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Opportunity there for TJ Jones to earn a bigger role

After losing his entire rookie season in 2014 to shoulder and nerve injuries, Lions receiver TJ Jones was given a limited opportunity to make his mark in 2015.

And when opportunity like that knocks in the NFL, it behooves a player to take advantage, which Jones did.

Playing in 10 games last season, Jones had a couple key third down catches down the stretch, and led the team with an 8.4-yard average on punt returns. His receiving numbers were somewhat modest – 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown – but he had a couple 29-yard receptions vs. Green Bay and San Francisco.

"TJ really has got to take another step forward," head coach Jim Caldwell said Thursday night at a Summit for season ticket members. "He's a guy that does a lot of things well.

"He can return for you. He's got return ability. But then also, he's got a little scat back ability. He can catch screens for you. He can take off and go when he gets a seam.

"We really expect him to come forward and be a little bit more of a prominent threat."

General manager Bob Quinn has said numerous times this offseason that every player he inherited has a clean slate heading into the spring workouts and fall camp, and will have to earn their keep.

The Lions signed receiver Marvin Jones in free agency to pair with Golden Tate as their top one-two punch at the position. The team also signed veteran slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, who like Jones, has punt return ability.

That leaves a couple roster spots open for a young veteran like Jones to step up, make his mark and help fill the void left by Calvin Johnson's retirement.

Corey Fuller, Austin Willis, Corey Washington and Ryan Spadola will also attempt to throw their hats in the ring to secure one of those last couple roster spots at receiver.

Quinn could also still look to the draft later this month to add to the position.

"I'm always looking to upgrade," Quinn said. "It doesn't matter what the time of year is, if it's now or during the preseason. We're going to look to upgrade that position, whether it's the draft.

"I'm never comfortable with the roster. I'm always looking to make it better."

It's now up to Jones to build on the success he had last season and carve out a bigger role for himself in 2016.

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