As the Lions’ WR corps restructures, who will see the bulk of the red zone action?
With the departure of Anquan Boldin, there are a lot of red zone and third down targets to go around. While the Lions don’t have the clear-cut option that Boldin was last year, they have a lot of options that are capable in this area. The DLP writing staff share their thoughts on who they believe will lead the team in red zone targets when the year comes to an end.
It’s evident that Anquan Boldin is not coming back, especially with reports that he wants to stay close to Florida. Boldin was tied for second in the league last year in receptions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. That’s fourteen receptions inside the twenty that are there for the taking, which is a lot, but not as many as one may initially think. However, I’m not sure any one player will reap the lion’s share there.
Ebron is the most likely candidate to step up in the red zone, but there’s also Marvin Jones to consider. And don’t forget Theo Riddick was quietly tied for 12th in the league in receptions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. With Matthew Stafford having targeted five different receivers 65-plus times in 2016, the targets are likely to be more spread out than they are to be entirely absorbed by any given player.
Michael Roberts will likely see red zone success similar to Joe Fauria. I would be surprised if fewer than 1/3 of his receptions were touchdowns. With that said I think he’s likely to end the year with fewer than 20 Receptions, putting him in the five to seven touchdown range for the year. Seven could easily lead the team, however. I am expecting a red zone by committee in 2017.
Unfortunately, nobody on the Lions’ roster has shown the ability to put up monster numbers in the red zone, and as much as I liked Kenny Golladay pre-draft, it was not because he is a fully formed professional football player. He is going to be good but don’t expect his rookie year to be magical. Guys from the MAC typically have the size/speed combination a team wants but take a couple seasons to develop their skill set.
I’m expecting Golladay to be under 25 receptions for the year, but to be a primary focus for the red zone defense of the Lions’ opponents. Roberts will be the second or third tight end option, and likely covered by opponents worst coverage linebacker in goal line and short-yardage situations.
This question I think is a little more difficult to answer. Last season Anquan Boldin emerged as the Lions’ primary red zone guy, reeling in eight touchdowns in a nice season for the Lions. So what remains to be seen is who steps into that role as the go-to option from 20 yards out or less. My best guess is that it will be a joint effort simply because the Lions do not currently have one player that can do everything Boldin could. Expect Ebron to see the largest increase in targets, however Michael Roberts, Darren Fells, and even Kenny Golladay should all see some not insignificant action here to try and fill the void that Boldin will most likely end up leaving behind.
The Lions were seriously lacking in red zone threat last year, and this showed up in their red zone efficiency numbers. While I think Ebron will probably take over the position that Anquan Boldin played last year, and quite possibly take over the red zone and third down target opportunities, I think that Theo Riddick is a very underrated red zone target.
Theo Riddick has been among the top three red zone targets in each of the last two years. Last year, he accomplished that with Anquan Boldin clearly hogging the targets inside the opponent’s twenty-yard line. What’s more, he accomplished that in an incomplete season.
With a complete season of production and presumably no Anquan Boldin, I believe that Theo Riddick is going to get a lot of looks in the red zone.
Another thing worth noting, Golden Tate gets far more looks in the red zone than most people give him credit for. He is assumed to be an open field type of player, but he has touches manufactured for him and he also gets a lot of work on quick routes. This lends itself well to red zone work, even without a large frame.
Marvin Jones is not very good at creating separation. Darren Fells has never been much of a receiving threat. Michael Roberts and Kenny Golladay are going to take time to adjust. Abdullah, while a threat in the receiving game, will likely relinquish his red zone targets to Riddick. While Tate and Ebron both figure to be among the top red zone targets, all of the new additions will probably cut more into their target’s than Riddick’s. Riddick will get check down and designed plays. Tate and Ebron will be competing with other players lined up as receivers, usually defended by defensive backs.