Lions look to develop Kenny Golladay into NFL’s top tier of receivers

Detroit News

Kenny Golladay is really good. That’s news to no one who follows NFL football. The Detroit Lions wide receiver, entering his fourth season, is coming off a Pro Bowl campaign where he led the league in touchdown receptions and set a career-high in yardage. 

Not bad for a former third-round draft pick. And pretty good timing, given he’s on the cusp of free agency and set to score a multi-year deal that will elevate him to among the league’s highest at his position. 

But when Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell looks at Golladay, he sees an even-higher ceiling. While there’s absolutely no shame in continuing to produce at last year’s level, Bevell wants to help take Golladay’s game to the next level, to a place where he’s mentioned in the same breath as the league’s top receivers — such as DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas — by both fans and opposing defensive coordinators alike. 

“He had a really nice year last year for us and you know we hope that he continues to have many more like that,” Bevell said during a Saturday video conference call with reporters. “There’s specific things that we’re talking to him that he can take his game to the next level, but really you want him to … be thought of in those upper-echelon guys with the Hopkins, Thomas and those those type of players, where he really is dictating to the defense like how they have to cover.”

The biggest area where Golladay can improve is his efficiency. On a per reception basis, he was tough to beat a year ago. Only two other qualifying receivers averaged more than his 18.3 yards per catch. But when looking at the number of targets that resulted in a reception, Golladay lags behind many of the league’s top receivers. 

In 2019, Golladay caught 57.5 percent of the passes thrown his direction, according to data tracked by Pro Football Focus. Thomas, meanwhile, paced the league by hauling in 82.5 percent of his targets. Hopkins was fifth among qualifiers, at 71.2 percent. 

More: Lions eager to see new RB D’Andre Swift in action

Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into that statistical equation. Golladay played with three different quarterbacks last season, including half the year without starter Matthew Stafford. And the depth of Golladay’s targets naturally leads to a decrease in efficiency. 

But the one area he can control and improve upon is separation. To his credit, he’s one of the league’s best at making contested catches, but he also averaged the least amount of separation among receivers, necessitating the need to make those grabs in close-quarters.

At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, change of direction and rapid acceleration will never be Golladay’s calling card, but there will always be finer points to his technique he can sharpen to compensate. That is where Bevell and receiver coach Robert Prince enter the conversation. 

Golladay started training camp on the COVID-reserve list, after either testing positive for the virus or came into close contact with some who did. He’s since been activated and didn’t miss any virtual meeting time while quarantined, according to Bevell. 

NFL teams are still in the acclimation/conditioning phase of their offseason program. On-field practices are scheduled to start the third week of August. 

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