Titus Young is a different player since the last time he faced the Saints

Posted Jan 4, 2012

Titus Young is returning to the scene of the crime this weekend when the Lions travel to New Orleans to play the Saints in the opening round of the playoffs.

Coach Jim Schwartz, in the previous meeting with the Saints December 4, benched his rookie receiver for most of the second half in a 31-17 loss after Young took a shot at a Saints players face early in the third quarter and received an unnecessary roughness penalty.

The penalty knocked the Lions out of a third-down-and-1 chance at the Saints 3-yard line and instead they faced a third-down-and-16 from the 18-yard line.

The Lions were trailing 24-7 at the time and were forced to kick a field goal two plays later.

For his part, Young was forced to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines.

It’s an experience Young says he learned from and has become a better player because of.

“It was something that needed to be corrected and I felt that the only way I could have corrected it was to not be put in that position again,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve been very mindful of keeping my cool and letting it go to the next play.”

Young hasn’t been penalized since the Saints game.

“It’s just one of those situations that I think you learn from,” Schwartz said. “Obviously, a big game like that, that it had gotten a little bit chippy, we were down in the red zone, it got flagged, and you learn from that. You don’t put yourself in that position again. I think all rookies go through some of those growing pains, some of those learning experiences.”

The incident has become just a blip in the radar of what’s been a terrific first season for Young.

He’s coming off a two-touchdown performance (should have been three) against the Packers on Sunday and has four touchdowns in the Lions’ last four games.

“I think he did a great job of correcting a lot of those things and showed a lot of maturity and growth and really since then he has been playing pretty darn good,” said Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

Young battled a hamstring injury to begin the year and didn’t get his first touchdown until the eighth game of the season in Denver.

But Young has come on strong lately and that bodes well for the Lions’ chances on Saturday.

“It’s a great feeling to come on late and get those touchdowns and get more touches and take some pressure off the big fella (Calvin Johnson),” Young said. “I always tell him if he’s tired or something ‘I got you, let me get some of those catches.’”

Young has 48 catches of his own this year for 607 yards and six touchdowns.

He’s built a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford and he’s been able to make teams pay, along with receiver Nate Burleson, when defenses devote too much attention Johnson’s way.

“He has gotten better each week for us and he certainly is a guy I know Matt has a lot of confidence in going to,” Linehan said. “He gets some favorable match-ups and looks with Calvin out on the field which is really the reason why he is here, but I think he has done a really good job of working hard, working on certain things in his game that he had to improve on, and I think he has done that.”

Young was drafted with the idea that he could make plays opposite Johnson and has proved Lions general manager Martin Mayhew right on another draft pick.

Linehan said Young’s been the most productive rookie he’s ever had (Linehan was not in Minnesota for Randy Moss’ rookie season).

“We had to have a certain amount of patience but we also had to accelerate his development,” he said. “I haven’t seen a rookie come in and play as much and be as productive in my time, so I really think he has done a great job with the offseason that we had and the way it all worked out.”