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Pick your poison: Which Lions playmaker poses greatest threat to Rams?

Jared Goff has no shortage of offensive weapons at his disposal in Detroit

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff will undoubtably have a chip on his shoulder this weekend when he faces his former team, the Los Angeles Rams, in the wildcard round of the playoffs. Goff will have much to prove with Sean McVay looking on from the opposing sideline, and fortunately for the veteran he’ll have plenty of help from a talented supporting cast.

The Lions’ offensive line has been playing as well as maybe any. Center Frank Ragnow brings leadership and stability, and there’s a stark difference in the group when he’s not on the field. He’ll have a tough individual matchup this week in the Rams’ Aaron Donald, Kobie Turner, and Bobby Brown. Detroit also has two elite-level tackles in Taylor Decker and former top draft pick Penei Sewell. Together they will try and keep Goff, who’s at his best when he’s well protected, upright.

Detroit also has a wealth of offensive skill players that each could turn the tide in this matchup. Let’s take a look at them individually and see who poses the biggest risk to Los Angeles walking away from the opening round of the postseason with a win:

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR

Much has been made of Lions general manager Brad Holmes’ Rams lineage; however, he’s maybe found his own version of Cooper Kupp in Detroit by selecting Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Brown nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards as a rookie despite only making nine starts on the year (played all 17 games). He hit that milestone the next season in 2022 and was selected to the Pro Bowl. St. Brown his another career-high in receiving yardage this season with an impressive 119 receptions for 1,515 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s a rare receiver with even better receiving production than Rams rookie Puka Nacua.

The Rams will have to keep a close eye on St. Brown on third downs, because that’s when the receiver comes alive. When his team needs a play, the Lions tend to look in his direction first—and he usually comes through.

Sam LaPorta, TE

We know that LaPorta was carted off the field in the Lions’ regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. His status for this weekend’s game is uncertain.

Still, the NFL learning curve for rookie tight ends is arguably as steep at any position. It’s rare for a player to make an impact in their first season, but LaPorta maybe performed as well as any tight end since Rob Gronkowski. That is a lofty comparison, but the former Iowa Hawkeye has already proved he’s an impact player.

He accumulated 86 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air this year.

David Montgomery, RB

Detroit’s leading rusher just broke the 1,000-yard milestone in 14 games while averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry. He amassed 13 touchdowns on the season and is a tough back to bring down in short yardage and at the goal line.

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB

While Montgomery is certainly a capable running back, Jahmyr Gibbs poses a much more dynamic threat out of the backfield. Gibbs finished just short of 1,000 yards but averaged an eye-popping 5.2 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns of his own. For comparison to other running backs across NFL history, former Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles is the all-time leader of yards per carry at a 5.4 clip. Nick Chubb is the active NFL leader for the Cleveland Browns at 5.3 yards, so what Gibbs is accomplishing is special.

The rookie also added another 52 catches for 316 yards through the air, and some of his best receiving performances came late into the year.

If you’re keeping track, Gibbs is the fourth player on this list with at least 10 touchdown scores. That shows just how dynamic this Lions offense is.

Josh Reynolds, WR

Josh Reynolds wasn’t considered a priority free agent when he left the Rams in free agency ahead of the 2021 season. He initially signed with the Tennessee Titans but lasted only five games before being released and finding himself with his former quarterback, Goff, in Detroit. But over the last three years with the Lions, Reynolds has developed into a fine number two or three receiver in a highly productive offense. He’s capable of stretching the field and is a big-bodied target over the middle.

In 2023 he hauled in 40 receptions for 608 yards and five scores.

Jameson Williams, WR

Williams was regarded by some as the best receiver of the 2022 NFL draft class, but an injury dating back to his college days hampered his transition to the professional game. To take matters from bad to worse, Williams was suspended to start his second season by violating the league’s gambling policy. The suspension was originally supposed to be for six games, but the NFL reinstated him early after only four games.

His 24 catches for 354 yards and two touchdowns doesn’t sound like much for a player with his draft pedigree; however, it’s important to note that his production has increased significantly of late and he continued to grow his impact on the Lions offense. In his last three games (he missed Week 18) he had receiving totals of 69, 43, and 47 yards. These three outings comprise nearly half of his season yardage totals.

Kalif Raymond, WR

Raymond is best known for his work as a punt and kick returner. In recent seasons he’s leveraged his dynamic return abilities to make an impact on offense, and he’s turned into a capable deep threat. In 17 games he caught 35 passes for 489 yards (14.0 average) and a touchdown. His longest reception went for 41 yards. Raymond’s status for Sunday night’s game is uncertain as he suffered an injury in the regular season finale versus Minnesota.