East Rutherford, N.J. — Detroit Lions receiver Kalif Raymond tried to downplay the personal significance of Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, but anyone who has followed his career knows how his time with the Jets ended when he played for the franchise five years ago.
Raymond suited up for just two games with the team in 2017 and muffed three punts, losing one fumble, before being cut. It ended up becoming a defining moment in his career, sending him into a phase of renewed focus and self-discovery that ultimately led him to Detroit.
In Sunday’s 20-17 victory over his former team, Raymond was the Lions’ MVP, returning a punt for a touchdown and recording five catches, including a couple of key third-down conversions. In the locker room after the game, he was awarded a game ball from coach Dan Campbell for his effort.
“He’s our iron man,” Campbell said. “He does everything for us. He’s been in there through some of the injuries we’ve had at receiver. He’s just been there every day, for every game, for every practice. He just goes. He is selfless, he’s disciplined, he’s a hard worker, he’s smart, he’s productive, he endears himself to his teammates and he’s versatile. He can block, he can play in the slot, he can play outside, he’s got run after catch, he’s a damn good punt return.
“… He just does everything for us and he doesn’t bat an eye,” Campbell said. “He doesn’t whine, he doesn’t complain, it’s never too hard, there’s never a job that too much. He just goes. ‘What do you need me to do and I’ll go.’ You can’t have enough of those guys.”
Raymond, insisting on the importance of remaining humble after the showing, was quick to deflect credit on his punt returner to his teammates.
“The first wave, the first 10 yards, I tell the guys, ‘I’ll take two of the first 10 (defenders), but the rest is of that is you guys,'” Raymond said. “And it is. That’s those guys blocking hard.”
More: Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Defensive line keeps pressure on Jets
Rookie James Houston, nicknamed “The Problem,” continues to be just that for the opposition. He recorded another sack against the Jets, his fifth in the four games since he was promoted off the practice squad. In doing so, he became the third player in NFL history to record a sack in each of his first four games since the stat became official in 1982.
“I mean I don’t know too much about the history, but that’s a great (honor),” Houston said. “I’m honored, I’m grateful, that’s my job. I got to go get sacks. Every game I expect to get sacks.”
In this instance, Houston was left unblocked by design, but had to read through two run fakes his direction and quickly recognize the quarterback kept the ball after sorting through that visual manipulation.
“Yeah, just had to kind of process it and then let instinct take over and get to the ball,” Houston said.
And even though there’s a high value placed on sacks, it wasn’t the play Houston was most proud of from the win. No, that belonged to a late block he threw on Raymond’s touchdown return that allowed the receiver to make it the final seven yards across the goal line.
“Man, I didn’t know it was his first (return touchdown) ever,” Houston said. “That’s really special. And for me to throw that last block, that meant everything to me, for real, and I know that meant a lot to him. That was a great little play. That was real cool.”
We’re offering a great rate on digital subscriptions. Click here.
The Lions have been blessed with relatively good health during their recent stretch of six wins in seven games, but had to deal with safety DeShon Elliott exiting in the second half against the Jets due to a shoulder injury.
After the game, Campbell said he had yet to speak with the training staff, so he didn’t know the severity of Elliott’s injury.
Veteran C.J. Moore stepped in as a replacement and would likely continue in that role if Elliott has to miss additional time. The Lions are already down one starting safety after Tracy Walker tore his Achilles in September.