FOUR DOWNS: Receiver competition tough to call

Posted Aug 16, 2014

Four Downs following Friday night’s preseason loss to Oakland covers tight competition at wide receiver, Orlovsky’s improvement, a struggling run game and Fairley’s status.

The competition among the collection of receivers vying for a roster spot behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate is close. It’s so close, in fact, that the participants aren’t likely to make things easy on the Lions when it comes time to decide who will make the final 53-man roster and who will be left out.

The Lions didn’t get any closer to determining who might have the edge for those two or three receiving spots in Friday’s 27-26 loss in Oakland, either.

“It's good to see actually,” Caldwell said of the competition. “Any time it gets tough in terms of competition, where it makes your decision very difficult, that's good for us. That's very good.”

Jeremy Ross has likely already cemented his spot on the roster with his return ability, but two catches for 42 yards Friday night showed coaches he could make some plays in the passing game, too

Ryan Broyles continued his strong training camp. He caught three passes last week and caught two more Friday night, including a 34-yarder with 32 yards in run after the catch.

Ryan BroylesRyan Broyles (Photo: Gavin Smith / Detroit Lions)

“I just try to score,” Broyles said. “Every time I get the ball I try to score. I feel like I have something to prove, I played that way in college. I haven’t been able to do that here in the NFL, but two games down hopefully I continue to do that.”

Kris Durham went up and caught a 50/50 ball in the end zone for a touchdown on the Lions’ second possession of the game. Durham used his 6-foot-6 frame to his advantage and just muscled the ball away from the defender.

Corey Fuller nearly scored on a 15-yard catch down to the 1-yard line in the third quarter. It was nearly his second touchdown in as many weeks.

“I think this is the deepest group of receivers we’ve had since I’ve been here,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said after the game.

“This is the best competition going on in practice and in preseason that I’ve seen in a while here, and that’s a good thing for us. Right now, I’m having a bunch of fun throwing to all of them and watching them all play.”

Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky’s performance last week vs. Cleveland prompted some to question whether third-string quarterback Kellen Moore should get more of an opportunity to compete for the backup spot behind Stafford.

That talk has likely quieted down a bit after Orlovsky’s performance in Oakland.

He had terrific command of the offense all night and led two scoring drives, including an eight-play, 83-yard touchdown drive on Detroit’s first possession of the third quarter that increased their lead to 23-10 at the time.

“I thought he moved the ball well,” Caldwell said. “I thought he handled himself in the pocket extremely well. He stepped up out of trouble and was able to deliver the ball down the field.

“I thought his pace of operation was good. It was a very good tempo. And he led us on some scoring drives, which was key. I thought he played a lot better.”

Orlovsky finished 8-of-12 passing for 153 yards with a 109.7 quarterback rating.

Orlovsky was accurate and decisive and played much better this time around.

The Lions have played two preseason games now and have struggled to run the football consistently in both games.

Is this something the Lions should worry about?

Stafford doesn’t think it is just yet.

“I think the run game is a little bit odd, especially in the preseason,” he said. “The run game a lot of times is a methodical thing where you’re chewing up yards, chewing up yards and you wear them down. Then you pop a couple big ones late in the game and all of the sudden you rush for 140 yards.

The Lions rushed for 77 yards against Cleveland and just 52 in Oakland.

It’s Caldwell’s job to worry about every aspect of his football team including the rushing attack.

“We still need to keep working on our running game and shore that up a little bit,” he said.

The Lions were a very good rushing football team last year and this current two-week trend shouldn’t be too big of a concern just yet.

Caldwell made it very clear last week that the best kicker between Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio would win the place kicking duties this year, despite the fact Freese was drafted and Tavecchio was signed as a free agent.

It appears the rule also applies to first-round draft picks.

Former first-round draft pick Nick Fairley played with the second-team defense Friday night, which he’s been doing all week in practice. Taking his place in the starting lineup was veteran C.J. Mosley, who according to Caldwell, has earned the right to play more.

“We thought C.J. (Mosley) was playing better, so we put C.J. in place,” Caldwell said of the swap. “We’ll see how Nick played and make another comparison and see where we’re going to go next week.”

Mosley finished the game with three tackles. Fairley had one.