As He Smashes Personal Goals, Golladay Proving To Lions He Can Be Go-To Guy

“The goals I did set, I kind of blew those out the water."

Will Burchfield
December 17, 2018 - 6:37 pm

© Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

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This is not how Kenny Golladay envisioned his second NFL season coming to a close. For starters, there’s the Lions’ 5-9 record and last-place standing in the NFC North. Moreover, there’s the team’s depleted receiving core. After Golden Tate was traded and Marvin Jones went down for the season, Golladay is all that remains of a three-headed monster.

In one way, it’s allowed the second-year pro to blossom down the stretch. He piled up a career-high 146 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Bills to crack 1,000 yards on the season. In another way, it’s a twist he laments. 

“Well, of course, I wasn’t expecting to be by myself. That plays a factor in it as well. You’ve got to think, I was with two other guys,” Golladay said on Monday. “One guy left, now it’s just two of us, then he gets injured, now it’s just me. It’s just different.

“The goals I did set, I kind of blew those out the water, which is good. That’s fine with me. It just gives these coaches an opportunity to see what I can do by myself, without the help of other guys around me.”

In five games without Tate and Jones at his side, Golladay has caught 25 passes on 43 targets for 404 yards and a touchdown. He’s proven he can thrive even as defenses fixate on him, a recent matchup with Patrick Peterson notwithstanding. His surge has moved him up to 19th in the league in receiving. Prior to a midseason funk when he was suddenly neglected in the offense, Golladay was knocking on the door of the top 10.

He’s confident he can break through.

“I definitely think I’m up there with some of the good receivers. I just have to continue to keep working,” he said. “I’m still young. This is my second year. I definitely think I’m able and capable of doing what all those guys are doing.”

Golladay acknowledged that eclipsing 1,000 yards was a personal goal this season. He declined to share any others. (“I really don’t share them with nobody, not even my mom,” he said.) Becoming the focal point of the passing attack has surely aided his stats, a fact of which Golladay’s well aware. He views his production through this lens.

Satisfaction doesn’t come easily to him, anyway.  

“I’m saying I blew (my) goals out the water, but not really, because I’m still setting the bar high for myself. As long as I keep setting it higher. Each year I want to do better than what I did last year,” he said.

Even before the trade of Tate, Golladay was on pace for an 1,000-yard season. His big numbers aren't solely the product of a bigger role. He’s played in every game a year after missing five with a hamstring injury, answering an offseason challenge from Bob Quinn “to get his body to where it needs to be,” and he’s shown the ability recently to thrive in the slot. And he remains a big-play threat, tied for eighth in the NFL with 18 receptions of at least 20 yards.

As he nears the second offseason of his NFL career, Golladay isn’t focused on improving one area of his game. That would come at the expense of everything else. He wants to get better across the board.

“Like I always say, just continue to grow as a receiver in the all-around game. You can’t just stop working on one thing. That’s like me saying, ‘I want to work on a slant, so I’m gonna stop working on the fade.’ I’m just gonna keep hitting each thing and set new goals each year. Try to break some records or something like that,” he said with a smile.

In a season full of regression for the Lions, most notably at the quarterback position, Golladay has been one of the few reasons for encourgament.  The third-round pick in 2017 looks like a potential No. 1 receiver for years to come, not just the beneficiary of playing alongside bigger names. He’s suddenly the big name himself, and he’s largely lived up to that label. 

"Really, I just look at it like this,” Golladay said. “With Marv being out, it's just more for me to prove to these coaches that I am able to produce without those guys being the main focus of the defense, with me being pretty much the main (target).”

No, Golladay's second season hasn’t gone the way he hoped or expected. He'd point immediately to the team's record as the reason why. But he’s taken an unfortunate set of circumstances and run with it, and he's got reason to believe he can keep on running.