The Detroit Lions didn’t give Trinity Benson much time to settle in last year. Detroit traded for the 24-year-old wide receiver less than two weeks prior to their season opener, and Benson was immediately asked to jump into the lineup. He played 49 snaps in Week 1 and at least 20 snaps in each of the team’s first five games.
Unfortunately for Benson, it didn’t click right away. He caught just six passes for 55 yards in those five games combined, as Detroit’s passing offense limped through the first quarter of the season.
“(It was) definitely challenging,” Benson told reporters on Wednesday. “Just coming from Denver, just being with them during the preseason, learning that offense, and then coming here, basically Week 1, trying to learn this offseason. Basically just getting thrown off the deep end.”
At the end of the season, Benson was determined to make it work. He met with head coach Dan Campbell to see what he could do to turn around his fortunes in Detroit.
“He came up after the season, and he’s like, ‘Coach, what do I got to do? What do I really need to do?’” Campbell said. “And we talked about it and he took it serious.”
The results have been immediately noticeable during the Lions’ offseason program. While Benson is repping with the second-team offense, he has been making huge plays on a daily basis with the capabilities of both stretching the ball downfield and being used as a short target with yards-after-the-catch potential.
Campbell credits that to Benson’s god-given speed, and, more importantly, a confident mentality that is processing things quicker now.
“Speed. Speed, speed, speed. Like that’s what’s really showing and you didn’t always feel (it) because he was feeling his way through it,” Campbell said. “He wasn’t real confident as to, ‘What (do) I need to do here? What’s the look? Should I lean on him? Should I break in, out?’ And then the quarterback is waiting on it. There’s just this rapport that comes with it, and so I think his confidence is up and you’re really— the speed is really showing.”
Benson, too, admits that he was guilty of overthinking last year.
“Last year, I was really just out there thinking,” Benson said. “The mind was tying up the feet. Now that I’m learning the offense, I’m getting those reps that I really needed last year. I’m getting them this year. Now, I’m just playing freely and making the plays.”
Unfortunately for Benson, his journey to the 53-man roster will be much tougher this year. In the offseason, the Lions signed DJ Chark, re-signed Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond to two-year deals, and drafted Jameson Williams with the 12th overall pick. That’s already four receivers who are likely ahead of him on the depth chart, and Amon-Ra St. Brown makes five.
To his credit, though, Benson has not only made an impression making plays of offense, but Detroit believes in his potential as a special teamer.
“He’s pretty tough. I think he can help us on special teams,” Campbell said. “I think he can be gunner, and so if we can feel that speed, and he continues to catch the ball, and do what he’s done in spring, and then he comes out and competes at a gunner on special teams, I think that serves him well, serves us well.”
Benson knows that the competition is much tougher this year around, so his focus is on making the most of every rep he gets, whether it be at receiver or gunner.
“Every time the ball comes my way, I look at it as an opportunity. Every time I’m out there, it’s an opportunity to make a play. I just make the most of every opportunity.”