Quintez Cephus has been struggling with great odds ever since he entered the league. When he was picked by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, he was already behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola on the depth chart. And when Golladay was injured most of the season, instead of giving Cephus plenty of time to play (he only started two games), they promoted Marvin Hall (five starts) and added Mohamed Sanu (four starts).
So, after his rookie season in which his coaches seemed to be denying him significant playtime, he entered in 2021 with a brand new coaching staff not picking him up. The Lions were clearly looking for a different type of audience in this new offensive, so Cephus again faced difficult opportunities.
Let’s take a closer look at Cephus’ journey last year and the challenge he will face again in his third year in the NFL.
Previously: RB Godwin Igwebuike
Expectations for 2021
The Lions receiving corps has been questionable throughout the season, which theoretically would mean Cephus had a chance to shine. It was clear, however, that Detroit was looking for high-speed receivers after the addition of Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, and Caliph Raymond. Cephus’ gameplay has a more physical feel to it, and considering Jared Goff throws better against players who can split up, some felt that Cephus just wouldn’t fit in with what the Lions were trying to do in attack. Let’s add a sketch of Amon-Ra St. Brown, and it suddenly looked like Cephus was entering its second year with no guaranteed place.
Worse for Cephus, a head injury at training camp cost him about a week of exercise.
On the other hand, almost every collector had a fight or an injury in the camp. Without standing out in the group – apart from the stubbornness of St. Brown – Cephus was one of the more consistent players in the group and seemed fairly safe about his place in the squad. Even so, it seemed unlikely that his role would increase significantly after his rookie season.
Effective role in 2021
Statistics for 2021: 5 games (3 starts): 15 catches, 204 yards, 2 TD
PFF class: 71.7 (DNQ but would be the 46th of 94)
Cephus actually made the 53-man squad, and when Williams suffered a Week 1 ending concussion, Cephus was dumped into the squad. Over the next four weeks, the Cephus proved to be a legitimate deep threat, and Detroit the more reliable at that time. Here’s a look at its production compared to the rest of the group in week 2-5:
Quintez Cephus: 13 catches, 192 yards (16.0 YPC), 1 TD
Caliph Raymond: 11 catches, 132 yards (6.6 YPC), 2 tank destroyers
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 17 catches, 155 yards (9.1 YPC)
Trinity Benson: 3 holds, 36 yards (12.0 YPC)
KhaDarel Hodge: 3 holds, 39 yards (13.0 YPC)
Unfortunately for Cephus, his season would have ended mid-week 5 after a collarbone fracture against the Minnesota Vikings.
Outlook for 2022
Cephus did an excellent job proving its worth last year, strengthening itself as the Lions desperately needed someone to make an impact on the area of attack.
However, it will enter 2022 again, fighting for a place in the squad. Detroit added DJ Chark and Jameson Williams as their two initial external audiences. Combine that with the groundbreaking season of rookies in St. Brown, and when they are all healthy, Cephus just has no part in the offensive.
To make matters worse for Cephus, the Lions have brought back Caliph Raymond and Josh Reynolds – two players who proved they could be weapons in this offensive and have a good relationship with Jared Goff.
So Cephus will enter the training camp in sixth place on the depth table, behind Williams, Khark, St. Brown, Raymond and Reynolds. However, with Williams appearing more and more on the list of physically unable to perform (PUP) during the regular season, Cephus will move up to fifth place, which is likely enough to make it into the last squad.
That said, it seems Trinity Benson – the gamer this The Lviv regime won through trade is ready for the off-season challenge. After a very disappointing season where Benson was just trying to catch up as a late addition, he suddenly looks more capable of being the fast, versatile weapon general manager Brad Holmes thought he got when he traded in for him.
Cephus vs. Benson could prove to be one of the more interesting battles in the training camp and it is possible that both of them will be on the list while Williams is on the pitch. If not, the Cephus’ greatest strengths are its size and physical nature. Detroit just doesn’t have many weapons to attack, who can do what it does. It has already looked promising in the off-season activity, and Antwaan receiver coach Randle El expects this to continue when the pads arrive next month.
“His spring this year is better than last year, but he’s also a guy who is a little different after turning on the pads,” said Randle El. “It means there are so many more coming up. It’s just different with the pillows on. He’s a bigger guy, more physical, so it’s good to see (improve) him. ”
As always when we talk about players so deep in their position, special teams are a good way to build your squad. Cephus doesn’t have much experience there (91 pics in 2020, two in 2021) and will likely represent the camp behind Benson in special teams. That said, he has gained much more confidence from the coaching staff after his actual performance on Sunday, and his 2022 is also getting off to a good start. At this point, he should be considered a minor favorite to win a spot in the squad in September.