Quarterback Jared Goff has had a really nice first week of training camp for the Detroit Lions, but Thursday's padded practice in Allen Park just might have been his best yet.
Goff was sharp throwing the football all day, and even made a couple plays with his feet, something he's not particularly known for.
Head coach Dan Campbell and new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson have given Goff a lot of ownership in this offense, and early on it looks to be paying off. Goff has a good command of Johnson's offense early on. He's making quick checks into good plays. Center Frank Ragnow talked earlier this week about how he and Goff are on the same page with protection checks. Goff just looks to have an exceedingly good feel for the offense right now.
Goff's been finding the open receiver on a consistent basis, and when he has to make a tough throw because of good coverage, he's been fitting them into tight windows. He completed one pass Thursday on a deep crosser to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown where only St. Brown could have caught it with safety Tracy Walker in tight coverage. Afterward, Walker shook his head, probably wondering how Goff fit that ball in there. There's been plenty of defensive backs wondering the same thing through the first week of camp.
It took Goff just three plays to lead the offense into the end zone in a late two-minute team period with a 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DJ Chark. He scrambled for a 13-yard gain in that same period two plays prior, and he had a touchdown run earlier in practice on a nice read on a RPO, taking the ball out of the running back's belly after seeing the hole on the left side and getting into the end zone. He punctuated the play with a slam dunk over the goal post.
There's just a confidence about Goff right now being at the helm of an offense that was built around his strengths with his input this offseason.
It's a big year for Goff in Detroit. He's got the offensive line and the skill position players around him to succeed. This organization and coaching staff have a lot of confidence in him, and he's had a great start to training camp so far.
It seems like every day I've been writing down defensive lineman Austin Bryant's name in my notes for him making a play in the backfield or having a nice rush.
After dealing with injuries that forced him to miss 22 games his first two seasons in the league, Bryant, a former fourth-round pick in 2019, played in 14 games (five starts) last year and finished with 31 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and six quarterback hits.
Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Bryant is out to prove he can be even more productive and have a role along this revamped defensive front. He's having a nice start to camp. He beat Matt Nelson for a sack in a team period on Thursday and was later in the backfield again to bat down a ball.
The Lions re-signed Charles Harris and drafted Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Paschal and James Houston to boost their pass rush. Some players might consider that an attempt by the team to move on from them. Bryant doesn't see it that way.
"I'm glad we drafted Aidan. We needed a player like that," Bryant said after practice Thursday. "I love Charles. We need players like that. If we want to be the defense we want to be we can't be selfish, and in my mind, I'm just as good as those guys. So I don't see it as a competition. I see it as me contributing to this team, helping my teammates, feeding off my teammates.
"I love those guys to death. They are absolutely great players. But I believe I'm a great player too. I think with all of us together, our entire defensive line, we can form a great unit and be a Detroit defense people haven't seen before."
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Detroit's offensive line is expected to be a strength this season. Veteran guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai thinks they can be the best unit in football.
Vaitai is coming off a 2021 season in which he didn't allow a single sack. The Lions also rushed for more than 1,800 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per rush and totaling 12 touchdowns. They hadn't reached all three of those marks in the same season since 1998.
Vaitai said Thursday two goals for the o-line this season are to lead the NFL in rushing and have the fewest sacks allowed. Those are lofty goals, but the talent is certainly there to accomplish one or both.
It was good to see second-year defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu get an interception in practice Thursday in a red zone 7-on-7 period vs. backup quarterback David Blough. Melifonwu is making the transition from cornerback to safety, and that can only help his confidence moving forward.Tight end T.J. Hockenson made a really tough touchdown catch in the back of the end zone with cornerback Amani Oruwariye draped all over him. Hockenson got up and gave Oruwariye a tap on the helmet, threw the ball to the official and jogged back to the huddle. Watch for the Lions to stand Hockenson up and line him up all over the formation, even out wide, as a matchup weapon.