It’ll be a battle of strengths when the Detroit Lions (6-7) take on the N.Y. Jets (7-6) at MetLife Stadium Sunday.
The Lions sport a top-five offense (26.8 points per game), while the Jets feature the No. 6 defense in the league (18.7 points/game).
Detroit wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown understands that the matchup — termed as a “heavyweight fight” by his head coach Dan Campbell — will be a tough one for him and his teammates.
“It’s going to be two good, and like I said, high-powered offense against a high-powered defense,” St. Brown told reporters Wednesday. “It’s going to be tough. We know who they are going in, but we’re excited.
“Yeah, they’re a good defense. I think they’re a top-five defense in the league. They fly around. They hit. They got DBs and a good front-seven, so this is going to be a tough matchup for us. Excited for it. We got to be ready, because we’re a pretty good offense. But, when a good offense meets a good defense, one side is going to win. So, we got to make sure that we’re bringing the heat.”
The second-year receiver is coming off a six-catch, 68-yard receiving game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14, and he’s put up some gaudy numbers in his last five contests overall.
During the aforementioned stretch, the USC product has hauled in 43 balls for 499 yards and three touchdowns, while catching 86 percent of his targets from Lions signal-caller Jared Goff. It equates to an average of nine receptions and 100 yards a game.
© Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK
St. Brown has been nearly impossible to stop for opposing defenses over the last five games.
However, it doesn’t mean that Sauce Gardner, the Jets’ No. 1 cornerback and the favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, will get the assignment against St. Brown. The reason why: Gardner, a product of Detroit King High School, focuses most of his attention on receivers on the outside, while St. Brown does most of his work out of the slot.
Regardless of who’s covering him, St. Brown is ready for the challenge that lies ahead in facing the Jets, which boast a top-five pass defense. And, he’s also aware of the fact that his recent heavy dose of targets is far from a given.
“I think every week is different,” St. Brown expressed. “Some weeks, you kinda feel that, ‘Oh, I might get more targets this game.’ But, you know, what I found out in this league is, sometimes those games, you really, you won’t get the ball as much. And, the game where you think, ‘Oh, I probably won’t get the ball as much this game,’ are the games where you get the ball the most and score the most. I don’t think about it too much.
“Like I said, once you get out there, things unfold. I mean, in practice, you might say ‘This is the first read for the quarterback, he’s going to be open.’ And then, you get out there in the game, and he’s not open and the guy that you never thought would pop is going to be open. I don’t think about it too much. In the game, things move around, and you never know what happens.”
There’s been a noticeable transformation that Detroit has undergone since starting off the year with a 1-6 record, and for St. Brown, it starts with Campbell, the organization’s second-year head man.
“He instills that attitude in us every day. We follow him. He’s never wavered. He’s been the same guy throughout the whole season,” St. Brown said of Campbell. “And, as players, we can’t ask for much more. We want to go out there and win for him. Win for ourselves. Do it for the city. Do it for everyone. And, it feels good right now when we’re winning. But, we got a lot of work left ahead of us.”
For the veterans on the team, like seventh-year left tackle Taylor Decker, the change in culture in the locker room has been even more apparent.
Decker has been a member of the Lions since being drafted by the franchise in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He hasn’t experienced a winning season since his second year in the league, when Jim Caldwell was still roaming the sidelines in the Motor City.
Now, all of a sudden, Detroit — winners of five of its last six games — is playing meaningful football in the month of December, and it’s been a welcomed change of pace for the veteran lineman.
“I feel like I’ve been through it,” Decker told reporters Wednesday. “Not that I’m an old guy, but I’ve played a good amount of ball. So, it’s just cool to see that over the last couple of years, we’ve been kind of able to fight, scratch and claw our way out of this thing and start to have some success. And, while it’s a small sample size, it’s a start. And, now the trick is going to be sustaining that.
“It’s what good teams do, they sustain it (and) not just over a six-game stretch or 10-game stretch. It’s over seasons and years, five years, decades. So, it’s been fun, it’s been rewarding. And, I think it’s been validating for a lot of guys, especially the young guys to come in here. We didn’t have success early on, just to see that the work they put in does mean something.”
Source : Sports Illustrated