ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Observations, thoughts and notes from Day 5 of training camp for the Detroit Lions before the franchise’s mock game at Ford Field on Saturday morning.
1. It’s been rough for rookie Teez Tabor: Tabor’s speed became a story after he ran a slow 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February. He took offense to it. His mom wasn’t too happy about it. And Lions general manager Bob Quinn put in a lot of time scouting Tabor before making him the team’s second-round pick. So far, Tabor has been inconsistent. There have been flashes of his ability with some pass breakups, but especially in one-on-one drills, he’s been beat deep. That happened twice Friday -- once by veteran Jared Abbrederis and a second time by fellow rookie Kenny Golladay. The Golladay catch was even more glaring because it looked like Golladay just ran away from Tabor as he got to the end zone to make a fairly easy grab.
“Just knowing going in, young guy, it’s going to be a transition,” Tabor said. “There’s going to be ups and downs. But you take them all the same. The ups are the same as the downs and just come back to work the next day.”
Tabor said it’s “about 50-50” between ups and downs. Don’t sweat about this too much yet, though. It’s still the first week of training camp and Tabor isn’t expected to be a starter this season. Even if the Lions had wanted him to challenge Nevin Lawson for the role, Lawson has had a good camp and should be the starter opposite Darius Slay. This is about the future for Tabor and he’ll grow from this. Remember, Slay struggled his rookie year, too, eventually being pulled from the lineup in favor of Rashean Mathis.
2. Ameer Abdullah looks healthy: We won’t know for sure until he takes a hit, but Abdullah looks like the same player he was before the Lisfranc injury. In a practice that focused heavily on run game in team periods, Abdullah looked decisive in his cuts and had a few runs where he was able to get outside well. It’s tough to truly gauge since the Lions weren’t tackling, but the elusiveness and speed seem to still be there for Detroit’s starting running back. Beyond him, Zach Zenner got a lot of first-team reps at the goal line -- a role initially slated for Dwayne Washington at the beginning of last season. Washington got some work in there as well, but Zenner seems in position to get a consistent role in 2017.
3. Tavon Wilson’s approach: The starting strong safety was injured this week while trying to defend a pass thrown to tight end Darren Fells. He missed one day and has been in a red no-contact jersey since. He’s been using the time on the field to focus on his reads. He said he doesn’t know when he’ll be back to full contact -- that’s up to the trainers, he said -- but that the injury is "not serious." He also said how he is handled the rest of the preseason is not up to him.
“Right now, I’m just working hard with the trainers, working hard out here,” Wilson said. “I do whatever I’m told, man. If they feel like I’m ready to go out there and play, I’ll play.”
The Lions likely don’t need to see much of him because he’s a veteran and they know what they have. If the Lions choose to be cautious with him, it could mean more reps for several players: Miles Killebrew, who should have some role in the defense; Alex Carter, who is transitioning from cornerback; and Charles Washington.
4. They are “coming along”: That was the answer coach Jim Caldwell gave when asked about Ezekiel Ansah and Eric Ebron. Ansah is on PUP and Ebron has been out since injuring a hamstring the first day of training camp. Both have been present every day and neither injury appears to be too serious, considering both have been seen walking fairly normally. When Caldwell was asked if the Lions would be cautious with both considering their injury histories -- particularly early in training camp and in-season -- Caldwell pushed those decisions to the doctors.
“When our medical staff and the doctors deem that they are practice-worthy, then they practice,” Caldwell said. “So, we don’t try to be any more cautious with anyone else, we look at them for their own merits and whether or not they can do their job, can’t practice, practice modification, whatever that takes. And they let us know and then we put them to work afterwards.”
I would expect the Lions to ease both players into work the rest of the preseason to make sure they are fully healthy and prepared for Week 1 against Arizona.
5. A bigger role for Brandon Copeland? The linebacker/defensive end has had a good camp so far and appears to be pushing Antwione Williams for a starting spot at strongside linebacker. He’s gotten some reps with the No. 1 defense over the first week and has looked good in individual pass-rush drills, mostly against tight ends. He’s an intriguing player for Detroit, too, because he can play inside and outside linebacker and defensive end. Plus, he’s a core special-teams performer. He’ll be a guy to pay attention to throughout the rest of the preseason.
This and that
Right guard T.J. Lang, defensive end Cornelius Washington, linebacker Thurston Armbrister, wide receiver Ryan Spadola and running back Mike James joined Ebron in sitting out practice. ... NFL officials were at practice Friday (Terry McAuley’s crew) and will be in town for the weekend, including at Saturday’s mock game at Ford Field.