Three games into the Detroit Lions’ preseason and the wide receiver position may be the hardest to predict.
We already know that Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate aren’t going anywhere, and Jeremy Ross is safe as the starting kick/punt returner, so who will claim the final two or three spots?
Ryan Broyles has been off to a hot start in preseason action, and leads all Lions receivers with 8 catches and 113 yards receiving. It’s been a heartwarming story for the third-year wide receiver who’s had some bad luck maintaining his health.
Broyles is finally as healthy as he’s ever been and has been proving it on the field. Not only has he been able to consistently get separation and find holes in coverage, but he’s been a chain-moving machine. Out of Broyles’ eight preseason catches, seven of them have resulted in a first down.
Despite the impressive numbers, Broyles is still handcuffed to the second-team offense, and continues to practice on the reserve field in between games. So this begs the question, is Ryan Broyles safe among these impending roster cuts?
How Many Receivers Will the Lions Keep?
Obviously, Broyles’ chances largely depend on how many receivers the Lions decide to keep. Assuming the Lions keep five receivers, then two spots would be up for grabs. Among the receivers fighting for the final few spots are Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Corey Fuller and Broyles.
There are plenty of variables to consider when deciding whether to keep an extra receiver or not. For instance, if the Lions decide to stash Kellen Moore on the practice squad for another year, then that could free up an extra spot for a receiver.
Another example would be how the Lions plan on constructing their playbook. The Lions have three receiving threats at tight end, and also a couple of running backs in Bush and Riddick that can also line up in the slot. This could influence the Lions to keep just five receivers and delegate the extra spot to someone who can contribute on special teams.
If it were up to me, I’d like to keep six receivers, because there is just too much talent at the position right now.
With Megatron, Tate and Ross as locks, we can assume that both Megatron and Tate will be the starting outside receivers, and Ross will likely serve as a backup slot/outside receiver focusing primarily as a return specialist. So it’s safe to assume that the final two or three spots will include a starting slot receiver, and a backup outside receiver (or someone who can play either role with Lombardi’s habit of moving receivers around constantly).
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This leads me to believe that the Lions will have to choose between Broyles and Ogletree for the starting slot receiver role, and Durham or Fuller as outside threats.
Practice Squad Eligibility
This factor could end up hurting Broyles the most. With the new practice squad rules, both Broyles and Fuller are practice squad eligible.
I would find it hard to believe that Broyles wouldn’t get stolen off of the practice squad immediately from a team that’s thin at wide receiver, but you never know in this league.
Quick Player Overview and Verdict
Durham is considered a red zone threat standing at six-foot-six, but we already have Megatron, Ebron and Fauria to create those mismatches. Durham still struggles to get separation and has had his issues with drops in the past.
Ogletree’s been impressive during training camp, but has yet to show up in a preseason game.
Fuller has improved greatly since last year and has had a solid camp. He caught a few passes during the preseason so far including a game winner against Cleveland, but he hasn’t done enough to warrant a spot if you ask me. I believe he’s headed to the practice squad for a second straight year.
So with all of these factors to consider, I still believe that the Lions will find a spot for Ryan Broyles on the final roster. Whether we keep five or six receivers in the end, it’s clear to me that Broyles offers more in this offense than the receivers above.