The recent hot streak wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has been on over the last month has earned him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honors for December. He is only the fifth Lion to win the award and the first to do so since running back Jahvid Best in September of 2010.
St. Brown's 35 receptions in December are the most among all rookies, and second only to Cooper Kupp (40) among NFL pass catchers. He's produced at least eight receptions and 70 yards in his last four contests.
St. Brown is certainly playing with a ton of confidence right now, but he plays with a chip on his shoulder too, still using draft day and 16 receivers being taken before him as constant motivation.
"My goal moving forward is to just be as consistent as I can each week no matter who we are playing. Be that same guy," St. Brown said. "Those 16 receivers that went before me, I'll definitely not forget. Whenever I feel like I've done good or I see something about me that's good, I just remember those 16 receivers and how I felt that day, or those days leading up to the draft. It was a feeling I'll never forget. Those two things right there are what keep me motivated."
Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said he's seen St. Brown grow a lot throughout the course of the year, but particularly in his development as a route runner and his coverage recognition. It's allowed St. Brown to become a more complete receiver.
"He's definitely trending in the right direction," Lynn said. "I think he's gotten better every single week. I can honestly say that about him."
St. Brown credits hard work and the overall growth of the offense for his recent surge in production, but Lynn said more opportunities have been earned by St. Brown because of his unselfishness as a blocker all year long.
"He blocks and we've made it known that if you're a receiver in this offense and you block, you will get targets," Lynn said. "He's one of the best blocking guys on our football team. One of the ways to get a receiver more involved is just tell him, 'Hey, if you block, we'll target you.'"
It's a receiver's block that usually turns a 15-or 20-yard play into a 50 or 60-yard touchdown, according to St. Brown. He's also a former running back who knows what it's like to run without blocking in front of him. He said he'll never be that guy that doesn't block down the field.
In St. Brown, the Lions appear to have the complete package at receiver, and he should only get better with experience.
TURNOVER AT TIGHT END
The Lions have lost tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Shane Zylstra to injured reserve the last couple weeks, and fullback/tight end Jason Cabinda hurt his knee last week and could miss this week's contest in Seattle.
It left the Lions with only one healthy tight end on the active roster, undrafted rookie Brock Wright, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list early this week. It forced the team to build the position back up via free agency and practice squads.
Detroit signed Jared Pinkney from the Rams practice squad to the active roster this week. Pinkney spent time on the Lions' practice squad at the start of the season, but he has never appeared in a regular-season game. They also signed Ross Travis to their practice squad. Travis has played in 28 career games with 14 receptions. Detroit also has Nick Eubanks on their practice squad.
The Lions rely on the tight end position a lot in personnel groupings and on the edge blocking in their run game.
"Those young men are going to have to play," Lynn said Thursday. "They've played in this league before. Right now their heads are spinning, but hopefully by Sunday things will slow down for them a little bit. They are going to have to play and help us win."
MORE THAN SPECIAL TEAMS
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin has been one of the better special teams players over the years, but given an opportunity to play more defense this season, he's proven very capable there as well. He's played 475 defensive snaps this season in 13 games (nine starts). He's never reached 300 defensive snaps in any previous season.
With those increased reps he's produced 67 tackles (45 solo) with a couple tackles for loss, four passes defended and a forced fumble, while at the same time continuing to be Detroit's leading special teams tackler (10).
Reeves-Maybin is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, but defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is hoping the Lions re-sign him, and if they do, he said the way Reeves-Maybin played on defense this year gives him an opportunity to be a starter at inside linebacker next year.
"I'll tell you this, he has the capabilities to be that," Glenn said. "Any of our guys that are free agents, we would love to have those guys back. Obviously, we want the player back. There is no doubt about that because he is a good player. And, if he does come back, he definitely is going to get a chance to be that starting inside linebacker."
After news of NFL Legend John Madden's passing Tuesday, several people around the league have been sharing memories and stories. Here's one Lynn shared Thursday:
"I did know Coach Madden a little bit. I guess one of the stories with him is he called me about five years ago, and my phone rang. I answered my phone and I said, 'Hello,' and he goes, 'This is John Madden.' I say, 'Yeah, this is Barack Obama, who the hell is this?' He said, 'No, this is John Madden.' I was like, 'Come on man, who is this? I don't have time for this nonsense.' And he goes, 'Coach, this is John Madden, and I'm calling to ask you if you'd like to be on the Competition Committee.' I was like, 'Oh, [expletive].' After apologizing several times, we had a good 30-minute conversation and I've got to tell you, he had so much wisdom. When he talked, I listened. That 30-minute conversation, the first conversation I had ever had with him, I learned a lot."