“Key takeaways from the Detroit Lions’ last OTA session: Emerging talents strive to leave their mark.”

“Originally slated for an open practice on Monday, the Detroit Lions faced a setback due to offseason rule violations, resulting in the forfeiture of that session. Consequently, the schedule was pushed back a day, with the Lions reconvening on Tuesday for their last OTA session of the offseason.

As pledged, only young players participated during the final week, offering them valuable one-on-one coaching attention.

Given the brevity of the practice, observations for the day will be concise.”

It was a relatively short practice, so it’ll be a light day of observations.


It’s always interesting to see which player stick around for the final week of OTAs. Obviously, the rookie class gets in the extra work, but some older players often opt to get in some much-needed reps.

Here’s a full list of players that I saw at Tuesday’s practice (rookies are bolded)

QB Hendon Hooker
RB Sione Vaki
WR Jalon Calhoun
WR Isaiah Williams
WR Kaden Davis
TE Parker Hesse
TE Sean McKeon
OT Giovanni Manu
OT Colby Sorsdal
OT Connor Galvin
G/C Bryan Hudson
G/C Duke Clemens
C Kingsley Eguakun
G Matt Farniok
EDGE James Houston
EDGE Mitchell Agude
EDGE Nate Lynn
EDGE Mathieu Betts
EDGE Isaac Ukwu
DT Chris Smith
DT Mekhi Wingo
DT Brodric Martin
LB Ben Niemann
LB DaRon Gilbert
CB Terrion Arnold
CB Ennis Rakestraw
DB Morice Norris
S Brandon Joseph
S Loren Strickland
S Chelen Garnes
S Kerby Joseph
K Michael Badgley
K James Turner
P Jack Fox
LS Scott Daly
LS Hogan Hatten

“Among the noteworthy attendees were James Houston, Kerby Joseph (engaged in team activities with his first appearance in a helmet this offseason, though primarily working with a trainer), and the recently signed linebacker, Ben Niemann.”

Heavy special teams day

Last week, coach Dan Campbell said Monday’s practice would be offense/defense while Tuesday’s practice would be special teams heavy. With the forfeit of Monday’s practice, it appears the Lions mashed the practices together. Obviously, the special teams work is critical for these young players, as their aptitude in that facet of the game may decide whether they make the roster or not.

There’s not a ton to say about the drills with contact still not being allowed, but I will note that receiver Kaden Davis flashed a little as a potential punt returner. That job is obviously not up for grab with Kalif Raymond likely to hold it down in 2024, but it’s just another feather in Davis’ cap. Tuesday, receivers coach Antwaan Randle El spoke about Davis’ spring.

“Kaden has been around (the league) a little bit more obviously, but to be able to come into the offense, pick it up as quickly as he has, and then going out and applying it on the field and making those plays is a big deal,” Randle El said.

Sione Vaki continues to impress

Vaki was the only running back in attendance, but he made an impression during what were two very short team sessions. His best play came during 7-on-7s when he beat linebacker DaRon Gilbert on a wheel route for a considerable gain. When it moved to 11-on-11s, Vaki kicked off a drive with a crossing route in which he beat new linebacker Ben Niemann by a few steps and picked up about 10 yards.

Vaki was one of the most impressive players from the spring, and I believe if he can get some of the fundamentals down when it comes to timing and pass protection, he could carve out a role on offense, albeit a relatively small one.

Couple of dimes from Hendon Hooker

It was a decent day for Hooker, the only Lions quarterback present. On the aforementioned wheel route to Vaki, Hooker displayed perfect touch on the pass. Then when he needed a fastball to his tight end Sean McKeon on a 20-yard post route, he missiled the ball in there perfectly. (Note: it was also a good route by McKeon, who had a couple steps on Niemann.)

That said, the processing is still taking time. During 11-on-11s, Hooker took sacks twice (Nieman, Mitchell Agude) despite them only running about 10 total plays.

Big mistake from the big rookie

At the end of the simulated 11-on-11 drive, the Lions faced a fourth-and-1. It appeared they were simply trying to get the defense to jump offsides. But, instead, it appears Lions rookie tackle Giovanni Manu flinched, drawing a false start. That tough moment was the end of practice.

It’s a learning moment for the rookie, and it won’t be the last time he messes up. But that’s what these OTA practices are for: working out the kinks.

Despite the slipup, offensive line coach Hank Fraley has come away impressed with the progress Manu has made this spring.

“I’ve been very pleased with him,” Fraley said. “He’s learning a lot. There’s a lot of things we’re just changing on him that you’re used to doing for four, six years where . There’s some things we’re asking of him, but he’s coachable and he wants to learn.”

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