Detroit Lions: Will Jace Billingsley make some noise from the slot?

Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

After performing well last preseason, will wide out Jace Billingsley be able to make an impact as a slot receiver for the Detroit Lions in 2017?

Many have said this is the era of the tight end in the SFL with future Hall of Famers like Rob Gronkowski, Jason WItten and Antonio Gates dominating at the position. But an argument can be made that the era is transitioning to one featuring slot receivers instead. And the Detroit Lions have one of their one in Jace Billingsley.

Slot receivers like Julian Edelman and Cole Beasley have become integral parts of their respective teams and their impact is starting to change rosters around the league. Not only is having an effective player in the slot now more important than ever, but so is having a defender capable of covering the position on the other side of the ball.

For the Lions, Billingsley appears to be on the verge on becoming an impact player at that slot position in Detroit. An undrafted rookie free agent out of Eastern Oregon, Jace led the Lions’ in receptions last preseason with 12 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

But the now 24-year old receiver spent a majority of last year on the practice squad. And even when Billingsley was promoted to the active roster at the end of the season, he was unable to get into a game. That shouldn’t be an issue this season.

"“[Billingsley] works really hard,” Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford told the Detroit Free Press back in April. “I’ve been up here in the offseason. He’s been up here in the offseason. I’ve seen him running and catching tennis balls, doing all kinds of stuff. He does everything you want a pro to do. … We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully he goes out there and plays great and I know he’s putting the work in to do it.”"

Simply a terrific all-around athlete, Billingsley totaled nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards in each of his final two seasons at Eastern Oregon. Maximizing his versatility, he was a running back, receiver and kick returner all rolled into one.

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If Jace Billingsley can earn the starting role in the slot for the Detroit Lions this season, the biggest benefactor will be quarterback Matthew Stafford, who will need a security blanket like him for those underneath routes. Billingsley is in a perfect position to make some real noise for the Lions’ offense in 2017.