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Detroit Lions: Who Is The Best Fit At Slot Receiver?
by Nate Williams 1d ago TWEET (26) LIKE (24) 2
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Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Detroit Lions enter the 2014 NFL season both excited and optimistic about the potiential of the young offense. With a new coaching staff in place in Detroit, the players have spent a majority of the off-season learning the system that former New Orleans Saints assistant, Joe Lombardi has put into place.
Lombardi himself has said that we can expect a lot of the same things that worked in New Orleans to carry over to the Lions offense this year.
Using the blueprint of New Orleans can only be good news for Detroit, as the Saints have put up ridiculous yardage in recent years while making the postseason four of the past five seasons. Quarterback Drew Brees flourished in that system, and under the tutelage of Lombardi, the Lions hope the same will be true of Matthew Stafford.
During Lombardi’s introductory press conference he said that the success of the Lions offense could depend more on the personnel on the field than the scheme they are playing in.
“IT’S ABOUT PERSONNEL,” LOMBARDI SAID. “YOU KNOW, SCHEME’S IMPORTANT, WHAT YOU DO IS IMPORTANT, BUT HOW YOU DO IT AND WHO YOU ARE DOING IT WITH IS MOST IMPORTANT.”
One thing the Lions have is talented personnel.
Stafford will of course have Calvin Johnson and the newly added Golden Tate to throw to on the outside as well as both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell out of the backfield. All of those positions are fairly established barring major injury.
One position however that is yet to be decided is who will be play in the slot.
The Lions have a lot of viable options to play the No. 3 receiver position — lets take a look at who is the best option for the slot.
5′ 10″, 188 lbs
Drafted 2012: 2nd Rnd, 54th by DET
Experience – 3 years
College – Oklahoma
The Detroit Lions’ second-round pick in 2012 has yet to play a single down in this league at 100 percent health.
He entered the league rehabbing a torn ACL in his left knee suffered against Texas A&M late in his senior season at Oklahoma.
The 10th game into his rookie season Broyles tore the ACL in his right knee vs. Indy
It went from bad to worse for the NCAA’s all-time reception leader this past season, when he ruptured the Achilles tendon in his left leg during the second month of the regular season in a win over Dallas. Broyles was fielding a punt and the Achilles ruptured on him as he tried to get away from the ball deep in Lions territory.
However, Broyles is going to get every opportunity in training camp to compete for that third, fourth or fifth roster spot at receiver this season. Before he can focus on the competition aspect of his job though, he and the rest of the receivers have to learn a much more complicated offense than the one the Lions ran previously.
Broyles said the route tree every receiver is expected to know is much greater under Lombardi, and though there’s about the same number of plays and same number of formations in the offense, the number of routes available in every formation is much greater.
Broyles is coming off his third major leg injury in as many years, he says he’s feeling great and is participating in OTAs, but plans to be “smart” with his recovery.
All he’s asking for is an opportunity to compete come training camp and the new coaches are going to give the former second-round pick that chance.TJ Jones
6’0″, 188 lbs
Drafted 2014: 6th Rnd 189th by DET
Experience – Rookie
College – Notre Dame
The fact that Jones was taken in the sixth round, 189th overall and the 25th receiver to go off the board indicates that he is by no means a lock to make the 53-player active roster, or to have a major role if he sticks.
By comparison, the Lions drafted wide receiver Corey Fuller of Virginia Tech in the sixth round and 171st overall last year, and Fuller was welded to the practice squad all year.
Jones was productive in four seasons at Notre Dame. He was a full-time starter the last three seasons and led the Irish in 2013 with 70 catches for 1,108 yards, 9 TDs and a 15.8-yard average per catch. For his career, he had 181 catches and 19 TDs.
For Jones, not only has learning the Lions complicated playbook been daunting, but so has lining up along side Megatron and fellow Notre Dame alumni — Golden Tate.
“I got in a couple plays,” Jones said. “I really didn’t know what I was doing. That stopped that real quick.
“At first it was a little overwhelming. It was kind of a dream come true to have such greats surrounding you. It’s something you have to get used to because if you want to play next year — if I want to get on the field — I’m going to be surrounded by them.”Jeremy Ross
6′ 0″, 215 lbs
Experience – 2 years
College – California
Jeremy Ross became one of the best return men in the NFL for the Detroit Lions the second half of the season last year, averaging 29.3 yards per kickoff return and 15.5 yards per punt return, including a touchdown doing both.
While that is all great, the problem is that Ross would like to be more than just a return man.
He wants much more.
Ross has just eight career touches on offense (six receptions and two rushes), but seven of those came last season after the Lions promoted him from the practice squad.
So far this offseason, Ross has been getting an increased number of reps in the slot, even some with the first-team offense. Offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi says he has been impressed with what he’s seen so far.
“There is a role for him, there’s no question about that because he’s catching the ball well,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of Ross. “You saw him there a couple of times (Tuesday). He can run with it, obviously, when he gets it in his hands. He makes good decisions, so it’s a good, competitive situation.”
Ross, like a number of Lions players on both sides of the football, is benefiting from a new coaching staff. Everyone was afforded a fresh start, and Ross is taking advantage.Eric Ebron
6’4″, 245 lbs
Drafted 2014: 1st Rnd, 10th by DET
Experience – Rookie
College – North Carolina
Ebron has been the early favorite to see a majority of the playing time in the slot since he was drafted by Detroit tenth overall in May’s NFL Draft.
Coach Lombardi has said publicly that Ebron could see a role similar to that of Jimmy Graham in New Orleans which would entail him seeing a considerable amount of playing time at WR.
“They’re not exactly the same players, but they’re both very athletic guys,” Lombardi said. “Jimmy has a little more length. Eric might have a little more quickness, I would say. There will be some things we did with Jimmy in New Orleans that we’ll do with Eric, and maybe some things we can do with Eric that we didn’t do with Jimmy.”
Ebron, like Graham, is known firstly for his prowess as a pass-catcher. He hauled in 40 catches for 625 yards as a sophomore in 2012, both North Carolina records for a tight end.
Then he smashed those marks last year, catching 62 passes for 973 yards. That was second among all tight ends nationally.
Detroit returns both of its top tight ends from last season, Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, but views Ebron as more of a slot/tight end hybrid.
“He’s an impact player,” general manager Martin Mayhew said. “He’s a difference-maker, and I think you’ll see that when he starts playing. I mean, this guy is a playmaker. He’s a matchup nightmare as a tight end. He gives us something down the field.”