The Detroit Lions position group that's had the most question marks surrounding it all offseason and into training camp was wide receiver. The team returned only one receiver (Quintez Cephus) who caught a pass for them in 2020, so it was a complete retooling of the position.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes was still looking to improve at the position with this week's roster cuts, trading a fifth and seventh-round draft pick to Denver for speedy receiver Trinity Benson and a sixth-round pick, and claiming KhaDarel Hodge off waivers. Those two join Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Cephus and Tom Kennedy in a seven-man receiver room.
"We're just compiling the best 53 football players," Holmes said of keeping seven receivers on the initial 53. "We're not going to eliminate a good football player because it's an overkill at a position. So, when you look down and get to Tyrell and Kalif and St. Brown and then you get to Cephus, then you get to Tom Kennedy.
"Well, Tom Kennedy has had a hell of a camp. It's not like, 'Oh, we get to Tom Kennedy, well you can't keep him because now you're at five or six (receivers).' No, Tom Kennedy earned this. He had a great camp. He made plays, you guys saw the preseason games."
Holmes understands that there's an outside narrative about the receiving corps. Williams, despite a 1,000-yard season to his credit in 2016, has never been a No. 1 receiver in the league. Raymond's bounced around the league and has made his biggest mark as a returner, not a receiver. St. Brown is a rookie fourth-round pick. It goes on down the list, but the outside narrative isn't the one Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell see.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, Sep. 2, 2021.
"That's not what Dan and I see on a regular basis in practice when we evaluate the guys," Holmes said Thursday about Detroit's receiving corps. "(Jared Goff) is throwing to guys that are getting open, that are creating separation, that have explosiveness that are making tough catches and being where they are supposed to be."
The hope is obviously that translates to Sundays starting next week in the team's regular-season opener at Ford Field against San Francisco. Detroit's two most explosive weapons going into the regular season might just be Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and second-year running back D'Andre Swift, but Holmes seems pretty confident they'll get some quality play at receiver, too, and maybe that group might surprise some people.
"We feel really, really good about it," Holmes said. "I know they say these aren't the superstars that are jumping off the table, but Dan (Campbell) and I see the narrative probably a lot differently than probably the outside. We feel really, really good and we have faith in the group that we have."