The loss of veteran wide receiver Jermaine Kearse to a leg injury in last week's preseason opener was a blow to the Detroit Lions and their depth at the wide receiver position.
Kearse was having a nice camp and situating himself nicely to be the No. 4 receiver behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola when the regular season started. With Kearse now on injured reserve, the job to be the No. 4, and potentially No. 5 receiver is an open competition once again.
Chris Lacy, Andy Jones, Brandon Powell, Travis Fulgham, TommyLee Lewis, Jonathan Duhart, Tom Kennedy and Deontez Alexander all have a little less than a month to try and separate themselves from the group.
"There's a lot of guys vying for that position at the moment," Stafford said after Wednesday's practice. "Got some work with TK (Tom Kennedy) today, he was running with the one's. Lacy was running with the one's. So, I'm sure we'll kind of be filtering guys in and out just trying to get experience with them and watch them perform. That's what it's all about, making sure they're doing the little things right and then when they get their chances , go ahead and make the plays."
Lacy, in particular, has made some plays over the last week or so. He's stepped up since the Kearse injury, and has been a mainstay with the first team. He's got a bigger frame at 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, and has been good over the last few practices.
"We are all out here working and competing and one guy goes down the next man has to be ready to step up and fill in," Lacy said. "We have a lot of talent in our room. Everyone is going to be competing and getting ready to go."
After the top three, the wide receiver room doesn't have a ton of experience. Fulgham, Duhart and Kennedy are rookies, and the others combined for 24 catches, 269 yards and two scores last season.
Whether or not the Lions go into the regular season picking from the current group they have at the position or whether they add at roster cuts is yet to be determined. Detroit's kept anywhere from four to six receivers on the initial 53-man roster the last few seasons.
It's a wide open competition right now, and all involved have three more preseason games and a couple more weeks of practice to separate themselves from the group.
"I would say in general with the wide receiver group you're trying to find out, 'Are these guys flexible? Can they move into different roles? Can they have different responsibilities within the offensive system?' That would be first and foremost," head coach Matt Patricia said.
"Those guys that can kind of come in – when you start to move down the wide receiver, or really any depth chart some of those reps are going to have to be mental. When you go in and have your opportunity you have to perform. There's not going to be a lot of opportunity because that's what it's going to be like during the season. So, those guys are kind of in that boat right now and when they have those opportunities they have to step up and take them."