INDIANAPOLIS — The Detroit Lions got exactly what they needed from a long weekend in Indianapolis.
Two practices against another team provided a fresh perspective on the progression they’ve made in training camp — and a valuable preview of what to expect in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Colts.
“It was excellent. I can’t tell you how valuable these sessions have been for us,” coach Jim Caldwell said after the second joint practice in two days.
“Where you don’t get a chance to work against anyone else other than yourself from the spring and most of the summer and then you get an opportunity to see different schematics on all sides of the ball.”
The Lions should get good reviews from the film room — even with right guard T.J. Lang and left tackle Taylor Decker sitting out Friday. Decker’s backup, Greg Robinson, also didn’t practice.
Still, the offense looked solid and the defense took advantage of a Colts’ offense that has been severely depleted by injuries.
Andrew Luck continues to work his way back from the physically unable to perform list, center Ryan Kelly is now expected to miss multiple weeks after injuring his foot Thursday, starting guards Joe Haeg and Jack Mewhort both sat out Friday and receiver Phillip Dorsett missed another workout with an injured hamstring.
That left the Colts in a deep hole, one they’re unlikely to overcome before Sunday’s game.
The good news is that if Indy does have to use a patchwork line, with undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond starting in place of Kelly, their franchise quarterback won’t be taking the hits.
Instead, the snaps will be divvied up between Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris and Phillip Walker. Morris, who has been on the practice squad the past two years, and Walker have never thrown an NFL pass. Tolzien is 0-2-1 in three career starts, and all three entered the league as undrafted rookies.
Not surprisingly, the training camp aesthetics haven’t been good.
“It’s been hot and cold,” Tolzien said, evaluating his own performance through the first two weeks of training camp. “Shoot, you could say that pretty much every day. It’s like anything in football, you just watch the film and try to minimize the mistakes.”
It took only two practices for the Lions to expose some of Indy’s more glaring flaws.
Aside from the injury-riddled offensive line, Tolzien, Morris and Walker struggled with accuracy and Detroit’s experienced secondary took advantage.
The Lions had two minor scares during the workouts.
Right tackle Rick Wagner left Thursday’s practice with an undisclosed injury, but returned to action Friday.
Matthew Stafford and running back Ameer Abdullah, meanwhile, banged knees during a morning drill. Both continued to practice and finished the workout.
“I was on the other field so I didn’t see it but I heard about it,” Caldwell said. “I didn’t hear any ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the crowd so I didn’t worry too much about it.”
Neither workout was open to the public.
But now that the rookies understand how challenging NFL life can be outside the team complex, coaches and teammates will look for the payoff Sunday.
“I remember when I was a young guy, sometimes you’d start to learn plays, knowing what to do and then you went to test your skills against another opponent and it wasn’t the same,” Lions safety Glover Quin said.
“You have to take it from the practice field to the game and you don’t have a lot of time to get coaching on the field. You just have to move on.”