Grading the Detroit Lions: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends


This post is part of a series of posts in which I review the Lions position groups based on their play in the 2010 season. I assign a letter grade and give you a chance to have your say with a poll at the end.

Is Calvin Johnson an elite receiver? That was the question lingering into the start of these season. The jury was still out three games into the season and many were wondering whether or not the Lions were competent enough to use CJ correctly. The next dozen games did a lot to provide a positive answer to all questions involved. Calvin ended the season ninth in receiving yards and second in touchdown catches. The Lions proved that Megatron can get his stats without having to force the ball to him and that means everyone wins. The production is particularly amazing considering the quarterback situation
Grade: A-

Nate Burleson was the offense’s off-season equivalent to Kyle Vanden Bosch. Jim Schwartz pulled into KVB’s driveway the second free agency opened and Scott Linehan was immediately talking to Nate Burleson at the same time. The Lions were able to land Burleson as the man to take some of the pressure away from Calvin Johnson. He was able to do that, for the most part, and step up when CJ was taken away. Burleson’s best game came against the New York Jets when he caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown while Calvin was marooned on Revis Island. Calvin was severely limited in week 17 due to injury and Burleson stepped up to catch six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown to cap off a four game winning streak. Burleson missed two games after suffering a high ankle sprain in week two but shook it off to have a productive year as a dependable option on third down plays.
Grade: B

Some thought that Bryant Johnson would be in a better position to succeed once it became Burleson’s job to draw some of the coverage way from Calvin Johnson. Didn’t happen. He ended the season with just 18 receptions and it was somewhat of a miracle that he ended the season with the Lions at all. Bryant Johnson was deactivated in favor of Derrick Williams at one point and many thought that he would be cut later that week. It didn’t happen but whatever vote of confidence that was did little to propel him on to greater things. He saved his best moments for the last game of the season but it does nothing to overshadow a wasted season from the number three receiver spot.
Grade: F

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the season was the emergence of Brandon Pettigrew, especially considering he was coming off an ACL injury from last season. Pettigrew caught some criticism for dropping some passes but he caught enough of them to rank third among all NFL tight ends in receptions with 71, only Jason Witten and Chris Cooley had more. Fans that remain bitter towards Pettigrew because of the guys the Lions didn’t draft run the risk of missing out on enjoying a pretty darn good tight end.
Grade: A-

Tony Scheffler was supposed to come in and be a Dallas Clark-type tight end for the Lions. He was used in a variety of formations but never was as dynamic as Clark is for the Indianapolis Colts. Scheffler battled a variety of nagging injuries and probably got lost in the mix of players as Lions quarterbacks had no shortage of targets in the passing game. He caught just 19 passes in the ten games after the bye week and found the end zone just one time this season.
Grade: C-

The Lions passing game finished as the 12th best in the league on a yards per game basis. They did that despite a less than ideal quarterback situation by spreading the ball around between their wide receivers, tight ends and even the running backs. Steady seasons from Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson combined with the breakout year from Brandon Pettigrew allowed the passing offense to progress in the absence of their franchise quarterback.
Overall Wide Receivers and Tight Ends Grade: B+

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