ALLEN PARK — After three months of running around in shorts, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell was excited to finally get to work wearing pads Monday.
“Now the evaluation can begin,” Campbell said before taking a question at his pre-practice press conference.
That highly regarded offensive line did not disappoint.
My God, Penne Sewell did not disappoint.
On a day when DeAndre Swift put Chris Bord in the rotation for a one-on-one and Amon-Ra St. Brown jumped on Kerby Joseph in the third round, it was a day that drew loud oooos from the packed crowd. The 331-pound Sewell came barreling around the corner and cornerback Jeff Okudah, the fluid, took out St. Brown on the bubble screen for some huge YAC.
“The way Penne moves is like crazy,” defensive tackle Alim McNeil said. “He can go out there and get to anybody — the corner, whoever it is — so it’s fun to see.”
Fun is one word for it, sure. If you’re one of those people wearing a white shirt, it might be something else. That Okudah hit was the talk of the day. Anyone not named Sewell anyway.
“World Health Organization?” When Sewell was asked about the hit.
Jeff Okudah. You know the person you just destroyed.
“Oh, I did,” Sewell said after a moment. “It’s just football. I don’t know what happened. I have to go see the movie.
Another day at the office for that guy — and yet another good one. On a day they played the closest thing to real football since January, Sewell looked like the best player on that field, season. That was highlighted by his stonewalling of Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 pick in this year’s NFL draft, in both of their one-on-one reps.
Sewell is big and ugly, though it’s the way he moves at 331 pounds that makes him a candidate to be one of the best offensive tackles in the league. Lomas told Brown that he thought Sewell would be better than him after practicing with Brown, and that the five-time All-Pro was one of the best offensive tackles of his generation.
“I couldn’t move the way that guy moves,” Brown said. “It’s crazy”
Sewell was not alone at the front. One-on-one drills always favor the defensive line, but that first-team offensive line remained undefeated through nine straight games on Monday.
they. He did. not at all. to lose
“They put the pads on and it’s real football,” said Taylor Decker, confused. “I’m very confident in our O-line one-on-one matchups with anyone. That being said, I think our D-line will be pretty good this year. I know you saw Charles Harris coming in last year, he picked up right where he left off. It’s a beast. I think he’s a really good player, always a really high effort and as Aidan has learned, you can see him grow. You obviously know he loves football, he’s into it, he’s going to learn. So we’ve got a lot of young athletes so we can bring the two teams to a better level, especially if he’s wearing pads, it’s good for both teams.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? This defensive line is expected to be much better with a new, more aggressive front and some new units to help run. That includes Hutchinson, who collected 14 sacks last year at Michigan, finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and has been rocking some houses in Detroit’s offseason program. He broke his reserves during organized team activities, then ran amok on uncovered assignments during the first four days of camp. He beat Sewell on an inside swim move to get to the quarterback on Saturday.
But then they strapped on the pads for their next practice, and Sewell came out on top.
And that’s a good thing. This is an important developmental stage for Hutchinson, and he’s getting a lesson unlike any other rookie pass rusher in the league. Sewell is still young — just 21 years old — but he also ranked among the league’s top right tackles last year. That guy has allowed just one sack in his last 11 games, despite playing between left and right tackle before he’s old enough to buy beer.
A year later, he returned smarter than ever.
“Oh (this year) it feels a lot different,” Sewell said. “I feel more comfortable with that. I know the system. I know V. Jonas. I know Deke. I know Frank. So that chemistry makes my job easier there. I know what to expect. The pace is slower. Not everything is coming at me at 1,000 miles. Everything is right. Yes, normal speed.
“… Everything was going so fast last year, especially after a year off. He forgot the speed a little. It’s normal now.”
If everything was “moving too fast” for Sewell last year, Lord knows what it’s going to be like this year.
Here’s betting Jeff Okudah has an idea.
A few more observations from the wrap-up exercise:
— Battles between the offensive and defensive lines are always a highlight of hole day, and as I said, Sewell wasn’t the only offensive lineman to stand out. Halapoulivaati Vaitai (off Michael Brockers and Levi Onwuzurike) and Frank Ragno (off Alim McNeil) made it 2-0 as Taylor Decker eliminated Charles Harris on a solo rep. The first team’s only non-winner came from Jonah Jackson, who fell behind at Brokers but recovered to hold the pocket. I describe that rep as pushing. Jackson won another rep over John Kominski.
— Charles Harris finally broke into the defense and got 10 full reps into practice after the second-team offense took the field (and that doesn’t include McNeil and Hutchinson playing offside). Other defensive winners include Austin Bryant, who beat Matt Nelson with an inside pass; Dan Campbell’s favorite Isaiah Buggs who defeated Logan Stenberg; James Huston, who showed me hitting a good juice in the man whose number I can’t read in my diary; and Bruce Hector plowing through undrafted rookie Zayn Obeid.
— Jared Goff opens practice by throwing to receivers in the air (in other words, no defense). This is a warm-up session designed to get everyone warm, loose and in rhythm. But as he put two straight shots off target, the first fell to the ground and the second required DJ Chark to go on his knees to catch him. Definitely not what you want to see from a QB1 anywhere in the league. Not in that drill.
Goff was sharp once practice rolled around, completing 9 of the 11 passes I saw him take. That included 6-on-6 efforts in the first round of team drills, with shortstops D’Andre Swift (twice), TJ Hockenson and Amon-Ra St. Brown. He then opened it up with a bomb to Josh Reynolds who had a move on Jeff Okudah.
— Dan Campbell singled out rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez as one of two players he wants to see in the pads. The sixth round pick did not disappoint. Rodriguez continued to show good instincts for a young player, including connecting with Craig Reynolds in the backfield if the play was live.
— Deuce Staley, running backs coach and assistant head coach, pauses the running backs’ individual drills to walk to the stands and separate the Kids’ Kicking Cancer team. Staley urged the fans to give the boys a standing ovation, and the runners’ backs were clapping for them. It was a great gesture from Staley to take that 10 seconds to make those kids’ day/week/month etc.