No sugarcoating it, Detroit Lions WRs look like they’re from the Island of Misfit Toys

Detroit Free Press

You might not know who Kalif Raymond is.

Even if you’re a pretty diehard Detroit Lions fan, you might be unaware he’s a 5-foot-8 free-agent receiver and return specialist who has one touchdown in four NFL seasons.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure who he was before he spoke with Detroit reporters Thursday. Had Raymond walked up to me in the street and slapped me — well, a lot of you probably would have been happy — I wouldn’t have been able to identify him.

In turn, I would like to recognize Raymond for his honesty when he discussed the state of the Lions’ receiving corps.

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Raymond didn’t make promises about how a room full of maybes, what-ifs and who-knows are going to take the NFL by storm in some kind of updated version of shock-and-awe Air Raid offense. Sure, he tried to sugarcoat things by relying on his new teammates’ strengths rather than weaknesses.

“I think first and foremost, man, I think we’ve got a receiving room full of guys that have handled some kind of adversity,” he said. “And I think when you’ve got guys like that guys come with a different level of grit and a different level of chip on their shoulders. It’s the same thing that kind of molded me into the player and man that I am today and I see a lot of that in the guys in the receiving room.”

Ah, yes. Grit. We’ve heard so much about grit form the Lions this offseason that sometimes I wonder if Rooster Cogburn is coaching the team (shotgun and pistol formations only, thank you).

But isn’t it obvious by now? The Lions’ receiving room looks like they’re from the Island of Misfit Toys looking for a place to belong. The Lions’ only 1,000-yard receiver is Tyrell Williams, who is five years removed from that accomplishment and is coming off missing a whole season with a shoulder injury.

Ergo … grit.

“I think that’s probably the most important thing,” Raymond said. “Everybody in the NFL’s big, everybody in the NFL’s strong, everybody in the NFL’s fast. I think if you have that coupled with the fact that you’ve got some guys with grit, I think I’m really excited to see how this receiving room performs, man.”

[ Goff: Not drafting a QB ‘a nice vote of confidence’ by Lions ]

Excited is a tad much in this case. I might go with cautiously optimistic. Perhaps morbidly curious?

It’s not only that the Lions haven’t done much to beef up a weak position. It’s that you have to wonder how much can we reasonably expect first-time receiver coach Antwaan Randle El, who’s barely been in coaching for two years as an assistant, to get most out of these guys?

This is one of the reasons we have to be honest about a years-long rebuild. Players, but also several of the Lions’ first-time coaches and administrators, will need time to learn and grow into their positions.

We don’t know how much of Les Snead is in Brad Holmes, though we got a tiny snapshot through one NFL draft that there doesn’t appear to be much gonzo gunslinger. And time will tell if Holmes follows suit and waits until the Lions are contenders to fortify his receiving corps with costly trade acquisitions and free-agent stars the way Snead did, respectively, with Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods on the way to the Super Bowl.

But we also have to remember that the Rams’ top-drafted wide receivers in 2018 were third-rounder Cooper Kupp and fourth-rounder.

So it could be a blend of free agents and mid-round picks. Maybe that’s quarterback Jared Goff, along with just about every Lions fan, was glad to see the team finally draft Southern Cal receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round last week.

“I was really excited when I saw his name come off the board for us,” Goff said Thursday. “Have seen him just being a fan of the Pac-12, have seen him over the years play there and went to Mater Dei (High) as well. But just seeing him play over the years, always been a fan of his and hopefully we’ll get some work soon and really see him in person.”

Maybe the Lions open the checkbook and sign a free-agent like Larry Fitzgerald or wait until someone gets cut closer to September.

Or maybe it isn’t time for that yet and we’re all just going to have to show a little grit and patience. At least we’ll have time to learn the receivers’ names.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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