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Thunder, injuries rain on Lions’ camp before final stretch of preseason

August 22, 2009
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In addition to the scattered thunderstorms that interrupted this afternoon’s practice, key injuries in the Lions’ secondary could be a cause for concern entering the final week of the preseason.

(–) sat out of today’s 3:00 pm practice, as both were injured during what players called an intense evening practice yesterday.

Though he confirmed that he’s nursed  (–) back to about 100%, he did express concern about the apparent (–) that kept him in shorts Friday afternoon. For a Lions’ defense that already needs to replace the experience of last year’s captain free safety Dave Fontura (graduation), the team could undoubtedly benefit from a healthy (–).

Beres also paced the Lions’ sideline, sporting a light brace (–). Beres, whose four interceptions in ’08 were fourth-best in the conference, said he suffered a (–) in last night’s action. Though he didn’t offer a timetable for his return, he didn’t seem to concerned overall.

Other morning buzz in Trenton included this morning’s departure of one of the defense’s surprise gems last season, linebacker Brett Ressler, whose recent slide on the depth chart may have contributed to his unexpected decision to leave the team. In addition to the spark he provided for the team’s linebacker corps (35 total tackles in 10 games as a sophomore) his reputation as a vocal leader will likely be missed.

Other notes and observations from today’s soggy training session:

  • Matt Krieder and Dean Misura took reps with the first-team defense in (–)’s and (–)’s absence.

Misura doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but he’ll make up for it with his athleticism. He’s a quick and fluid player whose talents earned him a spot covering opposing gunners on punt return duty last season. His calmness and level-headedness should help the junior from Holmdel improve in defensive coordinator Matt Hamilton’s scheme as quickly as he needs to.

  • Krieder and Erick Hendrickson were undoubtedly the afternoon’s top performers.

Krieder’s ability to consistently match up with the some of conference’s most talented wideouts is entertaining to watch. He won’t get beat too frequently, but if he does, he’ll surprise quarterbacks with how quickly he can track down faster competition. If the discipline he displayed after an otherwise elusive double-move from Mark Gardner becomes a habit, the sky’s the limit for his success in ’09.

I’ve never thought Hendrickson was slow, but I was surprised how easily he blew by Lion DBs during one-on-one competition. When he couldn’t get distant separation, he used his body effectively to box out well-positioned defenders. Best of all was his facial expression after he hauled in a bomb from Bill Picatagi in the corner of the end zone: he didn’t seem the least bit surprised.

  • Secondary coach Andy Larkin’s passion for the game is inspiring.

It’s clear that the former Notre Dame High grad loves his continued participation with his alma mater. He demands perfection and offers colorfully specific guidance to his players when their performance isn’t up to par. Larkin, who graduated in 2007, captained the co-NJAC Champion squad that captured its first piece of the conference title since 1998.

  • The defense looked comfortable running Hamilton’s 3-3-5.

This has got to be especially comforting to the coaching staff, in lieu of the recent injuries. The package should be used frequently in a pass-happy conference that’s seen more and more of the spread offense in recent years. The popular offensive strategy that’s yielded plenty of success in Division I has nearly completed it’s takeover of the NJAC, making other approaches the overwhelming minority.

Weather-permitting, I’ll be keeping an eye on a linebacker corps — possibly minus a rising star — that recently welcomed former players Joe Spahn and Chris Jones. Should their return have the impact I think it will, expect a day-to-night improvement from a Lions defense that allowed 398 yards and 29.9 per game in ’08.

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