When a player puts up the kind of consistent numbers wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has week after week, not just this year but dating back to midway through his rookie season in 2021, opposing defenses are going to take notice.
That was certainly the case last week in New Orleans where the Saints' defense double-teamed St. Brown more than what he usually sees. St. Brown was still able to find the end zone, but his two receptions for 49 yards were a season low.
It's the kind of respect reserved for the league's best, and St. Brown certainly deserves to be in that conversation.
For St. Brown, he gets it's a sign of respect, but it's also a little frustrating.
"It's both. It's frustration and respect," he said. "I still want to do my thing and help my team win but I respect it. They want to double me. They can double me all they want. We're going to have other guys get open and make plays."
That was certainly the case last week in the win over the Saints with rookie tight end Sam LaPorta consistently beating single coverage and finishing with nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.
"I think it's super important," St. Brown said of the performance LaPorta put on tape last week. "When teams want to double a guy and try to take him out of a play or a game, whatever it is, if you've got other guys that can make plays it just makes it that much harder on the defense and the coordinator because if you want to double one guy the next guy might be wide open or it's probably going to be a good matchup for us on this side.
"So having Sam do what he did last game is going to be huge for us just moving forward because he can win a one-on-one. He's proven that. He's a dangerous matchup whoever he's going against. We have a bunch of guys on this offense I feel like can win one-on-ones, not just Sam. But when you have a guy like that that's shows you he can do that it'll just open things up for us down the road."
Teams will have to rethink trying to take St. Brown out of the picture with the emergence of LaPorta in this offense. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said this week he and quarterback Jared Goff will continue to take advantage of other matchups if teams want to try and limit St. Brown moving forward.
"They double him in certain situations and that's when the other guys have to feast, but when Sam LaPorta or I think Kalif Raymond had a big game a couple weeks ago, when these other guys make plays, it makes defenses think twice about trying to take out number 14," Johnson said.
The Lions will be without defensive lineman Alim McNeill for at least the next four games after he suffered a knee injury in New Orleans and was placed on IR this week. McNeill was playing about 70 percent of the snaps this season.
"I think that's what some of this week has been is who's going to get us the best opportunity per situation," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday. "We're going to have to spread the load. There's a number of guys who are going to have to take over those 70, 60, 70 plays that Mac has been doing for us and it's really spread out amongst a lot of guys.
"Could be the bigs, could be the hybrids, (John) Cominsky, (Josh) Paschal. And so, everybody's got a job to do. And there again, down-and-distance situation is going to play into that."
WHAT DOES VILDOR ADD TO DEFENSE?
The Lions signed cornerback Kindle Vildor to the 53-man roster off their practice squad this week. Vildor spent three seasons in Chicago playing in 44 games with 22 starts. He played two games with the Titans this season.
"Well, we've played against him, so we've been able to watch him crossover tape that actually have had to go against him, so always liked the type of athlete that he was, the competitor that he is, he really fits what we do," Campbell said.
"He can do a little bit of everything. He's tough, he'll tackle, so we play him a variety of coverages. He's a smart, crafty guy. He's got coverage skills and so look, it's an opportunity to get up, let him compete and little bit and see where he goes."
Lions defensive backs coach Brian Duker said Friday he's been impressed with Vildor's coverage skills and understanding of route concepts and route development.
We'll see if Vildor is active Sunday and plays a role on special teams or defense.
- Campbell said it was unlikely center Frank Ragnow (knee) plays Sunday in Chicago after missing practice all week with a knee injury.
- Goff has 35 career games with at least 300 passing yards and can surpass Matt Ryan (35 games) and Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (35) for the third most games with at least 300 passing yards by a player in his first eight seasons in NFL history. Only Patrick Mahomes (44 games, in seventh season) and Hall of Famer Dan Marino (38) have more.