The schedule has provided the Detroit Lions a much-needed bye week following their blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Amid this otherwise punt of a season, the Lions can look towards some of their young guys for more production. One of those players is rookie wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, who should be given many more opportunities after the bye to show Detroit what they have.
Detroit lacks any excuses to get the rookie involved on the offense. Injuries to Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus have opened up that door of opportunity for St. Brown. In Week 7 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the versatile wideout had just three catches for 46 yards on five targets from Jared Goff. It would’ve been 35 more yards if not for a penalty that had nothing to do with the outcome of a play. How many times have Lions fans heard that this year?
Interestingly, St. Brown is that the Lions took him with visions of a limited slot receiver. Due to an ever-rotating depth chart at wideout so far this year, Detroit has had to adjust those plans.
In Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings, St. Brown had his most productive performance to date. He hauled in seven catches for 65 yards on eight targets. What made it fascinating was that the Lions lined him up on the outside, along with putting him in his natural spot in the slot. After that game, St. Brown has primarily been used back in his slot role, and his numbers have dipped. After playing 43 snaps (62%) on offense in Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams and not even sniffing a target, it became clear that Detroit should utilize St. Brown in other ways.
“I think we need to look long and hard at (Amon-Ra) St. Brown,” Campbell said. “Are there things that we can use him, that we can do that really will help him help us? Maybe that’s the best way to put it. We have to start looking at some of these guys.”
Detroit is at a point in their season where they desperately need to find their first win. But they also need to brainstorm and try out different looks with young guys like St. Brown to see their impact. It’s not shocking to see a rookie fourth-round pick who had been getting semi-consistent targets find himself in a game like the one against the Rams where Goff didn’t look at him once. However, for the path this team is on amid a rebuild, it can’t be the standard anymore.
This is the time for the Lions to find out who they have heading into what will likely be a painful rebuild. St. Brown has the spark in his game to elevate the offense, but he’ll need looks in various ways to do so. That includes lining up more on the outside.
Maybe it doesn’t work, and the long-term projection in the slot is the right call. If that’s the case, so be it. But now is the time to find out. Nobody will blame the Lions if that’s the case. They will be blamed for not trying to answer those questions amid an otherwise deflated season.
This is another miserable year in terms of wins and losses, but one thing that they can use to their benefit is a trial-and-error method with their younger players that other teams who are in contention don’t have the luxury of doing. It doesn’t make Detroit’s situation better; they’d much rather be winning. It’s impossible to paint this year as anything other than disappointing for the Lions. You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig. The difference for Detroit is finding ways to turn those disadvantages and down spots into different looks for someone exactly like Amon-Ra St. Brown.
St. Brown won’t be taking away opportunities from other young wide receivers on this roster. He is the young prospect for Detroit, point-blank. This rookie season alone may not give them a definitive answer as to whether or not he can be used in an array of different ways, but they’ll at least have a clearer idea of what they’ve got to work with.
St. Brown was projected by some to go as early as the second round in the 2021 NFL Draft. He slipped to the fourth round, where Detroit snagged him. The Lions had a shortage of playmaking wide receivers entering the offseason, so the move made plenty of sense. Now it’s time for Campbell and the rest of the staff to start utilizing the rookie in more ways than just a typical slot receiver.