Kenny Golladay made a rapid transition in his rookie season from college football’s mid-major level at Northern Illinois to the Detroit Lions as a valued member of the Lions’ receiving corps.
From opening day, when the rangy rookie had two fourth-quarter touchdown catches in a comeback victory over the Cardinals, it was evident that the Lions had a big-play producer to complement veterans Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. in the receiving corps.
As Golladay prepares for his second season in the Lions’ Rocket Mortgage training camp, his rookie season should be a foundation to build on if he follows the three-year trend that head coach Matt Patricia says is the norm for most young players.
If he continues to ascend in Year Two – and there’s no indication that he won’t – Year Three is when a player should be able to settle in with a comfort level and a more complete grasp of what it takes to play at a consistently high level, Patricia said.
“Hopefully, after two years you kind of have a real good picture of what it’s about, and then you can really improve into your third year,” Patricia said when asked about young players in general and Golladay specifically.
“That’s why there’s such a big jump between your first and second (seasons). Obviously, because the expectations are larger and all that.”
Golladay’s physical attributes were obvious before he stepped on the field for his first practice of rookie camp after the Lions drafted him in the third round. He had size (6-4, 213 pounds), good speed for his size (4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and a big frame and wingspan.
He used those attributes to produce on the field. In 11 games, with five starts, he had 28 catches for 477 yards, three touchdowns and an even 17 yards per catch.
It was a good start, but Golladay wants to do more and learn more. He was asked how he’s different in his second season from his first.
“Stronger, a little bit bigger,” he said. “As of right now, where I’m different than last year is, I want to come out here every day and make plays. Of course, I wanted to do that last year.
“Right now, I have to dominate every day. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Golladay’s second season is like graduate school. His learning curve continues, and at a higher level.
On the field and in the meeting room, he’s asking questions and learning more in his desire to advance his level of performance. He can do that by improving specific aspects of his game.
“All the little things,” he said. “Routes, catching the ball, run after the catch, tucking the ball away.”
As for any specific goals, those are apparently on a need-to-know basis, and only Golladay needs to know.
“That’s kept close to me, man,” he said.
Golladay is in a good position with the Lions.
For one thing, he’s playing in a proficient passing attack triggered by an elite quarterback in Matthew Stafford. As Stafford showed in last season’s opening game, with the Lions trailing and in need of clutch plays, Stafford will go to the open man, rookie or vet. Against the Cardinals, it happened to be a rookie in his debut, and he produced.
It helps the entire group that Stafford has a variety of experienced, productive targets. Jones is a deep threat. Tate led the NFL among wide receivers last season in yards after the catch. Theo Riddick is one of the league’s top receiving running backs.
Gollalday turns to the veterans for guidance and tips on how to improve. Jones has been especially helpful because his style as a deep threat is similar to Golladay’s.
“When we’re in the meeting room, I ask questions here and there,” Golladay said. “I sit right in front of him. I lean back and ask him anything. I watch him as well.
“It’s great to have a vet. He plays as if he’s my height, with his jumping ability. I definitely look at him.”