We've reached the third installment of our position previews with training camp less than two weeks away. It's amazing to think rookies will be reporting to Allen Park in less than a week.
We take a look at the receiving position, which was decimated by injuries and other circumstances last year. It's a deep group, but one that still has some question marks.
|Terrence Austin||– Did not play in game –|
|Patrick Edwards||– Did not play in game –|
|Corey Fuller (college)||13||43||815||18.9||69||6|
|Micheal Spurlock (w/ SD & Jac)||12||23||200||8.7||22||1|
|Devin Thomas||– Did not play in game –|
|Cody Wilson (college)||13||74||845||11.4||45||3|
|Matt Willis (w/ Den)||15||10||90||9.0||19||0|
BY THE NUMBERS
|6:||The number of times Calvin Johnson was tackled inside the 2-yard line last year. He finished with five touchdowns. Running back |
|46:||Receptions on first down for Calvin Johnson last year, which were the second most in the NFL behind Cincinnati's A.J. Green (52).|
|37:||Points scored by the Lions in 2012 in the two-minute offense. That was the third most in the NFL and more than double the NFL average of 17.|
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
|The good:||The Lions were the No. 3 team in the league last year in accruing yards after the catch (YAC). Lions receivers has 2,217 YAC yards, which was more than 400 yards more than the NFL average of 1,799.|
|The bad:||The Lions led the NFL with 45 drops last season, according to Stats, LLC. The team also led the NFL in attempts (740), which would inherently lead to a higher number of drops, but 45 are way too many. That means Lions receivers (tight ends and running backs included) dropped a pass about 9.2 percent of the time a catchable ball was thrown their way. That needs to get better in 2013.|
|The fix:||The first stats shows the Lions have an explosive passing game with receivers that have the ability to break a big play on any catch, even the short ones. That ability has gotten even stronger with the addition of running back |
"He thinks he can which is all that matters. That guy works harder than anybody I know and he thinks he can get better so I wouldn’t put anything past him. He’s a guy that can obviously run all of the routes – inside, outside – make all of the catches and is a smart football player, and a really good teammate."
THE DEPTH CHART
The Lions need a second receiver to emerge as a legitimate option opposite Megatron. The team was decimated by injury at the position last year with Nate Burleson (broken leg) and Ryan Broyles (ACL) missing significant time, but Johnson had 122 catches and the next receiver on the list was Titus Young (no longer with team) with 33, behind two tight ends and two running backs.
Broyles is a likely breakout candidate in 2013, if he can stay healthy. He has a unique ability to decipher man vs. zone concepts and find the open spaces in the defense. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford refers to him as a "chain mover." He's a 50-catch candidate this season.
The Lions are solid at the top three receiver spots if Broyles and Burleson, who’s a solid possession receiver entering his 11th season, stay healthy.
Where it gets interesting for the Lions are the fourth and fifth spots. There’s a lot of excitement brewing -- both from coaches and fellow players -- with the development of Patrick Edwards. He’s been impressive this spring, but he has to carry that over into the preseason, which he wasn’t able to do as a rookie last year.
After Edwards, who I think has a great shot to make the team, the competition will be fierce.
The team traded for Mike Thomas last year and he told me he feels much better in this offense this spring having an offseason to acclimate himself further to the scheme.
Kris Durham made a few spot starts last year and averaged 15.6 yards per catch, second only to Johnson. He’s a big target at 6-foot-6 and has great hands.
Then there’s rookie sixth-round pick Corey Fuller. The team drafted him to stretch the field opposite Johnson, but knew he was a bit raw. Does he develop enough to earn a roster spot? The same can be said for Cody Wilson and his development.
Add veteran receivers like Micheal Spurlock, Devin Thomas and Matt Willis into the mix, and it’ll be interesting to see how the position shakes itself out and who emerges to the top of the depth chart over the next month.
2013 POSITION PREVIEWS