Versatile Jeremy Ross breaking out of return-man mold

Posted Oct 1, 2014

Jeremy Ross doesn’t like labels, but he understands the one that’s been placed on him the previous three years in the NFL.

Jeremy Ross doesn’t like labels, but he understands the one that’s been placed on him the previous three years in the NFL.

Ross has been tabbed as a good kick returner and important special teams player. There are certainly worse labels to have, but Ross has always wanted to be more than that.

“I don’t fault people for saying that because it’s not like I’ve shown a lot of different highlights at receiver,” Ross admitted. “I just wasn’t given the opportunities.”

Ross had just six receptions before this season and five of those were last year in 10 games with Detroit. He had one his first two seasons in Green Bay.

This year has been a different story. Ross has played 160 snaps on offense (57 percent) and has produced seven catches for 108 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown in last week’s 24-17 win over the Jets.

“I think it’s great to come out and show that I’m more than just that returner tag,” he said. “I want to be seen as like, ‘Hey, he can play wide receiver as well.’”

The Lions like Ross’ toughness and his ability to run after the catch, but his hands have always been the biggest question mark. Ross has not been credited with a drop through four games.

“Jeremy's a really consistent guy,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “He was there every day in training camp. Every time he had an opportunity to make a play, he made it. He showed not only myself but the coaching staff that he’s a trustworthy guy.

"He’s going to be where he needs to be. He’s an exceptionally good blocker. He’s found a way, found a role on this team, and we’re doing a good job of using him.”

The great thing about Ross’ play through four games is that he’s continued to be a great return man while also contributing more on offense. He’s fourth in the NFC in punt return average (10.3 yards) and fifth in kickoff return (24.8). It’s that ability to be both a weapon on special teams and on offense that is Ross’ most valuable asset, especially on game day when the Lions have to pick 46 of their 53 players to be active.

Jeremy RossWR Jeremy Ross (Photo: Gavin Smith)

“He gives us sort of an added benefit,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “In terms of he has return ability but then also he does give us obviously a number of reps in terms of the pass game and running game because he does a great job blocking. He’s a threat also in the passing game. He’s not someone that you can just ignore.

“Oftentimes it’s been my experience over the years and sometimes we’ve had guys that simply have return ability. They take up a spot on the 46 and you don’t get much out of them from whatever position they play … and that’s tough. (Ross) gives us great flexibility in that regard because he is productive as an offensive player and very productive for us in the return game as well.”

Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are the clear No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, respectively, in Detroit. The third option is a combination of Ross, running back Reggie Bush, tight end Eric Ebron and receivers Corey Fuller and Ryan Broyles. The fact that Ross’ name is even included among that list is a testament to how far he's come as a receiver.

“We have guys that you have to account for and more often than not they’re going to put their less talented guy on me,” Ross said. “They’re going to double-team CJ (Calvin Johnson) and put their next-best guy on Golden.

“They’re going to put their third-best guy on me. I’m like, 'make it happen.' That’s okay with me. It’ll be trouble for them, because I feel like I’m confident in my abilities.”