Lions notes: Second look at Josh Reynolds paying dividends for Detroit

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Sports is an easy forum for hindsight debate. Media and fans love to discuss what could have been, particularly when it comes to players a team could have or should have drafted. 

And it also applies to free agency. 

Josh Reynolds (right) has 16 catches in five games since joining the Lions.

The Detroit Lions had interest in wide receiver Josh Reynolds as a free agent, but they opted to go a different direction, signing Breshad Perriman for one year, $2.5 million. Reynolds ended up going to the Tennessee Titans on a one-year, $1.75 million contract. 

Both moves ended up being bad fits. The Lions cut the oft-injured Perriman before the start of the season, eating the $2 million cap hit, while Reynolds requested his release from the Titans in early November after catching just 10 balls for 90 yards in five games. 

Desperate for receiving help at that time, the Lions were able to claim Reynolds off waivers. It's been a perfect match. After getting acclimated with the scheme, he's averaged four receptions for 64 yards the past four games, while scoring twice. 

"He kind of brings us something that is a little different, a little different flavor, just his size, his length, his speed, his ball skills," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "He’s a smart guy and he’s been a real good addition for us.

"I’ll tell you what, he’s a damn good teammate, too," Campbell continued. "You just watch him, he’s excited for one of his teammates and he’ll block. He gets in there and mixes it up and he’s excited for a teammate when he makes a play. Yeah, he’s been a good addition for us."

It begs the question, why didn't the Lions pursue him more aggressively when they had the chance? It's particularly confusing given general manager Brad Holmes spent the last four years with Reynolds in Los Angeles and was the team's college scouting director when the franchise selected him in the fourth round out of Texas A&M in 2017. 

The simplest explanation is Holmes didn't see Reynolds as capable of being as effective in a featured role as he'd been serving as a complementary piece to Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods with the Rams.  

"You may think you know something about a guy, but maybe you don’t always know," Campbell said. "And, sometimes guys need a fresh start before you really realize who they are. I do know that sometimes you talk about a guy who you like a lot and he’s got all of these qualities about him to really be a leader, can really help your team in other areas other than production. And man, it’s not until the guy who is the perceived leader in the room leaves before you really see the full potential of that player come out. And, I think just production as a player is the same. You never know."

Giving it a go

Dynamic dual-threat running back D'Andre Swift has missed the past three games with a shoulder injury, but the Lions still aren't ready to pull the plug on his season. In fact, the expectation is he'll return to practice this week.  

"Look, I still think we're taking this week-to-week, day-to-day," Campbell said. "There again, I know as of this morning, he's better than he felt last week. He feels better than he did, I guess it was Saturday, when we worked with him. Our plan is to work him back into practice this week and see how he feels."

Even after missing three games, Swift's 984 yards from scrimmage easily leads the roster. He's also pacing the team in rushing yards (555) and total touchdowns (six). Across the NFL, he ranks fourth in both receptions and receiving yards at his position. 

Room for one more

After two outstanding performances as an injury fill-in off the practice squad, the Lions rewarded running back Craig Reynolds with a promotion to the active roster on Monday. 

Reynolds, who signed with the Lions in the middle of the preseason, has done nothing but impress during his time with the Lions. A product of Division II Kutztown University (Penn.), Reynolds has amassed 216 yards from scrimmage in two games, including a 26-carry, 112-yard outing against the Cardinals on Sunday. 

With Swift potentially returning, and Jamaal Williams activated off the COVID/reserve list Monday, it's unclear where Reynolds fits in the backfield rotation down the stretch, but Campbell said they'll cross that bridge when they get to it. 

"That's one of those tough things you have to decide," Campbell said. "Do you carry three backs? Do you carry four backs? Who is up? Who is down? We'll play it by ear. It's a good problem to have."

Reynolds has seemingly managed to jump rookie Jermar Jefferson on the depth chart, while Godwin Igwebuike's recent ball security issues could make it tough for the Lions ot trust him down the stretch. On other hand, his game-day role is likely saved because he serves as the team's kickoff returner. 

"Look, I'd say this, if Craig goes to the game, Craig's getting some carries," Campbell said. "That's what I'd say. Yeah, he's warranted that."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers