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Detroit Lions want Kenny Golladay to be like DeAndre Hopkins; other coordinator takeaways

Detroit Lions coordinators Darrell Bevell, Cory Undlin and Brayden Coombs met with reporters, virtually, Saturday for the first time in training camp.

All three had sessions jam-packed with interesting football and personal nuggets. Here are the highlights:

• Undlin, the Lions' first-year defensive coordinator, said Sunday will mark the first time he'll be meeting his entire defense face-to-face since he was hired back in January. 

In a normal year, that meeting would have happened three months ago, shortly after rookie minicamp. Undlin, of course, has been having regular Zoom meetings with players dating back to the spring, but he's still excited to finally be in front of his guys.

"To say excited would be an understatement, obviously," he said. "I’ve got a great feel for all those guys and I think they all have a great feel for me. Whether we were in the meeting room or virtual, however, there obviously is a different feel when you can do it after six months and then now you’re physically in the same room. There is a difference. We know that. And yeah, I can’t wait. I think they would say the same."

[ Jamie Collins explains his versatility and production: ‘My stats is through the roof’ ]

• Undlin once again declined to say if he'll be calling defensive plays this fall, saying he's "trying to get through the first day of training camp here first." Lions coach Matt Patricia, as he has the last two years, is expected to play a significant role in the installation and play calling of the Lions defense this fall.

• Saturday marked the eighth day players were allowed in the Allen Park practice facility, but their work so far has been limited to strength and conditioning training, meetings and walk-throughs. That'll be the case for another week, and Bevell, in his second season as offensive coordinator, said only then will be able to get a sense of how soon rookies D'Andre Swift, Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg can contribute.

Swift is expected to share the backfield workload with Kerryon Johnson this season, and Jackson and Stenberg are competing for the starting guard spots.

"All our rookies coming in, definitely they’re going to be behind the eight ball a little bit. The zoom meetings I think have helped. We’ve had more meeting time than we’ve ever had, so in terms of the information, I think they’re going to be able to handle some of that but still you have to have the applied science. You got to get out there on the grass and be able to see them react and read."

For Jackson and Stenberg, third- and fourth-round picks, that's particularly important.

[ Is new Lions guard Logan Stenberg the next Bill Laimbeer? ]

"In offensive line, you've always heard me talk about, the combinations and how your guy next to you is coming off a combination, how they communicate, how they pass things off," Bevell said. "So every position has just little nuance to it that really we need to see those guys get on the field and how fast they can pick up on that."

• Eight different Lions have spent time on the reserve-COVID-19 list so far this summer, but Bevell said players were taking part in virtual meetings even when they weren't allowed in the building. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Kenny Golladay are among those who've been activated off the list, while T.J. Hockenson and Amani Oruwariye are among those still out.

• Golladay led the NFL with 11 touchdown catches last season and made his first Pro Bowl, and Bevell said there's still another level he can reach with his game.

[ Golladay poised to land new contract: Here's what it could look like ]

"Really you want him to be thought of in those upper echelon guys with the (DeAndre) Hopkins and (Michael) Thomas, those type of players, where he really is dictating to the defense how they have to cover him," Bevell said. "Sometimes (when) that guy gets double coverage, they're worried about him all the time and you help your teammates, but when you’re in that go-to opportunity and that’s the guy that everybody knows Kenny Golladay’s getting the ball and everybody knows he’s still going to make the play, that’s really where we’re trying to get him to, to be that dominant level player."

More: This season promises to test what's never been a Lions strong suit: Depth

• Two of the Lions' three specialist jobs, at punter and long snapper, are up for grabs this summer, with Jake Fox and Arryn Siposs competing for the punting job and undrafted rookie Steve Wirtel battling incumbent Don Muhlbach for the long snapper spot.

Asked about the punting competition, Coombs, in his first season with the Lions, said, "Those two guys, they’re both very talented. I think they both have high ceilings. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. Neither of them has done it in a game. With no preseason that’s definitely going to be a little different, but we’re going to find ways to make it hyper competitive in practice and put them under competitive situations and we’ll see who rises to the top. I’m really, really excited for both of those guys.”

• Fox and Siposs are essentially on equal ground, with neither having played a snap for the Lions before (though Fox was on practice squad late last season). The dynamic is a little different at long snapper, where Muhlbach has a long resume of high-level play and Wirtel is coming straight from college.

Coombs did say being able to work with Wirtel at the Senior Bowl does him some comfort in knowing Wirtel's abilities.

More on Lions: 53-man roster prediction: Is a change at long snapper in the cards?

"It was really, retrospectively it’s been even probably a bigger deal that we had that week together," he said. "Had a chance to get to know him there and probably would say similarly to Arryn was just drawn to his demeanor, the way he goes about his business, the way he handles himself. Had a chance to see him snap up close in person. All that stuff was great, he’s been great all spring and I’m excited to have him here and get him going with the rest of those guys."

• When you cover this sport long enough you get a sense of which assistants are on the head coach trajectory, and I certainly came with that feeling about Coombs. He's young at 33 years old and well schooled as the son of Ohio State assistant Kerry Coombs, but more than that he has some of the small details buttoned up like head coaches do. Case in point, at the end of his video conference Saturday, Coombs thanked everyone in the Lions organization who made their return to work possible, saying there are "a lot of people here in there building that had to do a lot of things that they never really signed up for, weren’t part of their job description, while quite frankly I spent a lot of the summer on a boat. Just really appreciative of those people."

• Lastly, Bevell still is sporting what he called his "quarantine beard," though he's undecided if he'll keep it for the regular season.

"I kind of just let it go, see what would happen and then my wife ends up liking it," he said. "I got a couple comments like I look younger so I don’t know, maybe if I’m turning back the clock and it’s helping me then maybe I need to keep it."

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