Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Wide Receivers
Leading up to training camps, SideLion Report previews position groups for the Detroit Lions, and the rest of the NFC North. Today, we look at wide receivers.
In 2019, the Detroit Lions and the rest of the NFC North could easily yield some of the most productive wide receivers in the entire NFL. Naturally, that will depend on adjustments to new schemes for some, added pressure in critical years for others, and an overall theme of good health for the entire division.
Each team made some changes at the position this offseason, and each team also has an interesting mix of established veterans with promising young players. Here are their outlooks for the coming season, starting with the Lions;
Key returning players: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Andy Jones, Brandon Powell
New additions: Danny Amendola, Jermaine Kearse, Travis Fulgham (Rookie)
Key losses: T.J. Jones, Bruce Ellington
In his second season, Kenny Golladay firmly established himself as the Detroit Lions’ number one receiver, topping 1,000 yards through the air for the first time and stacking up a number of highlight-reel receptions. He is a dangerous downfield threat, though he is improving his ability to work the middle of the field and come down with the ball in traffic thanks to his size and physicality. He is likely to keep progressing going into 2019.
The Lions would love for him to get into the end zone more, as he has recorded just eight touchdowns in two seasons. He will also need to adapt to defenses paying more attention to him and shifting their game plans to try and slow him down. A return to health from running-mate Marvin Jones would certainly help relieve him of some of that pressure.
Jones had a rough 2018, after enjoying a breakout 2017 as one of the NFL’s premier deep targets. He was limited to nine games due to injury, and saw his yards per game dip below 60 for the first time since 2015. A return to health and to form will be critical not just for the Lions’ offense, but also for Jones himself; he is signed through 2020, but represents just $2.6 million in dead money after next season.
Danny Amendola comes off one of his weakest seasons as a pro with the Miami Dolphins, but the Lions jumped at the chance to add the former New England Patriot to the unit, in hopes that he can provide a steady presence in the slot, as well as helping the transition to the kind of culture that head coach Matt Patricia covets. At 34, he isn’t a long-term answer for the unit, but could serve as an excellent option on short, crossing routes for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
In a move likely connected to new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, wideout Jermaine Kearse was brought in late in free agency after two seasons with the New York Jets. Kearse played under Bevell from 2012-2017 when Bevell ran the offense for the Seattle Seahawks. Kearse offers some versatility to the group and a player whose transition to the Lions should be relatively seamless thanks to his familiarity with the offense.
It’s hard to envision a situation where the Lions keep more than five wide receivers on the initial 53-man roster, so any players towards the back of the depth chart will have to bring multiple skills to the table. Rookie Travis Fulgham figures to get his share of opportunities in training camp, and he has solid downfield ability in the vein of Jones and Golladay.
Returning contributors Andy Jones and Brandon Powell offer excellent blocking and tremendous speed, respectively, but could be competing with each other for one spot on the roster. Both offer special teams value, but they will likely need to show that they can help on offense to stick around come September.
Look for a heavier dose of running plays in Detroit than in years past, but the Lions are also primed to take their share of shots down field with Golladay and Marvin Jones leading the way. A bounce back year from Jones and another leap forward for Golladay will be pivotal for this group’s success.