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Billingsley could help at receiver and in return game

After Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and third-round pick Kenny Golladay, the competition for the remaining receiver spots on the Detroit Lions roster appear to be completely up for grabs.

One name that keeps surfacing as a prime candidate for one of those spots is second-year receiver Jace Billingsley.

The 5-foot-9, 189-pound undrafted slot receiver caught the team's attention last offseason when he led the Lions in the preseason with 12 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. It earned the former running back and receiver at Eastern Oregon a spot on the practice squad a year ago, where he continued to impress.

View photos from Day 5 of Detroit Lions OTA practices.

He was called up to the active roster on Dec. 31 before Detroit's Week 17 matchup with Green Bay. Although Billingsley was inactive against the Packers and the following week in the playoff loss to Seattle, his call-up to the active roster guaranteed he'd remain a Lion this offseason.

"He's coming along," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said this week of Billingsley. "He's one of the guys that we anticipate that may be able to come along and do some things for us and he's progressing nicely.

"He's a guy that played more running back in college. He's got a unique knack about him. He's got quickness. For his height, he's got some bulk, but he's hard to cover from a coverage standpoint. It's a great position for him at this point, so we'll see how things go. It's a really good competition and it should be fun."

Billingsley is in a completely different stage of his development in OTAs than he was this time last year. He's been able to focus on receiver exclusively over the last year, and feels like he has a pretty good handle on his craft.

"I feel a lot more comfortable playing receiver after a year on the practice squad being able to work on it every day," Billingsley said after Wednesday's open OTA practice. "I watched a lot of film and watched other guys and watched myself to try and improve.

"The comfort level as a receiver is at an all-time high right now. I feel good about it."

Billingsley finished fourth in the NAIA with 1,931 all-purpose yards as a senior at Eastern Oregon, tallying 863 rushing on 176 carries, 506 receiving on 57 catches and 13 touchdowns.

He was also a dangerous return man in college, an area where he knows if he steps up at this level could go a long way to earning himself a roster spot out of training camp. Billingsley is among those players trying to win the Lions' punt and kickoff return duties.

"I see myself fitting in somewhere on this team, no matter what my job is," Billingsley said. "If it's just special teams or it's playing a lot of receiver, return game, wherever it is they want me ... I feel comfortable with it all. I'm ready to do it. The more you can do the better, and the return game is a big part of that."

TJ Jones, Keshawn Martin, Jared Abbrederis and others will compete with Billingsley to make the roster out of camp. The competition for those last couple spots should be fun to watch all throughout training camp and the preseason.

"That's what's going to be fun," Billingsley said of the competition brewing at receiver. "We're all out here and we want to see each other do better because we know that we're competing and we're going to make each other better.

"Obviously they can only keep a certain amount (of receivers on the roster), but we're also putting on tape for other teams. We're all just trying to make each other better and help each other out."

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