The new-look receiver corps for the Detroit Lions has fans of the team full of uncertainty. For years, Calvin Johnson was the ultimate safety blanket in the passing game. He made quarterbacks and fans alike feel all warm and safe and scared away the monsters under our beds. But now he’s gone and he’s never coming back. It’s time we get over it and look towards the future.
Thankfully, the team has two very talented guys catching the ball who can help us forget Megatron and all the good times he brought to us. Fans around Detroit are already familiar with one of those guys and his name is Golden Tate. He came to the team via free agency from Seattle in 2014 and has been as solid as they come for the last two seasons. With a knack for catching everything that comes his way, his relationship with Matt Stafford should ascend to new heights as he is the heir-apparent to the role of go-to-guy.
The team, however, was not content to put all of their hopes into the hands of one man alone. As far as they were concerned the job of filling Megatron’s cleats was far to big of a burden for Tate to shoulder all by himself. New GM, Bob Quinn, acted quickly and snagged the consensus best receiver on the market in Marvin Jones. By adding Jones to play across from Golden Tate the Lions now have some of the surest hands in the game, something that Matt Stafford has definitely not had throughout his career.
With two quick, athletic, sure-handed receivers vying for catches the Lions passing game should recover nicely from the loss of Calvin Johnson. The pieces to be successful are there but I beg the question, who will have the bigger year, Marvin Jones or Golden Tate.
Much like how Golden Tate really took off once he left Seattle, I believe that Marvin Jones is going to have huge year in his first campaign outside of Cincinnati. Getting out of AJ Green’s shadow will give him a chance to be the focal point of the passing game (along with Tate), and put his skills on a stage unlike any he has yet seen. Matt Stafford should be very happy that management went out and got Jones because the guy can do it all. Contrary to one uninformed analysts opinion, Marvin Jones has some of the best hands in the NFL. He dropped only 1.9% (2 out of 103) of his catchable targets last season according to sportingcharts.com. That’s better than guys like Calvin Johnson (2.7%), Demaryius Thomas (5.1%), Dez Bryant (6.9%) and Odell Beckham Jr (3.2%).
So the kid can catch, but what else does he have in his bag of tricks?
A lot, actually. He is a complete receiver who runs great routes at all depths and is more of a deep threat than most people give him credit for. He tracks the ball very well, and more often than not he is able to get behind the defender. If he gets a clean release he is gone but he is also able to fight through jams from opposing corners. I expect to see some deep touchdowns between him and Stafford this season. As far as shorter passes are concerned, he catches everything that comes his way. He definitely doesn’t have the agility or elusiveness of Golden Tate, but if he gets the chance to try and outrun the defense, the Lions are going to be putting 6 points on the scoreboard. Signing Marvin Jones was the best thing the Lions could have done to try and compensate for the loss of Calvin Johnson and he will have a career year in 2016
Prediction for the 2016 Season: 87 receptions, 1168 yards, 9 touchdowns.
Lions’ fans already know what they have in Golden Tate. He is a monster after the catch and his ability to make defenders miss is unparalleled in the NFL. Every time I watch him I’m amazed at how he is able to get out of the most precarious situations on the field. The dude can flat out ball. And if his ability to get out of tackles and gain yards after the catch wasn’t enough, he has some of the best hands in all of the NFL. He catches everything. He only dropped 3 of his 90 catchable targets last year, which is pretty good when you consider the heat that Matt Stafford regularly puts on his passes. The Lions have had issues with drops in the the past and management has clearly made fixing those issues a priority in recent years.
Last year with Calvin Johnson playing in all 16 games and half a season worth of garbage offense under Joe Lombardi, Tate’s production took a bit of a dive from the year before. In 2015, he had 90 receptions for 813 yards and 6 touchdowns, but in 2014 when Calvin Johnson was clearly unhealthy he amassed 99 receptions for 1,331 yards. He may have come in with less touchdowns in 2014 (4) but that seems like a fluke. When called upon, Golden Tate is very productive. Marvin Jones is more of a deep threat to be sure, but Golden Tate’s versatility and his rapport with Matt Stafford can’t be understated.
Prediction for the 2016 Season: 101 receptions, 1368 yards, 11 touchdowns.
I foresee a very successful year for the Detroit Lions offense with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate leading the charge at wide receiver. Matt Stafford should thank his lucky stars (and his front office) that he has two guys who are so talented in so many different ways. Both of these guys are going to have the best years of their careers, with Golden Tate emerging at his quarterback’s favorite target. He will just edge out Marvin Jones in all of the important statistical categories due to his familiarity with Stafford, but both will be important in helping the Lions’ passing game be one of the better ones in the league.