Detroit Lions camp: Three draft picks among the early stand-outs

ALLEN PARK — After a week of training camp, three of the Detroit Lions draft picks have stood out.

That doesn’t mean the others will not contribute this season, but early on it’s clear that first-round pick tight end T.J. Hockenson (first round), linebacker Jahlani Tavai (second round) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (fifth round) have what it takes. 

All eyes have been on Hockenson since Day 1. No. 88 is so smooth for a rookie and appears to have developed quite a connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford. He makes the tough catches especially in the corner of the end zone on goal-line drills. He beats defenders in one-on-one drills. It’s early but there isn’t much to not like about the kid.

“He knows that he has a lot to learn and he’s got a long way to go, but he is a hard worker. He loves the game, the guys got a great attitude, the guy just loves the grind and the passion of the game,” coach Matt Patricia said. “So, you take it, you work with it, you go forward, and he’s got a skill set that hopefully we got to see out on the field.”

The Lions were roundly criticized when they drafted Tavai in the second round out of Hawaii because no one else had him going that high. Didn’t matter. Tavai is exactly who they wanted and they got him. He snagged an interception this week from Stafford. Watch one practice and you won’t be able to keep your eyes off No. 51. Again, it’s early but he’s been impressive so far.

Oruwarije (in photo) has seen plenty of reps in camp with Darius Slay on the sidelines (non-football injury). 

“We all know what (Slay) can do, he’s a great player and so I just try to ask him as many questions as I can, I have to use my resources. He’s got so much experience and knowledge I’d be dumb to not ask him questions and learn some things I can take from his game I can take to mine.”

In fact, Oruwarije got some first-team reps on Thursday and grabbed his first interception on a ball intended for none other than Kenny Golladay. 

“Just kind of like being a little tighter, just play with my upper leverage and worked on the technique that (defensive backs) coach Brian Stewart teaches me, came down with the play,’’ Oruwariye said. Like it was that simple.

 

 

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Detroit Lions draft Amani Oruwariye in the fifth round

Penn State cornerback earned first team all-Big Ten honors

ALLEN PARK — The LIons drafted their fourth straight defensive player when they selected cornerback Amani Oruwariye (Penn State) in the fifth round (146th overall).

He’s a bigger, taller corner at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds.

“(My size) allows me to use my body to my ability, really dominate at the line of scrimmage and go up with receivers and make plays on the ball,’’ Oruwariye said on a conference call.

Oruwariye was a starter in 2018, earning first-team all-Big Ten nod by leading the Nittany Lions with 12 pass breakups and tying for the team lead with three interceptions, to go along with 51 tackles (two for loss) in 13 starts.

He ranked No. 5 in the Big 10 and No. 30 in the nation with 1.2 passes defended per game. He was No. 8 in the Big Te in the FBS with three interceptions.

He’s familiar with Lions Pro-Bowl corner Darius Slay. Says he’s watched a good amount of film of him. “Darius Slay plays the deep ball really well, it’s just great technique,’’ Oruwariye said.

Oruwariye, who attended Tampa’s Gaither High School, began to show his potential as a lockdown corner his junior season in 2017, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors despite not starting in 11 games played. He intercepted four passes and broke up eight others as a reserve, making 28 tackles.

He was a reserve as a freshman (five tackles, one PBU in 13 games) and sophomore, as well, though his playing time was more significant in 2016 (23 tackles, one INT, one PBU).

Oruwariye is pronounced OH-rue-war-ee-AY.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote: “He can be an effective press-man defender, but must win at the line of scrimmage or he could become an early target for quarterbacks as he lacks makeup speed once he’s beaten. Oruwariye is a proven disruptor at the catch point and is willing to step up and take on run support duties. When all factors are considered, he’ll be considered a scheme fit for zone-heavy teams who covet physicality in press.”

Other defensive players drafted by the Lions include linebacker Jahlani Tavai (second round), safety Will Harris (third round) and defensive end Austin Bryant (fourth round).

The Lions opened the draft by selecting tight end T.J. Hockenson in the first round (eighth overall).