Amon-Ra St. Brown wants to expand his game this season, and there are signs that goal may come to fruition.
Over the last two seasons, of course his first two in the league, Amon-Ra St. Brown has the eighth-most receptions in the NFL (196). But after last season ended, unsurprisingly and via Justin Rogers of The Detroit News, he was not satisfied with what he sees as a hole in his game.
"I don’t really get the ball thrown to me too much down the field. So, I’m not getting some of these opportunities some of the other players are getting. That’s something I want to get more opportunities to do going forward, having the ball thrown down the field, and not just catching it after 5 yards and making guys miss. I want to catch it 25, 30 yards down the field. You watch my tape this year, I really haven’t had any of those. I haven’t had anything over the shoulder, really.”""
The tape does not lie, and neither do the numbers. Just 8.9 percent (13) of St. Brown’s targets last season traveled over 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, with zero over 25 yards. By contrast, 69.2 percent (101) of his targets traveled 10 yards or less in the air.
Talking to Tim Twentyman of the Lions website, some time not too far after St. Brown's comments, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson signaled that he heard his best wide receiver's call to be used differently.
"We want to have him running all the routes, he can do all that.”He’s an ultimate chess piece that is fun. And we’re going to continue to push the limits with him,” “I think he’s made it well known, he wants to get that deep ball going a little bit this year. So, we’ll see what we can do.”""
Amon Ra St. Brown's goal to become deep threat takings steps toward being realized
In a pre-summer break notebook, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press had comments from Lions' wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El from the last few days of OTAs regarding how St. Brown can indeed become more of a deep threat.
"He can get in and out of cuts so easily, like he doesn’t have to give all that extra stuff cause he can just get out of it so fast," Randle El said last week. "So I just want (him) to just run that smooth route. Like, you don’t have to give any extra at the top of it, just, pop-pop, come on out of it and he’s been doing it in OTAs so that’s been a growth for him. So no extra movement, just get in the route, come out of it because he gets in the route so fast.""
St. Brown is not going to suddenly become a downfield contested catch maven. But he gets ample separation as a route running technician, and he's been quite good after the catch. So it may just be a matter of extending his route tree to include some deeper routes, and that will unlock something there this season. Having coaches on board with the notion can only help him reach his goal to be more of a downfield threat this season.