With veteran players out or missing from OTAs, Da’Shawn Hand stepped up.
As the hordes of media swarmed Matthew Stafford for the Detroit Lions quarterback’s first media session since his wife had brain surgery, second-year Defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand was one of the few remaining Lions players still on the field after Day 2 of OTAs concluded.
Hand was working with undrafted rookie defensive lineman Ray Smith, teaching him pass rush technique. Chris Burke of The Athletic captured the moment:
He’d get down in a 3-point stance, fire up into one of the sled’s dummies and work a club or swim move to the outside. Next, Smith mimicked him from the opposite side of the line, then Hand talked through the attempts before they did it again. Detroit’s 2018 draft pick appeared to be demonstrating for Smith elements like hand placement and strike point.
As Burke notes, this is almost identical to what Ricky Jean Francois did for the defensive line last year, which showed a ton of improvement as the season went on. Francois isn’t around this year—he currently remains a free agent—and with Damon Harrison Sr. still away from offseason activities, and Trey Flowers limited in participation, the Lions don’t have much of an on-field veteran presence on the defensive line right now.
For Hand to step up and assume that role as a 23-year-old player is a sign that he’s not only maturing at an astounding rate, but that the system is clicking with some of these players. In the past, head coach Matt Patricia has talked about the importance of players teaching themselves—they’ll only listen to the coaches for so long. If Hand is already taking up that role, he could be a key piece for Detroit’s defense for years to come.