The Detroit Lions had their first open-to-the-media organized team activity practice Wednesday. Here are some things that stood out after seeing Detroit on the field for the first time this spring.
And just a reminder -- without being in pads or being allowed to hit, it's tough to gauge too much from what goes on out on the field, but eventually, trends will start to emerge.
1. Jarrad Davis was in the middle with the first team: This isn’t a huge surprise considering the Lions have been pretty clear about where they saw their first-round draft pick both in the present and the future -- as the team’s middle linebacker. But much like last season with offensive tackle Taylor Decker, there was not any sort of lead-up time for him taking the role. He was on the field as the middle linebacker with the first unit in both 11-on-11 and seven-on-seven drills, taking the majority of snaps there that I noticed. Some of that had to do with Tahir Whitehead sitting out practice (undisclosed), but that should show how fast they expect Davis to make an impact. He moved well when I watched him, but it’s still early and without pads or full speed, tough to really get a strong gauge.
2. Ameer Abdullah looked fine: The running back seemed to show no ill effects of the foot surgery that cost him the majority of the 2016 season. Yes, he’s running without pads and without contact, but he seemed sharp and decisive whenever he ran the ball Wednesday. He took the first rep in almost every situation (with Zach Zenner following him since Theo Riddick was held out of team drills) and seemed really comfortable. This is a good sign for Detroit, a team that is banking on Abdullah staying healthy and playing well to have success in 2017.
3. Alex Carter appears to be switching positions: The former third-round pick didn’t talk after practice Wednesday, but the former cornerback is at least likely to turn into a “DB,” as in all-purpose defensive back. Carter spent the majority of his time Wednesday working with the second team at safety -- likely on the second unit because Glover Quin was absent from practice (family obligation) and Don Carey was sitting out the open OTA. Carter showed some speed during the open OTA, but it appears the Lions are going to give him a chance at multiple positions to try and make the team in his third NFL season.
4. Brandon Copeland is a “swiss army knife": That’s how he described himself to ESPN on Wednesday. He’s moved from outside linebacker to defensive end throughout his career and during most of the team portion of the drills Wednesday was at outside linebacker -- typically lining up with Davis and Paul Worrilow with the first team. He knows this is his way on to the roster, showing versatility both on defense along with being a core special-teams player.
“Well, back in high school they used to have Scout.com and Rivals.com and they used to put ‘athlete’ next to the guys,” Copeland said. “I always joke with the guys, put ‘ATH’ next to my name. I’m just a hybrid outside linebacker-D-end.
“Wherever they need me and want to use me, I’m just more than willing to try and be in that spot and do a great job in that spot.”
Copeland said he likes the challenge of multiple roles and it keeps him engaged on defense throughout. He’s worked on learning how to “compartmentalize” his coverages and roles at linebacker and defensive end, but he’s flip-flopped at both spots throughout his three years with the Lions, so he is comfortable in both places.
5. Back-end receivers had good days: In what is going to be a wide-open depth receiver competition, Jared Abbrederis caught my eye Wednesday. He ran mostly with the No. 2 receivers, but caught multiple passes, including jumping and extending for a pass from Jake Rudock over Nevin Lawson. After Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay (who had an impressive stride and looked pretty fluid for a rookie), there are pretty open roster spots between TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley, Abbrederis, Ryan Spadola and a bunch of undrafted rookies. This was a good day for Abbrederis, though, as his number was consistently one I wrote down in a positive vein. TJ Jones got most of the No. 1 work in three-receiver sets, but it’s early.
This and that
Quin (family obligation), Whitehead and offensive guard T.J. Lang (hip) were the only starters to miss practice. Riddick, offensive tackle Corey Robinson, defensive end Armonty Bryant and safety Don Carey were also held out of most, if not all, of practice. … With Lang out, Joe Dahl took a bunch of first-team reps at right guard, but that’s Lang’s job when he returns. … With Quin absent, Miles Killebrew got a lot of work with the first unit. That’s something to watch as he’s expected to push for a bigger role in 2017 and should be a starter no later than 2018 if he continues to progress.