The Lions opened the year with one of the NFL's best receiving corps. Heading into the home stretch, it's now one of the league's thinnest units. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park -- Entering the 2018 season, you could have made a convincing argument the Detroit Lions had the best receiving corps in football. Now, the group is among the league’s thinnest unit.
On Monday, Lions coach Matt Patricia opened his news conference announcing the team would be placing Marvin Jones on injured reserve.
“We’ve worked through the course of action to see if he could be back before the end of the season, but have determined right now that IR is kind of the proper course,” Patricia said. “Out of respect for Marvin and the injury process, I think I’m going to refrain from any further information, details of the injury, procedures and all of that.”
Jones, Detroit’s leading receiver a year ago, had been sidelined the past two weeks with a knee injury he suffered while diving for a long pass against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 11. He attempted to return to that game, after an initial evaluation, but was called back to the sideline by the team’s medical staff.
After further evaluations, multiple national outlets reported Jones was dealing with a bone bruise.
With Jones out for the rest of the season, the Lions are now without two-thirds of the talented trio the team started with this season. Golden Tate, who had caught at least 90 passes each of the past four seasons, and was leading the Lions in catches and receiving yards this year, was shipped to the Philadelphia Eagles for a draft pick at the trade deadline last month.
“Again, we’re months past the other issue and we’ll adapt to whatever we have to do as far as the latest injuries, whatever they are, at any position,” Patricia said. “We just have to figure it out, roll with the next guy in there and see how it goes. We can’t look back in those situations. We just have to look forward and we have to keep pushing. There’s nothing we can do about it.
“From that standpoint, it just gives other guys opportunities to go out and perform and go out and play at a high level and prepare and get ready to go. Certainly, from our standpoint, that’s what we’re going to do, just do everything we can to figure it out."
With Jones out the past two weeks, second-year receiver Kenny Golladay has stepped up and adequately served as the team’s No. 1 wideout. In a victory over Carolina and loss to Chicago, he was targeted 23 times, catching 13 balls for 203 yards and a touchdown.
“As I’ve mentioned about Kenny multiple times, for such a young guy to come in and approach the game the same way every week and have that consistency in his preparation,” Patricia said, “I think you see that week-in and week-out in the games, it just kind of carries over with his attack and his approach to trying to do everything he can to prepare, knowing that he’s going to see some different looks or different coverages that he may not have seen before. That’s evolved through the course of the year. And with things around him that change, I think he continually evolves.”
While Golladay has shouldered his share of the load, the Lions’ other options have left plenty to be desired. Recent addition Bruce Ellington has hauled in 12 passes during the two-game stretch, but is averaging just 6.7 yards on those receptions. Meanwhile, TJ Jones and Andy Jones have combined for three grabs that gained 21 yards.
Not surprisingly, quarterback Matthew Stafford’s production has also suffered without Jones, a premier deep threat, and Tate, consistently one of the league’s best at picking up yards after the catch. Despite completing 68 percent of his throws, Stafford is averaging 6.08 yards per attempt in two games without Jones in the lineup.
For perspective, Arizona rookie Josh Rosen is last among qualifying quarterbacks this season, averaging 6.14 yard per attempt.
Jones finishes his season with 35 catches for 508 yards and five touchdowns in nine games. He was slightly behind pace on his production a year ago, when he caught 61 balls for a career-high 1,101 yards and nine scores.
To fill the open roster spot, the Lions signed linebacker Nicholas Grigsby off the team's practice squad.