Most young players in the NFL take their biggest leap in development between their first and second seasons, but there are times when that leap can happen throughout the course of a player's first season.
That was the case with Lions rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra. St. Brown last year. From Weeks 13-18, St. Brown had six straight games with at least eight receptions, the longest streak in team history and the longest for a rookie in NFL history.
Selected in the fourth round (112th overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft as the 17th receiver taken, St. Brown ranked at the top of his draft class and in NFL history in rookie production. He logged 90 receptions for 912 yards (10.1 avg.) and five touchdowns. His 90 receptions ranked second among all rookies.
St. Brown said he worked hard this offseason to improve every aspect of his game, and he'll know he's where he needs to be if he can pick up Week 1 right where he left off last season.
"For me, the end of last year I had more production. I think I want that same production starting right away this year," he said Friday. "If I can get that right away, help my team win some games, and as an offense I think we're clicking right now."
The Lions have made some additions at receiver, and are hoping tight end T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift stay healthy and are a big part of the passing game. If that happens it could cut into St. Brown's numbers, but that shouldn't be the only thing people look at in charting his progress from year one to two.
Improving his blocking – which he's already pretty darn good at – limiting missed assignments and understanding defensive concepts and the open spots within it are all things St. Brown worked to improve this offseason. Those things don't always show up on a stat sheet, but they do contribute in the win column.
St. Brown looks really comfortable in this offense early in Lions training camp. He's making a ton of plays, and looks like he can be a real weapon in the slot for the Lions in year two, picking right up where he left off at the end of last year.
Swift is healthy and in the best shape of his career to start training camp. He's not on any restrictions, and head coach Dan Campbell described him as being in 'phenomenal shape' on Friday.
Swift dealt with some injuries to begin camp last year and missed reps. He then missed five games with a shoulder injury late in the year.
Swift says he's ready take the next step and earn his place among some of the most productive backs in the league. But to be on that level he knows he has to be consistently productive and available for the entire year.
"Time to take it to another level," Swift said Friday. "Being available, playing in every game, detailing my work and making sure I'm in the best shape."
Undrafted rookie running back Greg Bell, who was injured Thursday on a non-contact play, is dealing with a back/hip injury, according to Campbell. He was getting checked out more thoroughly on Friday, but it looks like he'll miss some time.
Veteran tight end Devin Funchess is dealing with a minor groin injury that Campbell didn't seem too worried about at this point.
- The Lions have practice Saturday morning and then their first off day Sunday. The team will break out the pads for the first time in camp Monday following the day off.
- It was Brad Holmes' birthday Friday. After practice, the team got together and serenaded their GM with 'Happy Birthday' at midfield.