The Detroit Lions didn’t have a particularly prolific pass offense in 2021, but their pass catchers did well in another category you might not expect.
The Detroit Lions finished the 2021 with the NFL’s 18th-ranked pass offense (211.6 yards per game), and that was with a slight late-season burst from quarterback Jared Goff (241 yards per game over his final five starts).
But the Detroit passing game did have productive players. Amon-Ra St. Brown was a revelation over the final six weeks. Despite essentially missing five games, D’Andre Swift had 62 receptions. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, with five missed games himself, had 61 catches. After being signed off waivers midseason, Josh Reynolds averaged 16.1 yards per catch as a Lion.
Goff was near the bottom of the league in any metric related to downfield throwing in 2021, which isn’t a suprise. But he did rank solidly in on-target and catchable throw rates (via Sports Info Solutions), and the Lions’ pass catchers did not drop very many passes either.
Detroit Lions’ pass catchers excelled in another area in 2021
In his look at top draft prospect wide receivers taking part in the upcoming NFL Combine, Tim Twentyman of Lions.com ended with a statistical note.
"Key stat: Of the Lions’ 3,884 receiving yards this season, 2,111 came after the catch (54.4 percent), which was the third highest percentage in the NFL."
Having a running back as the second-leading receiver on the team invites a high rate of yards after the catch, and indeed Swift ranked highly among running backs with 503 yards after the catch (via Sports Info Solutions). St. Brown (430 yards after the catch), Kalif Raymond (275 yards after the catch) and Hockenson (211 yards after the catch) also had a fairly high percentage of their yards after the catch.
With a quarterback who was often unable or unwilling to stretch the field, especially in the first half of the season, the Lions pass catchers had to produce after they caught the ball. And, weighed against the rest of the league in terms of percentage of yardage, the numbers show they did.