Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes said the team will have a good plan in place when second-year receiver Jameson Williams has to leave the team at the beginning of the season to serve a six-game gambling suspension and will have a good plan for his return in October.
In the meantime, the Lions will have to count on others to fill the void.
Williams is expected to be a big part of the Detroit offensive attack in 2023. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson told detroitlions.com he plans to deploy Williams' speed and explosiveness all over the field. But that'll have to wait until Week 7.
The good thing for Detroit is they have a veteran, experienced and deep receiver room chock full of consistent production.
It starts with Pro Bowler Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has 196 receptions in his first two seasons in the league, tied for the most in NFL history. He's coming off a 106-catch, 1,161-yard season with six touchdowns. He's already become one of the best receivers in the NFL, and 100-catch seasons are likely to be the norm for him.
Holmes replaced DJ Chark's 30 receptions, 502 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games last season with Marvin Jones Jr.’s 46 receptions, 529 yards and three scores in 16 games from a season ago. Chark signed with Carolina in free agency and the Lions signed Jones, who spent 2016-20 with the Lions before playing with Jacksonville the last two seasons. Jones has been consistently productive over his 10 years in the league and gives Detroit a deep threat and a guy who makes tough catches all over the field.
Veterans Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond fit Johnson's system perfectly for their skillsets. Reynolds was targeted 59 times and caught 38 passes for 479 yards and three scores last season in 14 games. Raymond, who is also one of the league's premier punt-return men, chipped in 47 more receptions for 616 yards. Some of those were key third-down grabs, and he's become a trusted target for quarterback Jared Goff. Some might forget those two receivers combined for 85 catches and over 1,000 receiving yards last season.
Holmes drafted Antoine Green in the seventh round of last week's NFL Draft and loves his skillset at 6-foot-2, 199 pounds with 4.47 speed in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He averaged 19.0 yards per reception at North Carolina. He'll have a chance to earn an early role due to Williams' suspension.
Maurice Alexander, Trinity Benson and Tom Kennedy make up experienced depth, with Stanley Berryhill (also suspended six games) in the room as well.
That's even not taking into consideration what the Lions plan to do with No. 12 overall pick Jahmyr Gibbs in the passing game, both out of the backfield and lined up at receiver. We'll see him line up all over the field. Plus, rookie Sam LaPorta joins a tight end room that scored 12 touchdowns a season ago.
Losing Williams for the first six games of the season is a gut punch for the Lions. They'll now have to wait a month and half to see what his speed, along with the 4.3 speed of Gibbs, and the production of St. Brown can all look like together when paired with an offensive line and quarterback playing some of their best football when the season ended.
It's a deep and experienced receiver room, and Johnson proved last year he's very good at getting the most out of all his weapons on offense. The Lions should be just fine in the passing game as they wait for Williams' return a third of the way into the season.