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So far in the preseason, we haven’t learned much from the receivers. Calvin Johnson played just a few snaps in the first game but still managed to walk away with the most receiving yards for the Lions.
Color me surprised. And I don’t expect much to change from now until the regular season.
Nate Burleson was held without a catch against the Browns, and Titus Young, who many expect to have a breakout season, was not available for last Friday’s preseason opener due to the birth of his child. Likewise, rookie Ryan Broyles is still seeing limited action due to his ACL recovery process.
But there’s still a pretty intense competition for the fifth (maybe even sixth) receiver on the roster.
I’ve been saying all along that I think Maurice Stovall is the most deserving and will likely take that last spot. Stovall finished Friday’s game with 35 yards on just two receptions, and I don't have any doubts that he'll be the Lions' fifth receiver come opening day.
I do, however, think we’ll see more from the likes of Lance Long, Patrick Edwards and Nate Hughes during the remaining three games, and we’ll have a better idea of whether a sixth receiver spot might open up. If it does, I see Edwards grabbing it.
As for the tight ends, it’s your usual suspects: Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, with Will Heller being utilized in a full back-type capacity on running plays. Friday’s game didn’t sway me much in any other direction either. The Pettigrew/Scheffler combination is one of the best in the NFL, and Heller is a heck of blocker.
But one thing I did learn from Friday’s game was how much I like the idea of James Bryant being utilized like Will Heller.
The Lions don’t run an offense that requires a fullback, but Bryant did help Keiland Williams and Joique Bell rack up some rather impressive yardage in the backfield. It’s not likely that Bryant will make the 53-man roster, but if he continues to prove his value, he could certainly make the practice squad, and from there, you never know.