Anquan Boldin joined the Lions as a seasoned veteran – but his presence is worth more than a stat line will tell you
Anquan Boldin had a free agency visit in the off-season with the Detroit Lions in the middle of June. The circumstances in Detroit were less than ideal. Especially after losing wide receiver and potential hall of famer Calvin Johnson, I fully expected that the Lions would pick Anquan up later that week to compete in camp, and maybe teach some younger receivers a few new tricks.
They did not. At the age of 35 (at that time) considering the usually large factor that age plays in the NFL, it wasn’t really a surprise that the Lions seemingly decided to pass on signing the seasoned veteran.
Fast forward to a little over a month later, and on July 26, it was announced that the Detroit Lions had signed Boldin to a one-year contract worth $2.75 million. The numbers are important here because it showed he wasn’t going to be a camp body.
With that amount of money being paid to an NFL veteran, especially with preseason football looming, Boldin was certainly here to stay. I’m sure no one in Allen Park at this point is questioning that decision because boy, did the Detroit Lions get their money’s worth or what?!
It was obvious to me that Boldin would make an impact for the Detroit Lions in the very first preseason game. On the Lions first offensive possession, on a third down with six to go, Matthew Stafford hit Anquan Boldin in the middle of the field. The catch was made at near the half field mark, and at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh PA, I had to look quite a way off to my right to see if the pass was completed. A few moments later, Boldin arrived directly even with my line of sight at around the 25 yard line, after he picked up 30 yards on the play and dragged a Steelers defender along with him for the ride.
Even in preseason, it was clear that he was a competitor. The best way to describe that play was that it was that of a grown ass man. Which is exactly what the Detroit Lions have needed for quite some time.
Boldin: Life After Johnson
I’ve heard debates this season about where the Lions would be if Calvin Johnson was still on the squad. It’s no secret that if Calvin were still in Detroit, Boldin would not be. I see no debate as far as this issue is concerned. But I say give me Boldin.
No matter his reasons, CJ was someone who no longer wanted to be in Detroit playing NFL football. Boldin is a man who is as hungry as a player half his age. He’s someone who would kill to be a Lion.
At first glance, the numbers may not show how important Anquan really has become. Fifty-five receptions for 481 yards. That’s not going to knock anyone off their feet. Now, seven TD catches? That may start to make people take notice.
However, the stat that doesn’t show up on the sheet is timeliness. Third down and short? Give me Boldin. Hell, even third down and long with the game on the line just like it was on October 23rd against the Washington Redskins. Give me Boldin for the game-winning touchdown.
For Matthew Stafford, Anquan has become an incredible security blanket that the best NFL quarterbacks deserve. Gone are the days Stafford had to chuck the ball to Calvin Johnson multiple times a game. Now we have a QB who’s allowed to make good, calculated reads across the football field, all while knowing that if need be, a grown ass man is waiting, and even expecting the ball to come his way. You’ll find Boldin two steps ahead of the defense, itching to get to the first down line or even further.
While Matthew Stafford’s improved play this year has had a huge impact on the Lions, let’s not forget Anquan Boldin. When a big time, game-changing play is needed, I can see no better fit for this offense, not even Calvin Johnson.
The race to the finish line in the NFC North is on. I believe that if these Lions keep up the pace and pass the finish line first to beat out the rest of the north, it will be owed to Boldin streaking past the goal line on the field with the football in hand, doing his damnedest to score and restore the roar.