Lions brass excited about the hiring of GM Brad Holmes

Owner Sheila Ford Hamp couldn’t hide her excitement about new Lions general manager Brad Holmes as she was introducing him on Tuesday during a virtual press conference.

“Just wait, you’ll see,’’ Hamp said repeatedly.

Team president Rod Wood explained how he trusts his first impressions. Within two or three minutes of the first interview with Holmes (which was virtual), Wood wrote a note to himself, “This is the guy.”

Holmes, 41, has worked his way up in the NFL.

In fact, he noted the last time he was at the Lions practice facility was when he was interviewing for a PR intern position. That was around 2003.

Instead he took the same job with the St. Louis Rams and worked his way up through the scouting ranks. He spent 18 seasons with the Rams, most recently as director of college scouting. He brings his knowledge of the 2021 draft class to Detroit.

Hamp was right, Holmes seems to have the right attitude to get the Lions back to the playoffs and not just get there, but also win. 

“Everything is about the team, bottom line,’’ he said. His delivery guaranteed those are not empty words. 

He was quite clear about the intangible he wants to see in every player. That would be passion. Holmes said there is no margin for error. Passion is of utmost importance when it comes to intangibles.

“We will build a winning and inspired culture… There will be no ego in this process,’’ Holmes said.

He’s not looking at a five-year plan. He’s looking to put a winning team on the field in the fall.

It’s hard not to like this guy just from watching this one virtual press conference.

Now he has to put some muscle behind his words and make the best decisions. He will be involved in the next big hire – the head coach.

Hamp, Wood, Chris Spielman (special assistant to Hamp) and Mike Disner (vice president of football operations) were in on all of the interviews. They talked to a dozen GM candidates.

When they debriefed after the initial Holmes interview, it wasn’t just Rod Wood who knew he was The Guy. It was unanimous.

It could be the dawn of a new era for the Lions franchise which hasn’t won a playoff game since Jan. 5, 1992.

Or it could be just another Lions’ GM hire.

I’d bet on the former. 

Just a gut feeling.

Detroit Lions draft DT Jashon Cornell from Ohio State in 7th round

Jashon Cornell became the third Ohio State Buckeye drafted by the Lions in this 2020 draft.

The Lions selected the defensive tackle in the seventh round with the 235th overall pick. 

“I’ve been talking to the Lions for a while. I was really excited to get that phone call,’’ Cornell said in a conference call on Saturday.

Cornell was the top-ranked recruit in Minnesota after high school and chose Ohio State from more than 30 scholarship offers.

Back then he was best buddies with Lions offensive lineman Frank Ragnow. They would travel to high school camps all over the country together.

At Ohio State, he broke through as a senior starter earning all Big Ten honors. He lined up both inside and outside, but seemed to find a comfort level inside as a senior. 

The other Buckeyes drafted by the Lions this weekend include CB Jeff Okudah (first round) and G Jonah Jackson (third round). 

“Jeff Okudah is a franchise player. He’s going to be – the things that Jeff can do as a defensive back – being able to come in as a freshman and being able to watch Jeff grow, he was able to showcase his ability as one of the best defensive backs in the country,’’ Cornell said. “He came to practice every day, he showed out. Jeff Okudah is going to be a great player for the Lions. Jonah, me and Jonah go at it for 12 weeks out of the year for every year since Jonah (came in) you know, we always had our battles in practice. It’s going to be good to go back up there in Detroit, and be able to compete with Jonah each day at practice and stuff.”

 He thinks having college teammates might help in his transition to the NFL.

“One thing we do at Ohio State is treat everything as if it’s an NFL team. That’s one thing that makes it different from most teams and most players that we’ve been through all the rough patches and we know about the grind and being able to compete at a high level – that’s one thing we did every Saturday,’’ Cornell said. “I think that’s one thing we can transition to Detroit, us Buckeyes can come in bring that competitive factor, that championship mentality that we have at Ohio State. I think that’s one thing we can bring to Detroit as Buckeyes.”

Detroit Lions 2020 draft picks 

First round — CB Jeff Okudah (3rd overall), Ohio State

Second round — RB D’Andre Swift (35th overall) Georgia

Third round — LB Julian Okwara (67th overall) Notre Dame

Third round — G Jonah Jackson (85th overall) Ohio State

Fourth round — G Logan Stenberg (121st overall) Kentucky

Fifth round — WR Quintez Cephus (166th overall) Wisconsin

Fifth round — RB Jason Huntley (172nd overall) New Mexico State

Sixth round — DT John Penisini (197th overall) Utah

Seventh round — DT Jashon Cornell (235th overall) Ohio State

Detroit Lions draft Utah DT John Penisini in sixth round

With their only pick in the sixth round, the Detroit Lions drafted defensive tackle John Penisini out of Utah.

The 6-foot-1, 318-pound defensive lineman was a second-team all-conference pick as a senior, starting 13 of 14 games with 38 tackles, seven for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles.

Penisini wasn’t sure he would even be drafted.

“I was honestly preparing for the worst. Just looking for an undrafted free agent (call). To be honest, it’s a blessing to actually make it to the sixth round,’’ Penisini said in a conference call on Saturday. “I was projected to be a seventh rounder or even undrafted. Right now, I’m excited. My mom’s happy and everyone is happy, so it is shocking and it’s a blessing to be honest.”

He said the Lions are getting a hard worker who was slept on in the draft.

“It shows at Utah, especially from the coaches, you guys can ask them. They know what I do and our program’s tough and they are built tough,’’ Penisini said. “That’s the kind of player you guys are going to get, just a tough player. Just ready to work and really excited.”

Like all rookies (and veterans) a limited offseason program will pose new challenges when the season starts, if the season starts. Penisini is ready. 

“To be honest, just follow their program, whatever they’re going to send to me. Learn the game mentally because honestly, if you don’t know exactly what the plays are, then you can’t go full speed,’’ Penisini said. “It’s really difficult to play if you don’t know what the plays are. But other than that, just keep working out, staying in shape – I have my teammates out here, some of the boys who actually live out here from Utah. So we can run some one-on-ones and stuff, but once quarantine is done and everyone is ready to get out, with the virus and whatever. For sure, would love to come out to Detroit.”

 

Detroit Lions draft picks (so far)

First round — CB Jeff Okudah (3rd overall), Ohio State

Second round — RB D’Andre Swift (35th overall) Georgia

Third round — LB Julian Okwara (67th overall) Notre Dame

Third round — G Jonah Jackson (85th overall) Ohio State

Fourth round — G Logan Stenberg (121st overall) Kentucky

Fifth round — WR Quintez Cephus (166th overall) Wisconsin

Fifth round — RB Jason Huntley (172nd overall) New Mexico State

Sixth round — DT John Penisini (197th overall) Utah