When we typically talk to young players about the step forward they take in their development from rookies to second-year players, they talk about improving the physical aspect. Players have an opportunity to really focus on their bodies with a true offseason and a year of NFL experience under their belt to know how they need to adapt physically.
But Lions second-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said his focus this offseason has been mostly on the mental aspect of the game, which is a pretty mature approach for a 22-year-old player.
"One of the areas definitely is just understanding defenses," St. Brown said Wednesday, when asked what aspects of his game he wanted to improve this offseason.
"Going into my second year I think I have enough experience to have seen some things and I just want to be able to recognize defenses quicker and be able to know what I'm doing before it even happens. Little things like that some player might overlook because they are so worried about the physical part of the game, but I think it's so mental."
St. Brown is hoping this focus leads him to an even more productive second season in Detroit. That would certainly be something after the stellar rookie campaign he put together as a fourth-round pick and the 17th receiver taken in last year's draft.
St. Brown finished the year with 90 receptions and 912 yards (10.1 avg.), both Lions rookie records. His receptions ranked second among all rookies and his yardage was the fifth most.
But when St. Brown watched the cutups from last year and did some self scouting, he saw there were still some opportunities to make more plays. He's gotten into the habit of talking with coaches, teammates and other players around league in an effort to understand the game even better.
What Lions fans should be excited about is the progression we saw in St. Brown's game from the beginning of last year to the end. Head coach Dan Campbell taking over playing calling duties and elevating Ben Johnson to pass-game coordinator also played a role in St. Brown's second-half increase in production, but St. Brown being a true student of the game really translated to the field.
His performance in December earned him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honors. His 35 receptions were the most a Lions rookie has ever posted in a single month, while his 340 receiving yards were the second most for a Lions rookie in a single month. He became the NFL's first rookie since 2014 to have 35 receptions in a calendar month, and he is the only rookie in NFL history with at least eight catches in six straight games (Weeks 12-17).
"I don't think we had too much success last year with the deep ball and I think that's an area where we as an offense wanted to improve on," St. Brown said. "I think adding guys like that is only going to help us ... and just open up more holes in the middle for everyone. I think it's going to be great for us."
St. Brown said he was thinking about the offense assembled in Detroit the other day and how he feels like it's a pretty complete unit. He's excited to see what that side of the football can do if they all stay healthy.
Lions fans should be equally excited to see how St. Brown's mental approach to the offseason translates to the field, and just how big of a second season the talented young receiver can have for them this year.