Next man up: Jamaal Williams, Quintez Cephus ready for bigger roles if Lions need them

Detroit News

Allen Park — “Next man up.”

You’d need a few more fingers to count how many times that line was uttered in the Detroit Lions’ facility on Wednesday, as nearly the entire starting offense missed practice with injury.

Every starting pass catcher on the Lions’ roster — Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, DJ Chark and T.J Hockenson — plus running back D’Andre Swift, who has all but been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, was a no-go. And now, with the rush to get them healthy before Sunday, Detroit has little idea which combination of players will be ready to play on gameday.

“We don’t play today. That’s the best way to look at it: We don’t play today,” wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El. “We’ll see what Sunday brings. Just keep working it that way, because that’s the idea. Get ‘em ready for Sunday.”

And even though he was talking about the wide receiver group, specifically, that also includes backup running back Jamaal Williams, who carried the rock 20 times for 87 yards and two scores on Sunday.

“I feel like it’s scary — for defenses, not for me,” Williams said when asked about what can happen when he’s allowed to get into a groove. “I just keep on running. I just laugh, get up, do it again. That’s all.”

In Randle El’s answer, he’s not just referring to the starters who are questionable. He’s also talking about the reserves waiting in the wings: Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond, maybe even Tom Kennedy. All three of those receivers played much bigger roles for the Lions last season.

“That’s why we keep the guys we keep, knowing they can go out and produce when we need them to,” Randle El said. “Talk about (Cephus), remember Q last year, he really started coming on before he got hurt. That was early, but he was coming along. So he’ll pick up right where he left off, if we need him to be out there.”

Raymond’s production outside of punt was a bit spotty; he had two 100-yard performances, 10 weeks apart, and had 576 yards and four touchdowns on the year. Kennedy, you’ll remember, had a 75-yard touchdown pass to Raymond in the season finale last season.

Cephus suffered a broken collarbone five games into the season and finished his campaign with 204 yards and two touchdowns. Lions quarterback Jared Goff said he’s “always had a lot of trust in” Cephus and that he “always competes for the ball, always is able to make a play on the ball down the field, and has always got strong hands, runs into traffic.”

“He’s very consistent in that way.”

Cephus added: “I felt like we were definitely building confidence in each other, and that’s just something that we continue to do moving forward.”

Seeing red (zone)

An unstoppable force meets the immovable object.

Maybe that’s exaggerating the impending battle between Detroit’s second-ranked red-zone offense and Seattle’s fourth-ranked red-zone defense — but then again, maybe not. After five seasons with the Rams, Goff has seen Seattle plenty.

In 13 opportunities, Seattle has allowed just five touchdowns in the red zone. Detroit, meanwhile, is scoring a touchdown in 84.62% of trips to the red zone, which ranks second in the league and is a big reason why Detroit has scored the second-most points of any team so far.

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Though the big names of famed Seahawks’ defenses from yesteryear are gone, Goff is expecting more of the same ol’, same ol’ when it comes to Seattle’s red-zone defense, which he said is successful because of its mentality.

“It’s a four-point swing, so it’ll be an emphasis for us definitely this week,” Goff said. “I think in my experience playing Seattle, they’ve always been kind of ‘bend, don’t break,’ mentality on defense,” Goff said. “… Typically, the coverages are relatively the same around the league. So, it’s whose executing the best and who is believing in the bend, don’t break, true mentality.”

nbianchi@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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