Detroit Lions WR coach highlights 2 Senior Bowl wideouts; still hopeful for Trinity Benson

Detroit Free Press

MOBILE, Ala. — The Detroit Lions are not giving up on Trinity Benson yet.

Benson, acquired in a September trade with the Denver Broncos, played sparingly and caught 10 passes for 103 yards in his first season with the Lions, but receivers coach Antwaan Randle El insisted Thursday the organization remains “encouraged” about Benson’s future.

“I’m telling you,” Randle El said at the Senior Bowl. “He’s going to be all right. I think he’s going to help us, too.”

The Lions, in need of receiver help, traded fifth- and seventh-round picks in this year’s draft to the Broncos for Benson and a 2023 sixth-rounder at the end of training camp.

A lanky downfield threat, Benson played 49 snaps in a Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and saw his play time dwindle as the season went on.

He dropped three of the 22 passes thrown his way and was inactive for most of November and all of December.

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Lions general manager Brad Holmes said in an interview on WXYT-FM (97.1) last week the Lions saw Benson as a “developmental prospect” when they traded for him and “the intent on Trinity was not (getting him for) 2021.”

Randle El said Benson’s inexperience and the Lions’ early-season offensive struggles contributed to Benson’s lack of production, but  Benson remained upbeat the entire season and flashed enough in games and practices to think “he’s going to help us” in 2022.

“You see the speed, you see the route-running, you see the catching ability, especially balls on the sideline, the deep outs and stuff like that,” Randle  El said. “And he threatens you. If you’re playing defense against him, like he threatens you in terms of you’re the (defensive back), getting out of your backpedal and stuff like that. So we see those things, and now it’s just about, ‘Hey, how much can get we give him in this offense? Hey, this is your package.’ And that’s what we’re going to do.

“That’s why I’m more encouraged with him, because like I know, jeez, you can see. You can just see it. It’s like, ‘Come on, bring it out.'”

Two to watch

Randle El, who said Thursday he hopes to add two receivers in the draft this offseason, offered scouting reports on two players he’s working with on the American team.

On diminutive Memphis receiver Calvin Austin (5 feet 7, 173 pounds), who played primarily as an outside receiver in college and is learning the slot at the Senior Bowl: “You can tell it’s a little different for him, but you can see he’s one of the smartest in the group and he’s picking it up and it’s good to see, cause he’s going to need to do that. He can burn you outside with some speed, but his stature, he’s probably going to have to play inside in this league, but you can see him picking it up and being able to understand the inside, what it takes to understand coverage. The nickel’s buzzing out and I just hook and turn. He’s getting some of that.”

On speedy South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert (6-1, 195 pounds): “Jalen can play. Yeah, I have no question about Jalen in terms of him catching the ball, route-running and things of that nature. He’s just got to work on small stuff, like his stance. He stands very tall in his stance and in this league, like I’ve already told him, I said, ‘You’ve got no chance.’ Like, you can’t be at the line of scrimmage just standing (straight up). So you’ll see in his work today and even yesterday, he started correcting. You can watch the film and you can see the improvement. Sometimes he’s standing up and you’ll see him start getting down and getting more in that defensive or that I’m-shot-out-of-a-cannon stance, and that helps him even with to get into his routes even quicker. And then you seen him make some plays down the field. That was the other thing, so that stood out to us.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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