ALLEN PARK -- There's still plenty of work to do, but Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli was pleased with the team's three day rookie mini-camp this past weekend.
With over 40 rookies, some with a contract but most without, the first-year coaching staff walked away with a feeling of accomplishment.
"I loved how the energy was really good," said Marinelli. "Every practice I thought we got a little bit better. Not just the energy and the tempo, but the details. We found some guys in there I think. You never know, it's not padded and all of those things. The energy and the tempo, the coaches did a great job. I feel very good about it."
There were several bright spots, including walk-on Devale Ellis, a former standout receiver at Hofstra. Third-round draft choice Brian Calhoun (running back) was also impressive, demonstrating speed and sound agility, and drawing the attentiveness of offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Marinelli was quick to point out that the skill positions will typically shine given the type of drills the team performed.
"He's real quick, good speed (and) explosive," said Marinelli of Ellis. "That was exciting, seeing some of these kids (tryout). Some of the free agent signees really kind of popped out but again, it's built more for a skill camp too. Receivers and (defensive backs) can shine a little bit more and you've got to be a little bit smarter with the down guys but at least you can see some of the movement."
One of the stalwarts, offensive lineman Frank Davis of South Florida, was considered a 'key' signee during the undrafted free-agent period. Davis had offers from other teams, but settled on Detroit given the Lions' unstable offensive line situation and better chance at cracking the team.
Davis can play both guard and tackle, and demonstrated that versatility during the camp.
"(He's a) big, athletic man," said Marinelli. "He comes in with a lot of pass blocking background. Really I think movement-wise, the biggest thing is to just see what kind of run-blocker he can be. You can see him, he's 329 pounds; he's a big strong man and raw - which all of these guys will be."
Unlike the skill positions, Marinelli warned that players such as Davis, fifth round pick Jonathan Scott (offensive tackle) and seventh rounder Fred Matua (guard) have to prove their capabilities in pads.
"You bring them in to compete in camp but what you like (right now) is the size and the movement," said Marinelli. "That's what has gotten me excited about some of these guys. If you get too excited too quick, then you get in pads and they can't block anybody. You want to see the base stuff that they've got (right now). I loved how they work and that's important."
Raw talent and athletic prowess doesn't necessarily translate into an NFL-ready player, something that will be decided by the coaching staff on an individual-by-individual basis. Prior to the team's next mini-camp at the end of the month, Marinelli and his assistants will evaluate and pluck the players they believe have an opportunity to succeed at the next level. While it's unlikely that any more than a handful of the unsigned talent will garner an invite to future camps, they'll each be given a fair assessment.
"We've got to sit down as a staff and talk about all of the guys that we looked at," said Marinelli. "There's a couple (tryout players) that really jumped out at us and then some of the (rookie) free agent signings. As you know, players come from everywhere.
"We're excited about it. I just really like the process."
Added Marinelli, "What you do now is just sit down as a staff and see who we really want to bring in and what it looks like. We'll add, hopefully, one or maybe two of the tryout guys to the rest of our offseason (program). Then they can come in and compete with our veterans."
Second round pick Daniel Bullocks (Nebraska) takes instruction from an assistant coaching.