If it's true that players take their biggest leap in development and production going into their second NFL season, what should we expect from Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in Year 2?
St. Brown had the best rookie season by a receiver in team history, setting franchise records for receptions (90) and receiving yards (912). He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in December, and finished the season with six straight games with at least eight receptions, the longest streak in team history and the longest for a rookie in NFL history.
He looks to have picked up right where he left off last season in training camp. He was a catching machine during team periods in Friday's practice. St. Brown has a really good rapport with quarterback Jared Goff and has been one of Goff's favorite targets through the first nine camp practices.
But like any young player in this league, there are areas where St. Brown could improve his game going into his second season. In fact, he and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson talked about improving St. Brown's run-after-catch ability in the spring. Johnson said Friday he can already tell St. Brown put the work in this summer to improve it.
"He's special, man," Johnson said of St. Brown. "He really is. He's on a mission right now. I talked to him in the middle of the summer during our off time to see how he's doing. He said, 'Coach, I'm telling you right now, this run after catch, I'm all over it.'
"And I think you see that every single day on the field, at least I do. Ball gets in his hands and he is consciously thinking knife up the field and get what I can, break tackles along the way."
It appears the evolution for St. Brown's game is to not just be a volume catcher, but a big-play threat as well after he has the ball in his hands.
"The aggression that he has, he has that controlled aggression for a receiver that is rare," Johnson said. "It shows up in the run game. It shows up in his route running and his breaks and it carries over for the rest of the group."
AJ Parker was a great storyline for the Lions last year. Undrafted out of Kansas State, mostly because of his size (5-11, 178), he earned a roster spot out of camp and went on to start seven games at the nickel cornerback spot in Detroit's defense.
Parker did miss some games with neck and ankle injuries, however, and one of the things the Lions wanted to see from him going into Year 2 was to put on some muscle and weight to help with durability.
"That was a point of emphasis in the spring, in the offseason was man, 'You've got to get a little bit bigger. You've got to get a little more powerful.' And he did, he added some weight," head coach Dan Campbell said.
"Now, it's just the matter of – man, take care of his body and continue to grow here. So, I like where he's at."
Parker, who has been running with the No. 1 defense at the nickel spot all camp so far, said he put on 10 pounds of muscle this offseason. He worked hard not to let the added weight affect his speed and agility. He said he feels stronger, and hopes it leads to better durability.
Detroit Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart attended Friday's practice in Allen Park. Stewart said he played a little tight end when he was a kid, but quickly gravitated toward basketball.
Speaking to a few reporters after practice, he said he sees a lot of similarities between the young Pistons team he plays for and this young Lions roster.
"I know they are up and coming just like we are," Stewart said. "We (the Pistons) are young and (the Lions) are young. We are both up and coming at the same time, so I feel like the city has something to be excited for."
- Veteran safety C.J. Moore came off the NFI list Friday and returned to practice. Campbell said the plan is to gradually ramp up his practice reps.
- Campbell also said rookie defensive lineman Josh Paschal, who is on the PUP list with a sports hernia, is ahead of schedule in his rehab.
- The Lions added defensive quality control coach Addison Lynch to their coaching staff.