'The sky is the limit': Lions' Golladay emerging as true No. 1 receiver
Allen Park – This wasn’t the season Kenny Golladay expected. The Detroit Lions receiver anticipated being part of one of the league’s top pass-catching trios, running roughshod on opposing secondaries alongside Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. But with unexpected twists and turns of the year have left Golladay as more of a one-man band.
While not what he expected, or wanted, it’s undoubtedly been a valuable opportunity for the second-year receiver out of Northern Illinois. It’s necessitated an increased pace with his development, forcing him to more quickly form cohesion with quarterback Matthew Stafford, while proving to the coaching staff he's capable of shouldering the load in the passing game.
“You know, with those guys -- with Marv being out -- it's just more for me to prove to these coaches that I am able to produce without those guys being the main focus on the defense, with me being pretty much the main (target),” Golladay said Monday.
To be fair, it’s been hit or miss. Since Jones went down with a knee injury last month, after Tate was traded away at the deadline less than two weeks earlier, Golladay had back-to-back outings where he compiled 14 catches for 203 yards, followed by back-to-back games where he caught a total of five balls for 55 yards.
But against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Golladay was a man on a mission. He provided the offense with their five longest offensive plays of the afternoon, receptions each going for at least 20 yards. He spent more time than usual operating out of the slot and had much of his success working Buffalo’s young, talented cornerback Tre'Davious White, a first-round pick from a year ago.
Golladay ripped an interception out of the arms of a defender in the first half, went up and over White for gains of 31 and 40 yards, and for what might have been the first time in his career, truly looked the part of a No. 1 wideout.
Unfortunately, the performance came in a loss, which left Golladay with a sour taste, despite the outstanding individual effort.
“I mean, I guess ain't do enough then,” he said. “Really, it's just a tough loss.”
Still, the value of this stretch, and even this single-game showing, isn’t lost on Golladay. He knows he’s establishing a reputation, with his quarterback, his teammates and his coaches. He’s proving, on a weekly basis, the player he already is and the one he’s capable of becoming.
“I definitely think up there with some of the good receivers, I just have to continue to keep working,” Golladay said. “I’m still young. This is my second year. I definitely think I’m able and capable of doing what all those (top-10) guys are doing.”
With the 146 yards against Buffalo, Golladay inched across the 1,000-yard plateau on the season, one of 19 players to accomplish the feat so far this season. He's more than doubled his production from a year ago, and while he declined to share his personal goals from the start of the season, he acknowledged he’s already blown them out of the water.
Going forward, into his third and fourth season, he wants to top the standard he sets this year, regardless of what weapons the Lions add this offseason.
“The sky is the limit,” he said.
For now, the focus is simply on finishing 2018 strong, building on the momentum he has coming out of Buffalo.
“We’ve got to put that to bed and get ready for the next opponent,” he said. “We’re going to put this loss to bed and get ready for Minnesota.”