Lions players run practice without coaches; Hutchinson continues to impress

In a new training camp twist, the Lions took the field for practice on Monday afternoon without the coaches. Head coach Dan Campbell was in on the action but otherwise no coaches. It was all on the players for the short practice.

Campbell informed the players on Monday morning that they would be running practice.

“We come out here and work everyday so we know what to do. … you don’t need anybody in your ear to come out here to do your work and get better,’’ left tackle Taylor Decker said afterward.

Starting with drills, it seemed organized and took a few minutes to realize there were no coaches on the field.

“I think them doing that shows there is already an established level of trust between players and coaches and obviously players and players,’’ Decker said. “They trust us to come out here and work like professionals and not be stupid. … I’ve said it multiple times before and throughout camp there’s been a good atmosphere established for open communication and I feel that builds trust in one another.’’

On Tuesday at 6 p.m. Campbell and his staff have planned a full-padded practice as the coach describes it as Detroit against Detroit.

Hutch marches on

As training camp winds down for the Lions this week, one constant has been the play of rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

“Hutch, he’s a pro already. The way he studies and works. We had a play we ran today (in the walk-through) that he has never seen before. He goes, ‘Our offense does this.’ I said, ‘We’re not playing our damn offense. then we re-run it and he gets it right away,’’ Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash said on Monday.

“So it’s amazing how well he can pick stuff up, he does not make a mistake, not even usually the first time. It’s a credit to him, he studies, takes care of his body. And probably more important, he’s just a great human being who fits in extremely well,’’ the coach added.

When asked to get into more detail about Hutchinson, Wash couldn’t pass up an opportunity. 

“I think it’s coaching, he’s really finally bought in,’’ Wash said laughing.

 “It’s the way he studies, he’s constantly in his ipad. I can’t say enough about him. We got the right one.’’

Hutchinson, who played at Michigan, was the No. 2 overall draft pick in April and has earned praise since Day One for his work ethic and football IQ.

He was the focus of much of the opening edition of “Hard Knocks” on HBO. The third “Hard Knocks” will air at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

Final preseason game

While Campbell said the starters will play about a half in Sunday’s third and final preseason game, quarterback Jared Goff will not play. Goff had talked his way onto the field for the preseason opener, but Campbell is staying firm on this and said he will not let Goff talk him into it.

Campbell said David Blough and Tim Boyle are “neck and neck” in the battle for the backup quarterback position.

Roster cuts upcoming

Each NFL team must cut its roster to 80 by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

The big cutdown to the 53-man roster  is due at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Jared Goff’s conviction to play and more from Lions’ 27-23 preseason loss

DETROIT — Perhaps more was learned about Jared Goff from what happened in the days prior to the game than the 10 plays he was on the field on Friday night.

Coach Dan Campbell was going to keep the quarterback out, but when Goff found out the offensive line starters were in, that is where he wanted to be.

“I didn’t want those guys out there without me,’’ Goff said following the 27-23 preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Goff and the offensive starters played the opening drive which was capped off by a 9-yard touchdown run by D’Andre Swift.

“I will say this about Goff. I was proud of him. We didn’t intend to play him. He came into my office and said, ‘I want to play.’ And I said, ‘You’re not playing.’ He said, ‘If they’re playing, I’m playing.’ So I said, ‘OK.’ I appreciate that about him,’’ Campbell said, noting that he liked Goff’s conviction.

Except for a scratchy throat, Goff was healthy. Campbell was just going to let him rest.

Starting left tackle Taylor Decker said he was fired up when he heard that Goff wanted to play. 

Goff went 3 of 4 for 47 yards on that drive.

“He went out there and ran the offense. That’s really what you’re looking for in your ‘ones’. You want to see them play fast and efficiently down the field and score a touchdown,’’ Campbell said.

The five offensive line starters never got a chance to play one game together due to injuries last season so they were happy to be out there together.

Decker said he thinks the line played with a bit of swagger. He attributed it to open communication and comfort playing with each other.

Backup quarterbacks: Tim Boyle (9 of 16, 111 yards) got off to a rocky start on his first drive but the offense scored a field goal and he passed to Devin Funchess for a touchdown during his time on the field. Early in the third quarter he threw an interception, giving Atlanta the ball on Detroit’s 15, but the Falcons had to settle for a field goal.

