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Detroit Lions’ no-name WR corps could get boost from Victor Bolden, Quintez Cephus

  • June 10, 2021

They have the worst offense in the league by at least one estimation, in part because they went dumpster-diving to round out their receiving corps.

But as the formal offseason program approaches its end next week, the Detroit Lions are cautiously optimistic that two spring standouts can be contributors for them this fall.

Victor Bolden, who spent parts of the last two seasons on the Lions’ practice squad, and Quintez Cephus, a fifth-round pick in 2020, have drawn praise from coaches and teammates for their performance during mandatory minicamp and Organized Team Activities.

Each has made standout plays in practice this week, and each is in line to get more extensive looks in training camp.

“I think both of those guys are very detail-oriented,” said backup quarterback Tim Boyle, who has worked extensively with each this offseason. “Vic’s been making some incredible catches, just away from his body, and for being a smaller guy he’s got incredible hands. When we throw (routes on air) and we’re throwing individual routes, he stands out as one of those guys who’s going to be in the right spot at the right time.

“And that goes for Q as well. Quintez has been incredible. He’s where he’s supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there and he catches everything. So we’ve had success with both of those guys.”

Receivers tend to stand out more than any other position this time of year because of the nature of practice.

Players are not in pads, which prevents defensive backs from being overly physical in their coverage, and the running game is nonexistent as linemen mostly toil away on side fields.

But there is one big reason to believe Bolden and/or Cephus could make an impact for the Lions this fall — opportunity.

The Lions completely revamped their receiving corps this offseason. They let Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Jamal Agnew and Mohamed Sanu — their top five receivers at the end of last season — walk in free agency, and signed replacements Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman to one-year, prove-it deals.

Williams, who played for Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017-18, appears to be Jared Goff’s No. 1 receiver, but he is not a No. 1 in the typical sense. It’s been five years since he had a season with more than 43 catches, and he missed all of 2020 with a shoulder injury.

a 2021 fourth-round pick out of USC, is No. 3 on the depth chart for now.

St. Brown has looked the part in practice, and teammates laud his professional approach to the game. It would surprise no one if he emerged as one of Goff’s most trusted targets by the end of the season, but rookie receivers tend to have steep learning curves in the NFL.

Regardless of St. Brown’s eventual place on the depth chart, the Lions will head into summer with one or two receiver jobs up for grabs, and Cephus and Bolden have made convincing cases they can help at those spots.

Cephus had 20 catches amid spotty playing time as a rookie. First-year Lions coach Dan Campbell said he has seen steady improvement in his big-bodied receiver’s play this spring.

“This is all about trying to identify the guys that are getting better and guys that we feel like we can begin to depend on and know exactly who they’re going to be or what they can be,” Campbell said. “I would say over the last four practices, QC’s really come on. We all see it. We feel like he’s growing right in front of us and that’s what you want these guys to do during this time.”

Bolden, similarly, has shown steady progression this offseason, which has caused the Lions to put more on his plate as they try to pinpoint what each player can “do best and then how do we use that skill set?”

“This guy can separate,” Campbell said of Bolden. “He can run, he can change direction. He’s been pretty good offensively, mentally. He’s no different than anybody else; there’s things he’s got to clean up. But just the ability to separate clearly shows up to us.”

Bolden has toiled in anonymity most of his NFL career, and in that way seems to fit the Lions’ largely unheralded receiving corps.

He entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, was plucked off the 49ers’ practice squad by the Buffalo Bills late in 2018 and spent parts of the last two years in Detroit.

With four career targets (and one catch) in 15 games, he’s never had an opportunity quite like this.

“This league is tough for sure, but with the path that I’ve been on, I’ve really had to rely on mental stamina,” Bolden said. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs but the thing that’s helped me to have continued success is just try to be even-keeled and not let the ups or the downs change my consistency every day. So just try to continue to be that same person and whether the chips are going down or they’re going up, you just got to go out there and put out the best you can do.”

There are other receivers who can, and in some cases will, help the Lions this fall.

Kalif Raymond should handle return duties and vie for playing time at receiver after signing as a free agent this spring. Geronimo Allison, whose 89 career catches are third most on the team behind Williams and Perriman, is a forgotten man after opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19. And Damion Ratley and undrafted rookie Jonathan Adams have special teams ability, sometimes a deciding factor for final roster spots.

Lynn said last week he sees a receiving corps full of “hungry young men” that “see opportunity.”

Boyle, who came from a Green Bay Packers team that won the most games in the NFC each of the last two years, went a step further.

“We have what we need and we know that,” Boyle said. “We’re going to continue to practice and, like I said, find out what guys do well and play to guys’ strengths. But we have what we need in the building right now.”

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