Detroit Lions assistant Antwaan Randle El defends WR corps: ‘We’ll surprise some people’

Detroit Free Press

They have been on the receiving end of regular slander for months now.

Pro Football Focus ranked them 31st out of 32 units. Yahoo called them “clearly” the worst group in the NFL. And locally, the perception is about the same.

But Detroit Lions receivers coach Antwaan Randle El insisted Wednesday he has not heard the hate directed towards his receiving corps, and even if he did, he doesn’t believe it anyway.

“I wouldn’t know about it,” Randel El said. “They wouldn’t know about it. We don’t care.”

The Lions overhauled their receiving corps this offseason. bidding farewell to top pass catchers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu and Jamal Agnew.

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They signed Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and Kalif Raymond in free agency and added Amon-Ra St. Brown in the draft, but the group lacks a high-end playmaker and the star power of many of its peers.

Williams has emerged as the Lions’ No. 1 receiver, with Perriman the likely No. 2. Raymond and St. Brown got extensive work with the first-team offense this week with Perriman nursing a hip injury, and Quintez Cephus, the team’s presumptive No. 5 receiver, has missed four straight practices and seems unlikely to play in Friday’s preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.

“I think we’ll be really good,” Randle El said. “We feel like we’ll surprise some people, but it’s just a matter of just keep going. That steady pace that I’m talking about in terms of that consistency, it’s just about getting there and continuing that and that’s what we’ve been doing. So I feel like we’re a good group. We’re going to have some depth, some guys that can really play.”

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Williams and Perriman are known commodities, veterans who have had varying degrees of success in their injury-riddled careers. Raymond is an experienced return man who will have an expanded role on offense. And St. Brown and Cephus are the wild cards whose development might ultimately determine the success of the unit.

Randel El said he envisions using St. Brown, a fourth-round pick out of USC, primarily in the slot as a rookie.

“I like him inside just because he has a great understanding of coverage and being able to read coverage,” Randel El said. “He’s very smart and he gets it.”

Cephus could push for playing at outside receiver, where Randel El said he has “been doing extremely well.

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“A lot of people thinking he can’t go deep, he can’t do this, he can’t do that,” Randel El said. “What I’ve seen is he’s made plays over and over again. When you talk about consistency, he’s been one of the guys that’s been one of the most consistent, for sure. And not just from training camp, even from OTAs. I think the first couple weeks, I was just kind of looking like, ‘All right, let’s see it.’ And then he kind of took off and he’s just been rolling since then so he’s been good.”

Chicken talk

Lions coach Dan Campbell shared an entertaining story Wednesday about his first job as a 16-year-old working at a local chicken shop.

“Growing up all my life I worked on our cattle ranch,” Campbell said. “One summer, I was like, ‘Dad, I don’t want to do that, man. I want to see if I can go get paid (working somewhere else).’

“So I worked at a chicken shop, chicken shack, and I learned how to clean chicken. And I could do it blind over and over and I’ll never do it again. So I appreciate everybody that does that type of work because it got old quick. That was my odd job.”

At one point, Campbell said the owner let him work the window rather than cleaning chickens.

“The window was here,” Campbell said, pointing to his midsection. “This is the top of the window (at my chest). I stick my head through. That was awesome. But I did get paid better. It was good stuff.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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