ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Some quick thoughts and observations after the Detroit Lions' first open OTA of the 2016 offseason workouts.
1. DeAndre Levy looks OK: It should be taken as an encouraging sign that the linebacker was not only practicing Thursday but appeared to be running and moving pretty well. He didn’t participate in the whole practice -- he was absent during the last 11-on-11 drill of the session -- but his working in individual drills and some team drills is a good sign he should be absolutely fine by the time the Lions need him at the start of the season. He said he’s still rehabbing but everything seems to be on track there.
2. Taylor Decker, left tackle? The Lions’ first-round pick worked with the first unit on Thursday but not at right tackle, where he could have eased in, but at left tackle, the position he could eventually end up playing. This had little to do with Riley Reiff as well as he practiced with the first unit on the right side. Michael Ola, last year’s starting right tackle, did not participate in practice but the fact that Decker was with the first group on the left side from the beginning is pretty telling about his future and potentially about Reiff’s. The Lions will likely cross-train Reiff and Decker at both tackle spots, but Decker will clearly be in the mix from the left tackle spot from the beginning. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being a competition for a long time.
3. An interesting day for TJ Jones: With Calvin Johnson retired and Golden Tate missing from practice, Jones had a pretty good opportunity to stand out from the start. He almost didn’t get that chance. Jones hurt his ankle during a punt return drill and actually threw his shoe because he wasn’t sure what had happened other than it had been stepped on. “Man, I was just mad,” Jones told ESPN. “I was so mad. The drills were going smooth, smooth and then in one snap, cluster, I’m on the ground, my shoe’s off.” Crisis averted, though, as Jones ended up participating in the rest of practice, including a nice catch in 11-on-11 over cornerback Nevin Lawson. It might have been the play of the day. Jones is going to be looked at as a potential sleeper at receiver behind Tate, Marvin Jones and possibly Jeremy Kerley.
4. Watch for Isaiah Johnson: It’s still very, very early but the former undrafted free agent from Georgia Tech got a lot of work with the first-team defense at safety next to Rafael Bush. That likely came because Glover Quin sat out team drills Thursday, but it’s promising for Johnson that he would jump ahead of guys such as Don Carey and Tavon Wilson to get work with the top unit. Quin and Bush will probably be the starters -- at least on an early depth chart -- but Johnson might have a chance to make some plays. Or, it’ll just be another May experiment that amounts to nothing.
5. Good signs for Decker and A’Shawn Robinson: Jim Caldwell has not used rookies much with the first groups. In the past, that hasn't happened until later on in workouts for the most part. That both Decker and Robinson had some work with the first unit is a sign of the potential for both of them this fall. Some of it, particularly in Robinson’s case, is likely due to players sitting out of practice but there were veteran options available there. Robinson likely would have been behind both Caraun Reid, who sat out practice, and Tyrunn Walker, who only worked in individual drills, but he was still ahead of a bunch of other players. It’s tough to gauge anything from linemen without pads on and with hitting not allowed, but reps next to Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor can only help Robinson. As for Decker, being with the first group from the get-go shows both his talent and the Lions’ dependence on him this year.
Extras: Lions that didn’t participate in practice: TE Eric Ebron, TE Brandon Pettigrew, TE Adam Fuehne, RB Ameer Abdullah, RB Dwayne Washington, DT Caraun Reid, WR Golden Tate, OT Corey Robinson, OT Michael Ola, LB Stephen Tulloch.