We are just a few short weeks away from the start of Detroit Lions training camp, which means position battles, cuts, and much more. Over the next two weeks, Aaron Meckes and I will preview each position group and give predictions of who you’ll see starting in the Honolulu Blue come Week one.
Who would have thought that the Lions would have questions in their receiving core at the start of the 2012 season? After starting the season with Calvin Johnson,Titus Young, Nate Burleson, and Ryan Broyles, the Lions finished their season with Calvin Johnson, Kris Durham, Mike Thomas as their active wide receivers. Here’s a look at how the depth chart should shape up for the wide receivers in 2013:
Key Losses: Titus Young
1. Calvin Johnson- Johnson would be the number one receiver on every NFL roster. After a combined 3,656 yards and 21 touchdowns in the past two seasons it looks like there is no stopping Megatron.
2. Nate Burleson- Burleson was on his way to a 70 catch season before breaking his leg in week 7. However, after hard work rehabbing in the offseason he looks to be 100 percent and should provide good production opposite of Calvin Johnson.
This could be Burleson’s last season with the Lions if Ryan Broyles proves he can stay healthy and younger players like Patrick Edwards and Corey Fuller develop. With that said, I expect Burleson to start the season as the Lions second receiver on the depth chart, but don’t be surprised if Ryan Broyles passes Burleson on the depth chart as his health improves.
3. Ryan Broyles- Broyles showed a lot of promise last season. Against the Texans on Thanksgiving day he recorded 6 catches for 126 yards and looked to be fully recovered from his ACL injury before he tearing his other ACL just one game later.
That makes two seasons in a row dating back to his final year at OU that Broyles has sustained a significant injury. If this pattern continues the Lions are going to be in serious trouble at the wide receiver position.
4. Patrick Edwards- The media was buzzing last offseason about what Edwards was bringing, but after a weak performance in preseason and an injury, Edwards faded off the map in 2012. This offseason Edwards is making even more noise with Nate Burleson even predicting a 35-40 catch season for Edwards.
5. Mike Thomas- Thomas showed that he is reliable catcher when the ball is thrown his way and he should provide good depth for the Lions when the other receivers need a break. However, most of Thomas’s impact should be felt on special teams and on kick returns should he get the nod.
6. Kris Durham- I was impressed with what Durham brought to the Lions late in the season when the team needed someone to step up and make a play, he did just that. If he can improve his route running and strength he could be a very productive receiver for the Lions. For now, I see him getting most of his playing time if injuries occur within the top three spots on the depth chart.
7. Michael Spurlock- Much Like Thomas, Spurlock’s value comes on special teams where he should land return duties on kick and punt returns.
Cody Wilson has looked really good, but there are just too many small receivers on the top of the Lions depth chart who are threats across the middle. Look for Wilson to play on special teams or the practice squad where he can develop and be available for injury purposes. As for Terrance Austin, Devin Thomas, and Matt Willis I would be surprised if any of these players made the roster.
Much like Wilson, Austin and Willis will likely be used as practice squad or special teams players if they make the 53-man roster.
Outlook: There is a ton of talent on the Lions roster at wide receiver, but there’s also very little experience and a lot of injury history, leaving the depth chart very hard to predict from spots 5-8. Perhaps a player that is at the bottom of the depth char has a break out training camp or preseason? It will be interesting which players separate themselves on the depth chart by the start of the 2013 season.