Two of the biggest performers on the first day of Detroit Lions minicamp were wide receivers Trinity Benson and Quintez Cephus. Each had several impressive moments, significant performances from two players hoping to shake off disappointing 2021 seasons in Detroit.
This sets the stage for what should be a summer battle between Benson and Cephus for the same spot on the Lions’ final 53-man roster.
The wide receiver’s depth chart is pretty well established up top. First-round rookie pick Jameson Williams will start once he’s healthy. Imported free agent DJ Chark and last year’s rookie sensation Amon-Ra St. Brown will be the other main players at the position. Josh Reynolds is safely on board after re-signing in the offseason after a strong finish through 2021.
Assuming the Lions keep six WRs – perhaps a dangerous assumption – that leaves two spots. Kalif Raymond is almost certainly guaranteed a spot. Campbell praised Raymond before practice as a versatile gimmick player who can line up in multiple positions and will also be the first punt returner. The simplicity of Campbell’s tone makes it incredibly difficult to see the Lions move on from Raymond, who also signed from Detroit this offseason.
Tuesday’s impressive outings from Benson and Cephus were therefore important. They are the two best fighters for (maybe?) last place. Campbell pointed out the differences between the two ahead of practice Wednesday.
“Speed speed speed,” Campbell said of Benson. He clearly approved of the work Benson has done this offseason to master the playbook. Campbell also spoke about Benson’s potential on special teams,
“He’s pretty tough. I think he can help us in the special teams. I think he can be a shooter, and so if we can feel that speed, and he continues to grab the ball and do what he did in the spring, then he comes out and competes at a shooter in teams specials, I think it serves him well, serves us well.
As for Cephus, the head coach loves the competitive mentality the third-year receiver brings.
“He does what we asked him to do, and last year was kind of like putting him in a competitive environment, and all of a sudden he shows up,” Campbell said of Cephus. . “That’s when you really feel it, and yesterday we had one of those competitive environments, and who comes up? He came up again. So we don’t ignore those things. I don’t ignore them.
In Wednesday’s practice, Benson and Cephus again had good plays. Benson made a fantastic sliding catch in the corner of the end zone. A few reps later, Cephus walled in a closing defender and did a great job of extending to catch a pass away from his frame in heavy traffic. Cephus has struggled with the first-team kick coverage unit, showing he can compete on special teams as well.
It could come down to what Leos value more: speed or physique. During the first part of the offseason, Benson and Cephus are doing their best in the unspoken competition. Don’t expect it to end easily or soon.