Amon-Ra St. Brown was busier than usual last Sunday, and he welcomed the increased workload.
The Detroit Lions' rookie wide receiver had six catches for 70 yards on eight targets from quarterback Jared Goff. All were personal highs by a wide margin for his first four games.
"It was fun," St. Brown said after practice this week as the Lions prepared for today's road game with the Minnesota Vikings.
"I finally caught a few balls. Made some key plays. It was exciting for me, for the team. We'd like to get a 'W.' We came up short. We'd like to get it done this week."
Despite the loss, which made the Lions' record 0-4, it was a good showing by St. Brown.
The Lions' won-loss record will be the main story of this season, but the development of young players is an important sidebar.
St. Brown, who has 12 catches for 113 yards, has shown versatility and an ability to play multiple receiving positions.
"He is developing just fine," offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. "I love what he's doing. He's like I said last week – he's doing a lot of things that don't show up in the stats that are helping this team on special teams and on offense."
St. Brown has remained patient while waiting for a bigger role in the offense. He understands the circumstances he's under.
"For me, it's a bunch of new guys," he said. "The quarterback's new. Bunch of new receivers. New coaches. Got a new offensive lineman. Penei Sewell’s doing really well.
"My mentality is making every play that comes to me. My coaches in college taught us that when a play comes, just make it. I've learned to be patient."
Center of attention: Offensive linemen generally are not in the spotlight unless something goes wrong, like a major penalty or giving up a sack.
Evan Brown will get a personal win if he gets through today's game without being noticed.
Brown is starting at center in place of Pro Bowler Frank Ragnow, who is on injured reserve with a toe injury sustained in last week's loss at Chicago. Brown played the last 60 snaps as his replacement.
"I thought Evan did a good job of stepping in last week," said offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. "That's what backups are supposed to do."
Brown signed with the Lions late last year after previous stints with the Giants, Dolphins and Browns. He played 40 snaps at guard in the last game of the season – against the Vikings.
"I'm going to do my best to keep things flowing in the right direction," Brown said. "The center position is a very mentally heavy position. It's knowing a lot of things, snapping the ball and communications."
QB protection: It's a five-man job, with help for the offensive line likely coming from extra blockers, to keep the Vikings' pass rush off Goff. Goff has been sacked 10 times in the first four games.
Don't expect anything like the 2018 game, when the Vikings sacked Matthew Stafford 10 times and had 17 QB hits. Danielle Hunter led the way with 3.5 sacks. He has a team high five sacks this year.
One way to stop the rush is to run the ball effectively.
Indoors-outdoors: It sounded like the ex-player in him was talking when head coach Dan Campbell explained why the Lions practiced outdoors one day this week and two days indoors on turf.
"I know for the big guys, they like being outdoors," Campbell said. "It feels better for their joints.
"I also know we're playing on turf this week. Wednesday we were outside. That gave us a reprieve from the turf. These last two days, we've gone inside – just because if that's what you're playing on, you probably need to do at least a couple days (indoors)."
Viking vision: Their 1-3 won-loss record is only a game better than the Lions' 0-4, but they feel like they're close to being in playoff contention. Some of that optimism might come from the fact that they lost their first two games by a combined four points.
"I really do think we have a really, really good team," said cornerback Patrick Peterson. As a team, you have to find a way to be clicking on all cylinders. When the offense gets it going, the defense has to get it going as well.
"We have to be able to complement one another. That's going to be our main focus going forward. We know what our offense can do."
Lions-Vikings breakdown: A lot of things have to go right for the Lions to pull off an upset. They have to stop giving up big plays, which the Vikings are capable of making, and be more consistent on offense. The offense has gone in stall mode too many times. The defense isn't good enough to stone an opponent while the offense waits to get it together. The Lions need turnovers and a break or two – or more – to get the first win for Campbell.
Pick: Vikings 27, Lions 16.