Lions have had to get creative in the slot due to injuries

Posted Nov 14, 2013

Detroit has relied on recently signed receivers Jeremy Ross and Kevin Ogletree to step into the role and produce quickly

The importance of the slot receiver in NFL offenses has grown the last few years and it's not uncommon for the position to become a primary target for quarterbacks across the league.

In the case of the Lions, the slot has become somewhat of a revolving door due to injuries that struck early on in the season.

Following a six-catch, 116-yard performance at Washington in Week 3, Nate Burleson was involved in a car accident, in which he suffered a formearm fracture. Burleson is on the verge of a return, but has yet to be cleared by doctors.

He has certainly been missed the past six games.

Second-year receiver Ryan Broyles, who was sidelined last season with an ACL injure, tore his Achilles against Chicago Week 4 and was lost for the season.

Suddenly, a position that appeared to be locked in, lacked depth. The Lions have utilized players like running back Reggie Bush, rookie tight end Joseph Fauria and even receiver Calvin Johnson in the slot.

Kevin OgletreeWR Kevin Ogletree on a 43-yard reception (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

They've also relied on recently signed receivers Jeremy Ross and Kevin Ogletree to step into the role and produce quickly.

Ross in particular has been on the active roster less than a month, activated from the Lions' practice squad on October 19.

"Jeremy Ross has done a nice job of stepping in that slot," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "We've had some injuries there and he came in, we worked him out, and he had a really good workout. I got to know him during his first week on the practice squad, his understanding of the game was exceptional."

Against Chicago, Ross had two catches for 28 yards, including a long of 17. Both catches were part of drives that resulted in touchdowns. It was also the first start of his career.

Through three games, Ross has three receptions for 35 yards.

"He's very smart and that's why he was able to get on the field so soon for us," said Linehan. "He picked up our system quickly and he's done a nice job there."

Over five games, Ogletree has caught five receptions for 75 yards, including a long of 43 on third-and-20 against Cincinnati. That third-down conversion ultimately kept the drive going to result in a 27-yard touchdown.

"Ogletree has done everything that we've asked," said Linehan. "He hasn't played as many snaps, but when we've targeted him, he's made the catches.

"Without those guys we would be in serious need of something because we don't have a lot of depth at receiver. But they've given us depth right in the middle of the year, stepping in for us, and I'm really proud of those guys."