The Detroit Lions had no trouble fitting Josh Reynolds into their offense as a mid-season addition last year, but new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson says it might be a little harder to do. this season with rookie receiver Jameson Williams.
“It’s going to be a challenge because you can’t really compare it to Josh Reynolds’ situation from last year, which I would like to do because he came in late and he had to learn, and we didn’t really know him and what he necessarily did best,” Johnson said. “But at least there was a level of comfort between him and the quarterback, and we don’t have that.”
Reynolds caught 19 passes for 306 yards in seven games with the Lions last season after they claimed him off waivers from the Tennessee Titans in early November.
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The Lions were struggling offensively at the time and shorthanded at receiver after losing Tyrell Williams to a brain injury; Reynolds played his first four seasons with Lions quarterback Jared Goff with the Los Angeles Rams.
Williams was considered one of the best receivers in this year’s draft, but he is not training with the team as he recovers from a torn ACL he suffered in January.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes has pledged to slow things down with Williams’ rehabilitation, and the Lions will have a decision to make this summer on how best to bring Williams up to speed.
If Williams starts the season on the roster physically unable to perform, he will have to miss at least the first six games and will not be able to train with the team until October.
If he starts the season on the active roster with no intention of playing in the early games, the Lions would be one player short to start the year.
“It’s a real struggle for us, it’s getting him back, getting him back to good health, and then (getting him) as many reps as possible with the quarterbacks so we know exactly where he’s going to be, we can anticipate the pitch,” Johnson said. “It’s the one thing that (Goff) had naturally with Josh coming from their LA days, so yeah, it might take a little while.
“I think we have a good vision of how we want to use him, though, and right now our biggest issue with him is just the mental. We have to keep charging him and let this thing sink.”
Johnson praised Williams’ approach to practice at organized team activities. Williams took a game sheet to follow the training plan to the Lions’ two open training sessions, and Johnson said he was “engaged at every meeting, so that’s good to see.”
The Lions have a more experienced receiving corps than last season, with Reynolds, Amon-Ra St. Brown and the addition of free agent DJ Chark as their top pass catchers, and Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus among those coming out from the bench.
Johnson said he likes how Lions receivers complement each other in size and speed.
“We have smart players,” he said. “Really, in all areas we have smart players, which again we’re talking about the verbiage and all that. The system. It’s necessary. We have to have smart players if we’re going to be able to attack defenses in the way we’re looking to attack them. This room is looking really good right now. If we just keep staying healthy and pushing each other and the sky’s the limit.
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.