The Detroit Lions had problems on top of problems in 2018 when it comes to wide receiver. Sure, Kenny Golladay had his coming-out party and hit 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career. But outside of that, they traded Golden Tate, who was their leading receiver at the time, Marvin Jones Jr. went down with injuries, Bruce Ellington was not Golden Tate and went, too, down with an injury. By the season’s end, the Lions were down to working with guys like Andy Jones and Brandon Powell.
It became clear that receiver was going to be an incredibly big need in the offseason. But the Lions botched their approach in fixing the problem.
It’s not like they didn’t try, though. They did sign Danny Amendola, who should play a major role in the Lions offense. But outside of that signing, there’s a lot left to be desired.
The Lions brought in Jermaine Kearse, who had previously worked with Darrell Bevell, to be their fourth receiver. But he, unfortunately, suffered a broken leg on the first series of the preseason. They also drafted Travis Fulgham, who has had somewhat of a rough camp and looks to be a long term project. Then there’s a slew of guys like Brandon Powell and Tom Kennedy that are either destined for the practice squad or destined to find their roles on other teams.
This feels like another perfect example of Bob Quinn’s compartmentalized offseasons. Quinn has spent each of his offseason’s furiously working on one or sometimes two sections of the team while ignoring everything else. For example, in his first offseason he worked on improving the Lions’ run game while ignoring the defensive line. Then he worked on fixing the offensive line while ignoring the tight ends. This year he fixed the tight ends and threw a ton of money at the defensive line, but ignored the receiver position—or at least didn’t put a strong enough focus on it.
Now the Lions have found themselves in some trouble. You could argue that they would be fine had Kearse not been injured, but he is. Now the Lions are doing that thing they do: They could fix a problem easily, but, instead, they go the “super smart” and frugal thing instead. The route that never seems to work out (see: 2018 tight ends).
This week, the Lions signed wide receiver Jordan Lasley. The team is chock full of receivers that have looked questionable all summer long, and then instead of working to improve that situation, they add a receiver with a questionable past and no proven production in the NFL.
Who knows? Lasley might be the second coming of Jerry Rice or something. He might just fit right in with the Lions and have a breakout campaign. But it seems likely that he will be cut by his third team since coming into the league last year. Then the Lions are right back at square one.
Then there’s Dontrelle Inman. He visited the team on Monday afternoon and left without a contract. There’s a guy that can easily fit in to that fourth role and give you maybe 300-400 yards receiving or, worst case scenario, fill in for one of the top three guys if an injury should happen to happen. But the Lions let him leave, and now he’s found a team.
A reunion: Free agent WR Dontrelle Inman is signing back with the LA #Chargers, source said. They made an offer that stood as he took visits. The #Jets made an offer, too, but the pull QB Philip Rivers played a big part. So he’s back.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 20, 2019
So what does the team do now? As it stands right now, the receiver that stands out the most is Chris Lacy. He’s looked good in camp. At some points he’s looked downright great. He’s even worked reps with the first team in place of Marvin Jones, who has missed some time with an injury.
He’s a guy you’d love to see succeed since he’s an undrafted guy who has worked his way up from the bottom of the depth chart to the point where he can and probably will make the team. But, so far, we’ve seen very little of him in a game. He’s caught two passes for 18 yards on four targets. It would be nice to get some more exposure to him Friday against the Bills.
My concern could be purely reactionary at this point, because you never know. The Lions might be just fine this season. After all, we’re talking about the Lions’ fourth receiver here—not exactly the team’s highest priority. If the Lions can stay healthy, they may never need to utilize any of these guys. But if they can’t, the Lions offense will look an awful lot like it did late in the season last year. That’s something this team just can’t take again.