Lions' confident WR Kenny Golladay lets his play do talking

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) set career highs Monday night with seven catches for 114 yards.

Allen Park — Wide receiver is one of those positions where ego has a way of shining through. The best are often brash media magnets, equally prepared to deliver a quote as they are to snag a pass over the middle of the field.

Not Kenny Golladay.

The Detroit Lions wideout is reserved off the field, often shying away from interview requests, and sticking to a low-key script when he gets trapped at his locker by a reporter with a recorder. But don’t be fooled, there’s a quiet confidence that has a way of bubbling to the surface.

If you were looking for bright spots after the Lions’ 48-17 season-opening loss to the New York Jets, look no further than Golladay. He set career-highs with seven receptions for 114 yards, regularly moving the chains when no one else seemed capable.

It’s exactly what he expected to do.

“I know what I can do. It’s not like I’m going out there trying to prove it to myself,” Golladay said. “I know I’ve got the ability to go out there and make plays. …It really didn’t come as a surprise.”

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The performance also resonated with coach Matt Patricia, who is still trying to determine the building blocks of the roster he inherited this offseason.

“I really thought he played at a high level,” Patricia said. “I think he went out and made some really big plays, and I think he showed that he can play big and play strong and just compete very hard. I was pleased with that.

“He’s a guy that just has steadily improved,” Patricia said. “I think he’s really trying to understand his role in the offense. I think he is really also trying to understand kind of his physical traits. He’s kind of growing in that aspect in how to use them to his advantage as he works through the games and works through different coverages that he’s seeing.”

Golladay’s size is his biggest strength. At 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, he’s unique to the team’s position group. His ability to use that frame has the ability to play well against NFL cornerbacks, who are universally smaller.

“Yeah, I mean, I can’t make myself like (Golden Tate), like he moves around, I can’t really play like that,” Golladay said. “I have to play to my size. I feel that gives me the edge.”

That size also came in handy in a unique way against the Jets, one the Lions hope they don’t have to see many more times this season. After an interception, Golladay tracked down cornerback Trumaine Johnson on the return and delivered a punishing shot that jarred the ball free.

Golladay said he hadn’t played defense since his freshman year of high school, but he easily could have easily anyone who witnessed the hit, given the precision and force that caused the fumble. He credited special-teams assistant Devin Fitzsimmons for teaching him the proper technique to deliver the blow.

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“Those opportunities that come up when there is a turnover and you have an opportunity to go basically force the ball back to yourself because of the defenders,” Patricia said. “Sometimes they don’t work on ball security all that much in those situations, and there is an opportunity to kind of turn the ball over. I thought he just instinctually made a really good play right there, and it was good to see something that we talked about from a situational awareness, even going back to the spring, showing up in the game.”

As a rookie, if you take away the five weeks he missed with a hamstring injury, Golladay quickly showed he could be a reliable third receiver option for quarterback Matthew Stafford, particularly on deep balls. Monday’s game against the Jets suggests the second-year product out of Northern Illinois is ready to step up as a weapon at all depths.

“I think he just, as guys do, has just matured,” Stafford said. “He understands what the game’s all about, understands matchups, understands what he’s good at. He understands himself probably more now as an NFL player than he did last year and he understands defenses, all those things.”

With Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, the trio make up one of the league’s better receiving corps. And they're showing, on any given week, each of them is capable of being the focal point of the passing game.

The versatility of the attack is not lost on this week’s opponent, the San Francisco 49ers.

“All those guys are weapons,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “Marvin is a guy that I have always liked, and when you go to Golden Tate, he’s always been a good receiver and you have to remember he also plays like a running back. He’s as hard of a guy to bring down as there is. And once Golladay came on the scene last year, didn’t know a lot about him, but he shows up on tape. He’s tough, he competes, and I’ve been hearing about him over the last year and just getting a chance to watch him here over the last few days now I can see why.”

Lions at 49ers

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Sunday, Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco

TV/radio: Fox/760

Records: Both teams are 0-1

Line: 49ers by 6