Sat, 31 Jul 2021

TWENTYMAN: 5 players who impressed at minicamp practices

Detroit Lions
13 Jun 2021, 20:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

The Detroit Lions concluded their three-day mandatory minicamp in Allen Park Thursday, and now the focus shifts to one more week of voluntary OTA practices tailored for the young guys on the roster.

It was a productive minicamp for the Lions with a lot of competitive periods and installation of schemes.

The players weren't in pads this week, so it's a little hard to evaluate the run game and the play of the big guys upfront, but here's a look at five players who stood out to me over the three minicamp practices:

1. TIGHT END T.J. HOCKENSON

Hockenson is coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2020 where he caught 67 passes and notched six touchdowns. Early indications this offseason are that Hockenson could be in line for an even bigger season in 2021. He's been one of the favorite targets for quarterback Jared Goff this week, especially in the red zone. In one two-minute period on Thursday, Hockenson caught four passes, including a touchdown, to win the period for the offense.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Hockenson leads the Lions in targets, catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this season if he stays healthy.

2. RUNNING BACK D'ANDRE SWIFT

Without the pads and the contact that comes with them, it was kind of hard to evaluate the run game portion of things with Swift. But in the passing game, he was electric all week. He's proven to be a handful for would-be defending linebackers in space with his speed, quick twitch and route running ability. He and Goff seem to be building a nice rapport, especially on option routes.

Swift's ability to catch the football in space, put his foot in the ground, make one cut and then get to full speed in a couple steps stood out this week.

3. WIDE RECEIVER VICTOR BOLDEN

When asked about Bolden, who's spent the last two seasons on and off Detroit's practice squad, head coach Dan Campbell described him as someone who's taken to coaching. His ability to separate and make difficult grabs has stood out, according to Campbell.

Bolden can also work himself into a role as a return man. He really had a solid week all around. If Bolden can keep this up through training camp, he could potentially earn himself a roster spot in a wide open receiver room.

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4. DEFENSIVE END TREY FLOWERS

Flowers stood out to me not so much for terrific plays he made the last three days, but more so for his willingness to pick up new responsibilities in Glenn's defense. Flowers has worked at outside linebacker some this offseason, and is learning what it takes to drop back and play in space. He's been an eager learner in that regard. Flowers has basically taken a "whatever the team needs" approach.

Glenn knows Flowers is at his best rushing the passer and stopping the run, so I'm guessing there won't be a lot of moments when Flowers is dropping back in space, but he's learning it and making it an option for Glenn.

5. WIDE RECEIVER QUINTEZ CEPHUS

The second-year pass catcher has also caught the eye of Campbell.

"I would say over the last four practices, QC's really come on. We all see it," Campbell said this week.

Cephus was a volume receiver over the three-day minicamp, which means the quarterbacks trust him enough to look his way early and often throughout practice. Cephus looks to have really expanded the route tree in year two, and is starting to have a really good feel for some of the little nuances that help receivers gain separation from defenders.

He showed off some speed Thursday, beating the defense to the sideline on a short crosser and turning it into a big play down the right sideline. Cephus has a real shot to carve out a significant receiving role this year, if he continues to play the way he did in minicamp.

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