It's been well documented the struggles the Lions have had with consistency and injuries at the wide receiver position this year. The Lions lost Tyrell Williams to a concussion Week 1 and second-year wide receiver Quintez Cephus Week 4 with a collar bone injury.
But over the last few weeks, Detroit's gotten some nice production from their receivers.
Fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown became the first Lions rookie to record at least seven receptions in back-to-back games in franchise history the last two weeks, catching 10 passes for 86 yards and the winning touchdown against Minnesota two weeks ago, and hauling in eight passes for 73 yards last week in Denver. He's the first Lions player to have three games with seven-plus receptions in their rookie season.
"I think St. (Brown) in particular these last couple games, he's a special player and has that ability to be really special for a long time," quarterback Jared Goff said.
Goff said a good slot receiver can be a security blanket for a quarterback, and he thinks he's getting to that point with St. Brown.
Josh Reynolds has over 50 receiving yards in each of his last three games (70, 69, 52) and is averaging 19.1 yards per reception over that stretch. He's provided a nice vertical option.
Kalif Raymond plays a number of roles and caught a touchdown last week in Denver. He's also been a really solid punt-return man.
"Those three starters now with St. Brown, Kalif (Raymond) and Reynolds they are all stepping up," Goff said. "They are all doing a great job."
Adding to and upgrading the receiver position is expected to be on GM Brad Holmes' offseason task list, but it's nice to see that some players in that room have stepped up of late and are making more plays.
Detroit's most effective offensive weapons at the skill positions this season have been running backs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams and tight end T.J. Hockenson. The Lions were without all three players in last week's 38-10 loss to Denver for the first time all season, and the trio wasn't on the field at the open portion of practice Wednesday with Arizona and their fifth-ranked defense coming to town Sunday.
Swift was running off to the side of practice Wednesday after missing the last two games with a sprained shoulder. Williams was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday. If he's vaccinated, he has to have two consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart before returning. If he's not vaccinated, he's out 10 days, which means he wouldn't be available Sunday vs. the Cardinals. Hockenson hurt his hand last week, didn't practice Thursday or Friday, and missed the Broncos game.
"I don't think either one of them are going to practice today, but yet they will move around and we'll see where it goes," head coach Dan Campbell said of Swift and Hockenson before practice Wednesday. "If we feel like we can get them back by Friday or something, certainly we'd love to have them. Right now, it's still pretty early."
The Lions have placed nine players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list over the last two weeks, which has put stress on both their roster and game preparations.
Because of a flu outbreak in Allen Park before the first positive COVID-19 case, the Lions were already in self-imposed advanced protocols to help mitigate that spread. The Lions are one of seven teams around the league in enhanced protocols for COVID-19, which requires increased testing for all players and Tier 1 & 2 personnel, including those who are vaccinated, along with mandatory masking indoors for all individuals and an increased emphasis on social distancing.
Campbell, assistant coaches and players conducted their Wednesday press conferences masked, which they weren't required to do before.
"You guys know COVID and football don't go together," Campbell said. "So, as far as how everybody is dealing with it, we do the best we can with it and we're trying to keep our guys as safe as possible, but also prepare. We're trying to be as smart as we can about it."
But it's a fine balance between being safe and preparing to play a contact sport.
"I know that there is a fine line. We need the work," Campbell said. "We've got a lot of new faces that need looks. You're going to fight that balance between, 'Do you have a roster to play a game?' But also, preparing them and making it fair for them to go in there and prepare properly to play a game.
"So, we chose to do it this way is to get them in here, get them spread out, everybody is masked up and we test. We've been running the tests and prepare."
The Cardinals have an opportunity to improve to 8-0 on the road this season with a win in Detroit Sunday. Should Arizona win by at least 10 points, the Cardinals would become the second team in NFL history to win eight straight road games by 10-or-more points, joining Chicago, who won nine straight road games by 10-or-more points from 1941-42.
Center Evan Brown returned to practice Wednesday off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He missed last week's game in Denver. The team also started the practice clock on cornerback AJ Parker, who is on IR with an ankle injury. The Lions have 21 days to make a decision on activating him or keeping him on IR the rest of the year.