Did the Detroit Lions find a steal in the fifth-round of 2020’s NFL Draft? Let’s take a look at how Quintez Cephus’ future looks promising.
With the Detroit Lions‘ head coach Matt Patricia’s job security becoming the main topic of discussion this week, let’s take a left turn and look at one player that might have gone unnoticed. Rookie wideout Quintez Cephus turned some heads.
Of course, it wasn’t anything spectacular. However, Cephus proved, at least to me, that he can be a starter in this league sooner rather than later.
Game One: Three catches on 10 targets for 43 yards
Two drops in the first quarter definitely hurts when attempting to build a rapport with your quarterback. At times, Cephus would allow his routes to be disrupted by a cornerback or linebacker when playing physical.
Luckily, quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t the type of player to punish his receivers for making mistakes. There are three plays from Cephus’ rookie debut that stood out. You can watch along here if you’d like.
1st quarter at 8:28, tie game, 1st and 10 on Bears’ 31-yard line
Detroit is in the I-Formation (fullback offset) against Chicago’s cover-three defense. The call is a play-action pass. Cephus is lined up left and is running a post route. He breaks seven yards in and puts himself right above the Linebackers zone coverage.
Execution is spot on. This play aims to freeze the linebackers with play action to give Cephus and wideout Marvin Jones enough space to work with. What impresses me is the timing, body movement, footwork, and separation during Cephus’ route. It’s something Lions’ receivers have struggled with in the past.
Result: 20 yard catch
1st quarter at 6:38, tie game, 3rd down and 8 on Bears’ 9 yard line.
Keeping this one simple, Bears are in a standard cover-two defense while Detroit is in the single-back formation. Cephus stands alone on the right side. He’s running a 10-yard in, at the same time tight end Jesse James performs the ugliest curl route I’ve ever seen.
If you watch closely, Cephus puts his outside hip on the cornerback covering him. Putting himself in a position to allow Stafford the opportunity to make a throw where only Cephus can catch it. If Stafford throws a better ball, there’s a good chance they score a touchdown.
Stafford seems to love good positioning out of his wide receivers. It’s one of wideout Kenny Golladay‘s strengths. Cephus does an excellent job of it again at the 34-second mark in the 4th quarter.
Result: Incomplete Pass
4th quarter at 7:30, Lions 23-Bears 13, 1st and 10 on Bears’ 49 yard line
Here is a different look, the Bears are running cover-one defense with man to man coverage. Lions, who come out in single-back formation with trips right, counter this by shifting slot receiver Danny Amendola to a tight end spot. Going from 21 personnel to 12 personnel.
Cephus is facing star cornerback Kyle Fuller. High probability that Stafford saw their corners playing back instead of pressing at the line. It makes me believe it was an audible at the line of scrimmage instead of a designed play.
Again, this was a smart call and good execution on Detroit’s end. Although it’s not exciting to mention it on the surface, Cephus’ route running ability is uncanny for a fifth-round rookie.
His 10-yard comeback against Fuller was perfect. Stafford was pressured and the throw was shifted outside just a bit, but it was still catchable. Concentration is an improving point for Cephus. He also displayed that route-running ability in the 4th quarter at 12:48 on a curl route against the zone defense.