatile and therefore finding more playing time.