As the No. 3 receiver in Scott Linehan's offense, Titus Young has been just what the Lions ordered

Posted Dec 15, 2011

Any offensive coordinator will argue that he can never have too many playmakers on his side of the football.

Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is probably no different.

But Linehan has to feel at least a little spoiled this season in that he finally has a third option at receiver to attack defenses with.

The emergence of rookie receiver Titus Young as a playmaker is allowing Linehan to open up the playbook from previous seasons.

“That’s why we drafted him and he’s really just touched the surface for us right now,” Linehan said of his rookie receiver. “Now he’s getting a feel for the offense and we can game plan things a little more for him.”

Lions receiver Nate Burleson said Young already has his own package built into the game plan each week.

“He’s going to go into the game with five or six plays specifically called for him,” Burleson said. “It just gives us more versatility on game day.

“Titus is fast, he’s faster than me. For that reason he gets a little more down-the-field action with play calling and then when you put him and Calvin on the same side, really, who are you going to guard?”

Teams are still opting to guard Johnson with bracket coverage and Young is taken advantage of it.

“Anytime you are playing with the best wide receiver in the NFL, I’ll say that guys spend hours and hours and hours game-planning to take away that guy,” Young said.

“Guys like me, Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler, (Brandon) Pettigrew, I feel like we do a good job of knowing that we have to be ready at all times and our coach does a great job in putting us in positions to be successful.”

Before the Lions drafted Young in the second round of April’s NFL draft, the No. 3 receiver spot was an enigma and the elephant in the wide receiver room for the Lions.

The team signed Bryant Johnson to a three-year deal worth $9 million to be the No. 2 guy before the 2009 season and also drafted Derrick Williams out of Penn State in the third round that year.

Together, they were supposed to make a formidable punch behind Calvin Johnson.

That never happened.

The Lions were forced to go out and get Burleson be their No. 2 receiver before last season.
Bryant Johnson had 53 catches and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Lions before being waived this offseason.

Williams barely saw the field.

Last season, Bryant Johnson and Williams combined for 21 catches for 240 yards and no touchdowns from the No. 3 spot.

This season, Young has 35 receptions through 13 games with 523 yards and three touchdowns.

“He had our two explosive passes last week (against the Vikings) and both times he was in a position where they were concentrating on No. 81,” Linehan said of Young’s 57-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and his 25-yard catch in the second half.

It looks like Young has all the makings of being the playmaker the Lions have been looking for from that position.

“The arrow has been going up for Titus the whole season,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz. “He’s had ups and downs the whole season like any rookie does but overall he’s been trending up and we’re seeing some of the explosive plays we know we can get from him.”

There’s still some room for improvement and some growing up to do with Young, though.

He still makes silly mistakes like lining up wrong and will have to sure-up the penalties and bonehead plays – like the personal-foul penalty that got him benched in the second half of the Saints game – if he’s going to be an elite playmaker for the Lions.

“Titus is still coming,” said Calvin Johnson. “There’s going to be some setbacks, there’s going to be some tough times for him, but at the same time he’s still growing. He’s had a very productive rookie year. He’s doing some good things for us. He’s showing a lot of positive things for the future.”