Jared Goff’s chemistry with ‘confident’ Josh Reynolds thriving for Detroit Lions

Detroit Free Press

The smoke goes off and the crowd screams as Josh Reynolds emerges out of the tunnel in the northwest corner of Ford Field.

The Detroit Lions wide receiver lifts one leg up to a 90-degree angle, cocks his arms to the side at a 45 and yells out a scream.

Or maybe, it’s a hiss.

“The freakin’ serpent,” as Dan Campbell was quoted on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” show this summer.

Reynolds isn’t an explosive, next-level athlete like running back D’Andre Swift. He’s not a physical receiver like DJ Chark. He’s not a route-running master descended from a former Mr. Universe like Amon-Ra St. Brown. And he’s not a 6-foot-5, 250-pound bruiser like T.J. Hockenson.

But he’s slithery. Slippery.

A serpent.

And perhaps most important, in an offense that was so banged-up it featured wide receiver sets with two players just elevated from the practice squad running routes alongside Reynolds last week, he has emerged as a sort of security blanket for his longtime teammate, quarterback Jared Goff.

“Yeah, I trust him,” Goff said after the Lions’ Week 4 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “I trust him a lot and we’re on the same page and our communication is great and he’s playing as confident as I’ve ever seen him, strong, he’s physical. He can win versus anybody right now and he’s a guy that we trust a lot.”

Seems like a long time ago

“Confidence” isn’t a word that was associated with Reynolds this time last season.

After spending his first four NFL seasons with the L.A. Rams, Reynolds signed with the Tennessee Titans for 2021. He didn’t appear in a game in September, had a six-catch performance in his Titans debut and then caught just four passes for 31 yards over the next two weeks before he was released and claimed by the Lions.

“That was a tough time for me,” Reynolds said. “But I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be and it feels good.”

After catching a touchdown pass in the Lions’ Week 2 victory over Washington, Reynolds hauled in six passes for a career-best 96 yards in Week 3 and followed that with seven catches against the Seahawks — his most since Week 10 of the 2020 season, when he had eight (also against the Seahawks) — for 81 yards and a touchdown.

“Yeah, we are (on the same page),” Reynolds told the Free Press on Wednesday. “Whether I’m (lined up) over here or I’m over there, he knows where I’m going to be at within a route.”

Changing on the fly

Reynolds did indeed line up “over here or over there” in Week 4. With a depleted wide receiver corps missing Chark and St. Brown, the Lions gave Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus more time and elevated Tom Kennedy from the practice squad.

“We were kind of warned because we were down bodies, so I was pre-warned if this happens or this happens, you might have to go here,” Reynolds said. “Thanks to OTAs, moving everybody around where I was playing X, playing Z, it was easier than if I hadn’t done it all year.”

He’d never done it in a game, but he didn’t miss a beat.

“Seeing Josh go play X, I mean he has zero reps at X in the week and he picks it up seamlessly,” Goff said. “It’s fun, it makes it a lot of fun and those are the days you always remember.

“With a guy like him, it might not be as hard as it would be for another guy because he’s pretty smart and he can handle all that stuff, but you know it’s a testament to his work ethic and how much he knows about what we’re trying to do on offense.”

Reynolds said as much Wednesday, denying he was doing anything different with a smiling “Nothing’s changed.” His career arc has been about learning how to be and practice like a professional and a starter — engrained in him by Rams wide receiver coach Eric Yarber — and now in a potent offense, he’s reaping those rewards, as he knew he would upon re-signing with the Lions over the offseason.

“That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want until free agency hit to actually sign,” he said. “I like the deal (two years, $12 million) they gave me, and I liked the road the team was going. I liked all the moves they were making, and I was excited.”

His experience with Goff — the same quarterback he has played with for all but three games in his NFL career — probably helps.

Reynolds isn’t the only one having a resurgence early in 2022. Goff is tied for first in the NFL in touchdowns (11), third in passing yards (1,126) and seventh in passer rating (99.9). Reynolds said Goff is playing with the same kind of conviction he’s seen before.

“In L.A. in our Super Bowl year (2018), he was on it,” Reynolds said. “It’s nothing new, I’ve seen it before, but you can see a little swagger about him, controlling this offense and it’s awesome to see.”

Reynolds is on pace for 72 catches, 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns — all of which would torch his career bests, at 52, 618 and five, respectively.

At 27, he’s a veteran in the league and aided by a connection years in the making.

“I think my travels coming to this point have helped me a lot,” Reynolds said. “It gave me patience, it gave me a lot of info and I’m just blessed to be in this position.

“To have the coaches and to have Jared believe in me, as I get going, it’s just going to get better.”

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