Lions rookie RB D’Andre Swift could also play factor in pass game

In two days, Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift has found a certain level of comfort on the practice field which isn’t easy for a rookie.

Certainly the second-round draft pick has plenty to work on and improve. 

“Just getting everything down as far as the playbook, different terminology, quarterbacks speak faster, signals come quicker, just taking my studying habits and taking my knowledge of the game to the next level to make sure the coaches trust me,’’ Swift said on Tuesday in a Zoom call.

Coach Matt Patricia doesn’t like to talk starters or where a rookie might fit on a depth chart. It’s too early for that.

Still when Patricia was asked on Tuesday if Swift has a chance to start, he nodded in the affirmative. So far he likes what he sees from the back who played college ball at Georgia, Matthew Stafford’s alma mater.

“For me, for Swift obviously I think he’s got a great skill set of what we saw in college. We’re exploring the different things he can do certainly at our level and to do it consistently is a big thing for us right now,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call late Tuesday afternoon.

To translate: Swift has turned a few heads as a pass catcher early in camp.

“I think some of the different reads in the run game right now we’re trying to get improved for him and his eye control and some of those scenarios,’’ Patricia said. “We do know that he’s a smart guy and he can handle a lot, not only in the run game but the pass protection and being able to get the blitz pickups and some of the technique there. Some of the linebackers at this level are maybe bigger than they were in college and some of those guys going through there, so the technique is really important for us to make sure we have that pocket protected.’’

Patricia said he wants to build on things Swift can do in the passing game.

“Not that it’s small steps, but we try to make sure we build it in the proper manner. So far he’s done an outstanding job of handling all that,” Patricia said. “And then certainly as we get towards more and more live contact in the running back position and being able to have really good contact balance, things like we saw in college, being able to break some of those tackles. The more of those scenarios that we can get into and see and have that confidence in certainly that will help him along the way.’’

Swift said when he played 7-on-7 football as a kid, he discovered his ability to catch the ball. 

The Bulldogs didn’t exploit that part of his game. In three seasons he had just 20 catches, but five of them were for touchdowns.

“It’s something I want to definitely perfect at this level of football just being used in different amounts of ways,’’ Swift said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Jeff Okudah expected to start, but on first day with pads he lines up with reserves

Lions open season on Sept. 13 against Bears

Don’t read much into the fact that cornerback Jeff Okudah, the  Lions first-round draft pick, lined up with the reserves in the team’s first padded practice on Monday.

In the most uncommon of training camps, it’s not an uncommon move by coach Matt Patricia.

“The rookies, we’re trying to take it slow with. There’s a lot of information that they have to learn and certainly being on the field for the first time in an NFL practice with pads on,’’ Patricia said on Monday via Zoom. “There’s just a lot coming at those guys from different directions.’’

Okudah, the third overall pick, was not drafted to sit on the bench. With Patricia, though, he’ll have to earn it and compete for the role.

“Always, you know how I am with the whole starters thing. I don’t know who our starters are in Day One of pads,’’ Patricia said. “I’m pretty sure Matthew Stafford is good, the rest of that stuff we’ll figure out.’’

Patricia noted that cornerback Amani Oruwariye has been working hard, Justin Coleman too and obviously Desmond Trufant who signed as a free agent after Darius Slay left.

“We’ll see how it shakes out,’’ Patricia said.

So far the coach, entering his third season with the Lions, seems happy with Okudah in the early goings.

“Jeff is working really hard, he’s trying to do everything. He’s learning our system which is great and competing. We’ll rotate that as we go through with different looks and different packages,’’ Patricia said.

Overall he seemed happy with the first padded practice. 

“It was a really competitive day which was very pleasing for me. We talked yesterday that we’re four weeks out from yesterday before our first game. I do feel a little bit like ‘Oh man, we’ve got to go, we’ve got to get all this stuff in, we’ve got to get rolling.’

“We wake up this morning and we’re going out for a 90-minute practice because that’s all we’re allowed to do. So you’re just trying to scheme it and put it together so it moves as fast as possible. I thought the team really answered that bell,’’ Patricia said.

The Lions open their season on Sept. 13 at home against the Chicago Bears. All NFL preseason games have been eliminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That makes every minute on the field crucial.

“I could be out there for another six hours just working on fundamentals — pad level, hand placement and footwork,’’ Patricia said. “I’m excited just to see guys trying to do it right. The key will be to go out tomorrow and improve on what we did today.’’

 

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.