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Detroit Lions-The Battle For The Number Two Receiver Begins

Who will become the Detroit Lions number two receiver? As training camp nears we assess the competition to start next to Amon-Ra St. Brown.
wide receiver Jameson Williams of the Detroit Lions

DWith his new $120 million contract firmly in hand, Amon-Ra St. Brown is locked in as Jared Goff‘s number-one receiver and poised to have another record-breaking season. But who will become the Detroit Lions’ number two receiver?  The competition for that second slot is wide open. 

Detroit Lions-The Battle For The Number Two Receiver Begins

St. Brown’s four-year extension to lead the Lions’ receiving corps makes the talented superstar one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL. Earning that contract, St. Brown endeared himself to Lions’ fans over the past three years for his unwavering work ethic and his on-field achievements. With 119 receptions for 1,515 yards and ten touchdowns, he was among the league leaders in 2023 in virtually every category. He finished third in the league for the most yards, the most receptions, the most catches per game, and the most first downs. In addition, St. Brown ranked fourth in the NFL for receiving touchdowns. 

A Tremendous Work Ethic and Drive To Succeed

But it’s not just his performance metrics that make St. Brown such a standout; it’s his motivational drive and work ethic.  Selected in the fourth round of the 2021 draft as the 17th wide receiver chosen and the 112th player taken overall, St. Brown remembers the pain of watching so many others go before him. But he uses that pain to push himself even further. Every day before practice, St. Brown reads the list of the 16 individuals whose names were called before him as added motivation. Among the first players to show up for practice and the last to leave, he logs extra time in the weight room or on the practice field. St. Brown’s hardcore work ethic is contagious, often inspiring other players to follow his lead.    

What It Takes To Be The Best

Jameson Williams is one of the young teammates inspired by St. Brown. ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard spoke with Williams last year. “For me, just watching him and seeing him for the past year or two, it’s just making me step up on my game a little bit,” said Williams, the 12th overall pick in 2022. “I’ve got to get back to what I’ve been doing … the way he works, that’s how you work if you want to be great.”

Beset by an ACL injury in his first year and off-the-field gambling issues last season, this is a make-it-or-break-it year for the former Alabama wideout. The Lions invested a lot of faith in Williams, trading up in the draft to acquire him. When he was involved in the 2023 gambling scandal that saw other participants cut from the team, team management chose to give him a second chance.

Now, in the third year of his rookie contract, Williams knows the only way he can reward the Lions’ faith in him is to step up and perform. Although he demonstrated flashes of speed and downfield ability, Johnson rarely called on him in last year’s offensive scheme. If he hopes to become the number two man behind St. Brown, “Jamo” must become a consistent, reliable scoring threat for the Lions.

Veteran Wide Receiver Talent

A trio of veterans on the Lions roster could signal an opportunity for a competitive advantage. Former  New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith could become the Lions’ number two receiver.  Following his release from the Saints after an injury in 2022, Smith spent last season with the Denver Broncos. During his career with the Saints, Smith played in 66 games and is credited with 131/196 receptions for 1,764 yards and 18 touchdowns. Although his former coach, Sean Payton, displayed confidence in signing Smith, he struggled with the Broncos. Playing in only one game, he failed to draw any targets. Now that he’s fully recovered from his injury, the 6’2″ Smith can make big plays. He is known to be agile and versatile and should thrive in this new environment.

Donovan Peoples-Jones

Selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 6th round of the 2020 draft, Donovan Peoples-Jones was acquired in a 2023 trade for a 6th-round draft pick in 2025. The former University of Michigan Wolverine had his best year with the Browns in 2022 when he caught 61 receptions for 839 yards with three touchdowns. In addition to his skills as a receiver, Peoples-Jones is a strong punt returner.

In a 2023 game against the Houston Texans, he had a 76-yard punt return touchdown, earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. With career stats of 122 catches for 1,895 yards and nine touchdowns, Peoples-Jones should be a terrific go-to option for Goff.

Kalif Raymond

Kalif Raymond is another strong candidate for the number two receiver. An undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos from Holy Cross, Raymond signed with the Lions in 2021 after two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. At only 5’8″ tall, he lacks the stature of Peoples-Jones and Smith but Raymond found success with the Lions last season as a very capable punt and kickoff return specialist. His career stats include 56 punt returns for 463 yards and 53 kickoff returns for 1,086 yards. 

Other Receiving Options

Goff has two other receiving options who have already proven their value to this team. Last year’s rookie standouts, tight end Sam LaPorta, and running back Jahmyr Gibbs are talented athletes who played a huge role in the Lions’ success. Both were candidates for the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Splitting the running back role with David Montgomery, the pair were one of the best tandem running backs in the NFL a year ago. Gibbs earned just under 1,000 yards rushing for 945 yards on 182 carries.  It’s worth noting that he brought in an additional 316 yards on 52 receptions with one touchdown. This talented young player has the potential to find an opening and torch the opposition as a scoring machine.  

Already regarded as one of the best tight ends in the NFL today, Sam LaPorta set the NFL ablaze in his rookie year with 889 yards on 86 receptions with 10 touchdowns. He scored the most receptions ever by a rookie tight end, finished the year ranked among the top 10 for all tight ends, and was the top-scoring fantasy tight end. He’s developed terrific chemistry with Goff so there is no reason to expect his production will diminish this year.   

Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson’s roster is stacked with talent and the coaching staff is known for developing talent and inspiring success. The competition for the Detroit Lions’ number two receiver role is fierce but that’s not a bad problem to have.  

Main Photo: [Eric Seals] – USA Today Sports

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