David Blough made his case to be the No. 2 quarterback when he came out hot – passing for 26 yards on his first throw and leading the offense down the field for a field goal late in the third quarter. He was 6 of 9 for 59 yards on that drive along with a 9-yard keeper.

More impressive were his pair of fourth down passes on a drive in the fourth quarter that ended in a field goal. A fumble and loss with two minutes left ended the game for him but overall it was a good performance. He finished 18 of 28 for 141 yards.

“I’m not displeased with those guys at all,’’ Campbell said of Blough and Boyle.

Hutchinson debuts: Of course, all eyes were on rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson. The Michigan product did not disappoint. On his first two snaps he had back-to-back tackles, the second one for a 2-yard loss. 

“It was awesome. I’m glad I got the opportunities and plays came my way,’’ said Hutchinson who finished with two tackles.

“Obviously no game is perfect. I was out there for a few plays, I’ve got to clean some things up.’’

The music: “Billie Jean” was played at Ford Field late in the second quarter while Metallica’s “No Leaf Clover” was blared over the speakers to start the fourth quarter. Both songs figured prominently in the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks. Hutchinson was shown singing the Michael Jackson hit and Campbell quoted from “No Leaf Clover” speaking to the team.

Next up: Friday night was Lions’ only preseason home game. Next they’re on the road at Indianapolis on Aug. 20 (1 p.m.) and at Pittsburgh on Aug. 28 (4:30 p.m.) Detroit’s regular season opener is on Sept. 11 at Ford Field against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions were 0-3 in preseason in 2021 with two of those games at Ford Field.

Lions offensive line off to good start on first day in pads

On the first day in pads at Lions training camp on Monday, the offensive line made a few knock-down plays that had the fans oohing and ahhing.

In one set of one-on-one drills against the defensive line, the offensive guys showed their stuff on each matchup.

“You put the pads on, it’s real football, I’m very confident in our O-line going one on one matchups with anyone. That being said, I think our D-line is going to be really good this year,’’ left tackle Taylor Decker said. “You saw Charles Harris come on last year, he’s picked up right where he left ott. He’s a beast, he’s a really good player, he’s a super high effort all the time. I think as Aidan (Hutchinson) learns you’re going to see him — he loves to ball, he’s into it, he loves to learn. It’s going to make both groups better.’’

A year ago, the offensive line also looked to be a strength but due to injuries there was never a game where all five starters played. Not one game.

Now they’re back and healthy. Decker sat out Saturday as a precaution due to his foot injury last year but on Monday he said it’s fine.

“I think we expect every single guy on the offensive line to play at a high high level at their position, whatever that means as far as accolades I don’t know. You come out here every single day and you try to get better as an individual, you’re going to help the guard next to you, then you’re going to help the unit, then you’re going to help the offense, then you’re going to help the team,’’ Decker said.

They expect much out of themselves. Decker and right tackle Penei Sewell both noted how going against the Lions defensive line – including Harris and rookie Aidan Hutchinson – will help make them better.

“It benefits me a lot to see those two guys. Charles came in and shocked the world (last year).. I didn’t really know who he was, he’s a beast,’’ Sewell said. “To have Aidan follow that type of guy that makes him better and I’m following Deck. It’s kind of the same thing back and forth. Iron sharpens iron, everyone knows that.’’

Sewell, who flattened cornerback Jeff Okudah in one drill on Monday, is entering his second season and feels more comfortable since he knows his teammates so well now. They’re a tight-knit group as is typical for most offensive lines.

“That chemistry too makes my job way easier out there. I know what to expect. The speed is way slower, everything is not coming at me 1,000 mph, everyone is normal speed and I like it,’’ Sewell said,

Perhaps the most growth is expected from Sewell who is making the jump from year one to year two.

“I think I’ll know more as we get more padded practices. One thing me and him have talked about as far as just keeping the width of the pocket, just setting aggressive, being confident on your sets and changing up your sets. That’s something as I’ve gotten older I’ve done a lot more of. It might be third-and-10 but I’m going to jump set this guy because he’s not expecting it,’’ Decker said.

Along with Decker and Sewell, other offensive line starters are expected to be Frank Ragnow at center, Jonah Jackson at left guard and Vaitai Halapoulivaati at right guard.

“Our excitement is through the roof. We know what we’re capable., everyone knows what we’re demanding out of each and everyone of us in the room,’’ Sewell said. “The sky’s the limit, only we can control that and how far we can go.’’