‘Plenty of weapons’: Lions prepare for Commanders’ speedy wide receiver group

Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions will face a different kind of speed when the Washington Commanders come to town Sunday.

That’s right: We’re talkin’ Big Ten speed, baby.

It’s something that Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye knows a lot about. During his time at Penn State, Oruwariye played against Commanders receivers Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, who both went to Ohio State, and alongside Jahan Dotson, who was a freshman Nittany Lion when Oruwariye was a senior.

“The first thing that jumps off the board, I mean, all those Ohio State guys, usually pretty fast, but I think Terry’s kind of separated himself at the receiver position, owning that, so I think he’s gonna bring a good element to the game,” Oruwariye said.

“I think Curtis Samuel’s a very talented guy who they want to try to get the ball in his hands, catch and run, and then Jahan’s coming alive as well.”

After one week with new Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz, it appears that they’ll each have their chances to shine. Wentz had four touchdown passes — including two to the rookie Dotson playing in his first NFL game — in a 28-22 win over Jacksonville. Five receivers had more than 40 passing yards and all of them fewer than 75. That’s some nice balance.

And speaking of familiarity, Lions coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn have that with Commanders coach Ron Rivera. Rivera served as head coach of the Carolina Panthers for three of the seasons that Campbell and Glenn were with Carolina’s NFC South-rival New Orleans Saints.

Campbell said Wednesday that Washington’s receivers remind him of the offense that Rivera put together with the Panthers.

“There’s a number of things that I know that (Commanders offensive coordinator Scott Turner) likes to do, and he’s got plenty of weapons there,” Campbell said. “He’s got gadgetries, he’s got slots, he’s got — McLaurin can play inside, outside, Dotson can do a little of both. So, these guys are explosive athletes and they have speed.”

But allow Glenn to let you in on a little secret: “Here’s what I’ve noticed about this league, going forward, that every week is a tough week,” Glenn said.

“Every teams have these skill guys that can do a number of things. And this is a team that has McLaurin as far as the receiver position, Dotson, then Curtis Samuel, whom I’m familiar with from being from Carolina. … So, they do have guys that we have to get ready to (stop) — but that’s every week. So our cover guys, when we get a chance to double the guys, we’ve got to win, but when you’re in one-on-one, you have to get a chance to win, too.”

The Lions’ performance against Philadelphia’s dangerous receiving core was a bit of a roller coaster, but outside of A.J. Brown — who, to be fair, finished with the second-most receiving yards (155) across the entire NFL in Week 1 — the Lions managed to shut down the likes of Devonta Smith (zero catches) and Zach Pascal (one catch, seven yards).

Washington’s receivers fall into a different category than Brown (6-foot-1, 226 pounds) and Pascal (6-foot-2, 214 pounds). All of the receivers on Washington’s roster besides Cam Sims (6-foot-5), who did not catch a pass on Sunday, are 6 feet tall or shorter.

“Obviously, the way they use them in the system (is different), but I think, at least for me, I think — I don’t think any of those guys are really as big, more physical as Brown was,” Oruwariye said. “They’re more on the shifty side, but all good, dynamic playmakers.”

Of course, when talking about how Detroit’s secondary will fare this weekend, there’s the obvious caveat that slowing down Washington’s pass game starts with the big men up front.

Wentz hung onto the ball longer than any other quarterback last week besides Chicago’s Justin Fields, averaging 3.14 seconds on each pass, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Detroit’s defensive line, meanwhile, had little to show for a strong performance against Philadelphia a week ago. Can they get different results for the same effort against Wentz, who’s far less mobile than Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts?

Answering that question will go a long way in realizing the kind of day Detroit’s secondary will have when the Commanders visit Ford Field.


Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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