Reunited and it Feels So Good

Josh Mandujano/Detroit Lions

Reunited and it Feels So Good

NFL

Reunited and it Feels So Good

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Josh Mandujano/Detroit Lions

At the start of 2021 season the Lions had a wide receiver room filled with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, now the position is one of the teams most glaring needs. They lack a true deep threat or the size of a true X receiver. Pending Golladay and Jones’ departures, Brad Holmes and company signed ex-Raider Tyrell Williams to a one-year, $6 million deal. 

Williams was injured for the entire 2020 campaign but had spent time with now offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn while playing for the Chargers, a couple seasons before catching six touchdowns from Derek Carr as a Raider. Williams recorded two catches for 14 yards before suffering a brain injury during the first half of the season opener versus the 49ers and hasn’t seen the field since. 

As training camp came to a close, the wide receiver room was composed of Williams, Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Quintez Cephus, Tom Kennedy, and Trinity Benson. At the start of the season, outside of Williams, all players combined had a total of 69 career receptions. The room lacked consistency and experience. 

Over the first eight games, according to Sharp Football Analysis, the Lions wide receiver room had a successful rate of targets percentage of 47%. This statistic measures the successful plays (catches) over passing attempts for all wide receivers in the team. This puts them at third to last in the league, trailing Pittsburgh at 45% and Carolina at 44%. For some context, the league leading team is Arizona with a success rate of targets of 66% for all wideouts. 

The Lions receivers saw a total of 137 targets to the 186 targets seen by the Cardinal wide receivers. In a room filled with unknowns and progressing stories, the Lions needed a receiver that can consistently contribute when given the chance. A player that can take the top off a defense. A player that has experience in the league and with the current signal-caller. Could the Lions have found that very player they were looking for?

On Wednesday, November 10 the Lions claimed Josh Reynolds, most recently a Titan who asked for his release after playing seven games for the team.

The Lions for once were able to benefit off of their winless record by having first dibs on claiming Reynolds off the waiver wire (the order of the wire is determined by current draft rankings). Reynolds was in a wide receiver room crowded with the likes of Julio Jones and AJ Brown on a run heavy team.

He wanted to go somewhere he could play, a place he could show his worth. To make room, the Lions came to an injury settlement with Williams before releasing him on Nov. 5.

Reynolds played four years with the Rams, all with Jared Goff as the starter, catching the majority of his 113 receptions and 1450 yards from Goff. During that period he caught nine touchdown passes. Much like Tennessee, Reynolds struggled to consistently find the field, starting 24 games over four years in LA.

He however was productive when given the opportunity, accumulating 52 receptions, 618 yards and two touchdowns across 13 games started. Those numbers took place during his last year in Los Angeles as the team elected not to re-sign the Texas A&M product after recently extending Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.

Reynolds clearly has the drive to play and contribute, made evident by his request to be released from the current AFC leader and being thrilled to be picked up by the league’s worst team.

Let’s take a look at some of Reynolds plays over his four and half year career.

This first clip is from the 2019 NFC championship game, as the New Orleans Saints hosted the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams were driving down the field to tie the game up with under two minutes remaining. Reynolds runs a dig route across the middle of the field with the corner playing way off. Reynolds gets tackled as soon as he attempts to secure the ball but is able to spin out and continues to run up field. Moments later he gets tackled to the ground. Nice job of making the contested catch over the middle of the field. Is able to spin out of the tackle and heads upfield to gain some more yardage.

Another example of making a tough catch over the middle occurs during the 2019 week eight game against the Bengals in London, England. Bengals are in zone on this play and Reynolds races past the linebacker and finds the open spot behind the backer in between both safeties. Goff places the ball away from the closing safety trying to protect his receiver, who adjusts to the ball and secures the catch through Shawn Williams’ heavy hit from behind. A tough catch for anyone.

Let’s take a look at some of Reynolds’ route running savvy. This clip is from the 2020 regular season, as the Rams host the Seahawks in week ten. On third and short, Reynolds is running a ten yard comeback route. He has a great release off the line, not allowing Tre Flowers to lay a hand on him. Reynolds hits the brakes when Flowers turns his body to peek into the backfield, Flowers continues running upfield allowing Goff to make the easy completion for the first down.

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Now let’s see an example of Reynolds’ strong hands. This clip is also from the week 10 game against the Seahawks. Second down and two to go, Reynolds runs an out route after faking inside. Goff’s ball is a tad bit behind Reynolds, yet he is able to come away with the catch and keep his feet inbound with Flowers draped all over him.

Finally, let’s take a look at a play from Reynolds time with the Titans, this coming from their week four-overtime loss against the Jets. Reynolds again showed his quick release, creating separation with only a few steps. Reynolds has a step on his defender in the endzone and creates some more separation with a slight push off. Unfortunately, he is unable to come down with the football.

Reynolds adds some much-needed firepower to a rather pedestrian Lions wide receiver room. Opening up the passing game will only prove to benefit their stout run game. The Lions are banking on Jared Goff’s former LA pal to stabilize this passing game, and it comes as a low-risk high-reward situation. The Lions are only on the hook for his base salary of $1 million for the rest of the year and can part ways after the season. They may very well have found a significant contributor to this offense for this year and with a tame quarterback draft pool this year, the Goff-Reynolds connection could be in Detroit next year as well.

Make sure to follow me on twitter @HalawehBelal to keep up to date with all Lions news as well as game recaps and film breakdowns.

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