We just recently discussed what’s next for Detroit Lions third-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. In two seasons, he’s established himself as one of the league’s best receivers, but in true St. Brown fashion, he’s not complacent with where he’s at.
One area where he will not have to grow much at all is against man coverage. This week, PFF ranked the top 10 wide receivers against man coverage, and St. Brown came in at the No. 1 on the list after his 2022 performance. Posting a 90.8 PFF grade against that coverage, St. Brown edged both Ja’Marr Chase and CeeDee Lamb—who each posted 90.7 grades—for the top spot.
“St. Brown had a career year last season for Detroit, proving to be one of the league’s best slot receivers,” PFF’s Braxton Howard wrote. “He had an impressive 127.7 NFL passer rating when targeted against man coverage, which ranked inside the top 10. Not only did he rank top 10 in that area, but also with a 2.82 yards per route run; both of which were better numbers than what he posted when facing zone coverage.”
St. Brown was also pretty strong against zone coverage, too. Per Howard, he finished ninth in that category. Of course, that all makes sense when you remember that St. Brown had the second-highest overall PFF grade amongst all 2022 NFL receivers.
What makes him so good against man coverage? Lions receivers coach Antwaan Randle-El recently talked about St. Brown’s route running—specifically his ability to quickly get in and out of breaks.
“He can get in and out of cuts so easily, he doesn’t have to do all that extra stuff, because he can get out of it so fast,” Randle-El said.
It’s worth noting that St. Brown does most of his damage in the short-to-intermediate part of the field. Per PFF, his 6.7 average depth of target ranks 89th out of 97 wideouts with at least 40 targets last year. Compare that to Chase (9.8) and Lamb (10.3), and it’s clear they have very different jobs. In general, it’s easier to get separation on shorter routes.
That said, St. Brown wants to expand that part of his game and become a deeper threat.
“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,” St. Brown said.
Given that St. Brown has basically accomplished everything you could possibly expect in his first two years in the NFL, I wouldn’t be surprised if he excelled at that in 2023.