How Ryan Broyles Became the Biggest Name in Training Camp This Year
In order to become the biggest name around Detroit Lions training camp, young wide receiver Ryan Broyles just needed to stay healthy and prove his injuries were behind him.
The good news thus far is that Broyles appears to be healthy and ready to go for his sophomore campaign in Detroit.
Today's article will look at exactly how Broyles got to this point and what we might expect from him down the road.
When the Detroit Lions went to the well once again in the 2012 NFL draft by selecting former Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles, there were some who had questions. The second-round pick had a history of ACL injuries and seemed to only add to a position of strength in Detroit.
Wide receiver Titus Young was coming off a rookie campaign that saw him tally 607 yards and six scores. Meanwhile, Calvin Johnson was fresh off a ridiculous 1,681-yard, 17-touchdown performance.
Why go after yet another wide receiver when you have areas of need elsewhere on the field? After all, Detroit had just made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years and finished over .500 for the first time since 1995. It needed to add talent at other areas in order to take the next step in the NFC.
It just didn't make a whole lot of sense for general manager Martin Mayhew and Co. to spend another high-round pick on a receiver.
Skeptics would end up having a field day, as Broyles missed six games due to a knee injury and failed to make an immediate impact in the 10 games that he did play last season.
On the surface, this pick seemed to make absolutely no sense. While Broyles struggled with injuries, others who were selected behind him performed at high levels as rookies.
Linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Casey Hayward come to mind first. Both filled positions of need and excelled in every possible way as rookies.
David recorded 139 tackles and finished fifth in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Surprisingly enough, Hayward became one of Green Bay's best defensive backs and recorded six interceptions in a performance that enabled him to finish third in the aforementioned rookie honors, according to NFL.com.
These performances coupled with Detroit's seemingly unnecessary selection of a wide receiver seemed to inspire critics even more.
Those critics didn't take into account what would be a continuing off-field circus that surrounded Titus Young, who is no longer with the team.
Young was suspended prior to Detroit's Thanksgiving game last November and never suited up with the team again, as reported by ESPN.com.
Via ESPN.com, just a few short months after this suspension, Detroit released its former second-round pick.
Meanwhile, veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson missed 10 games due to injury last season and only contributed 27 receptions.
But according to ESPN.com, Detroit did go out there and sign Chaz Schilens to a one-year contract earlier in July.
The veteran receiver put up 28 receptions for the New York Jets last season but can't be relied on to make much of an impact in 2013. He hasn't caught more than 29 passes in any of his first five seasons in the league.
Needless to say, the wide receiver situation has left the door open for Broyles to prove he can make an immediate impact as a sophomore.
According to indications around Lions camp, Broyles has impressed thus far.
Tim Twentyman of Detroit's official website filed the following report from camp on Saturday:
...This year during day two of camp, Broyles was making catches across the middle of the field with the first-team offense in team drills.
The most significant part of that blurb is that Broyles was taking reps with the first team on Saturday. This could be an indication that Detroit is expecting him to take over that starting receiver role opposite Johnson.
Broyles' rehab has been remarkable, really. He tore the ACL Dec. 2 in a game vs. Indianapolis and was already participating fully in mini-camp in mid-June, just six-and-a-half months later.
Ryan Broyles on his way to the field with a helmet. Not a big surprise after he participated fully in mini-camp. #lionscamp— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) July 26, 2013
While Detroit plans on taking it slow with Broyles, this is a great indication that he is fully prepared to put his injury history behind him.
This recent cycle of good news surrounding Broyles comes on the heels of what was an amazing recovery from that torn ACL last December. If Broyles is able to suit up Week 1, his recovery will rival what we saw from Adrian Peterson last year.
While every injury is different, Minnesota's star running back could provide us with somewhat of an example as it relates to Broyles, who was ultra productive during a four-year career with Oklahoma.
As a solid possession receiver who never averaged as much as 15 yards per catch in college, Broyles seems to be the best fit to start opposite Johnson or in the slot. He can provide quarterback Matthew Stafford with a consistent target. In doing so, Broyles can help Stafford turn away from targeting Johnson too much. The idea here is to create some resemblance of balance in the passing game.
The targets should definitely be there.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), no other Lions receiver outside of Johnson tallied more than 53 targets last season.
In lieu of another receiver stepping up last season, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler received a great deal of attention in the passing game. Again looking at Pro Football Focus, those two combined for 178 targets.
We surely cannot expect that same type of distribution with both Broyles and Burleson healthy.
Will Ryan Broyles be the Lions second-leading receiver in 2013?
Some of these targets will go to newly acquired running back Reggie Bush, who is among the best pass-catching backs in the entire NFL. The former No. 2 overall pick is averaging 53 receptions per season in his seven-year career.
That being said, there will still be plenty of chances for Broyles to make a major impact as a sophomore this year.
It just remains to be seen where exactly he will be utilized.
According to Ourlads.com, Broyles is currently No. 3 on the depth chart behind Johnson and Burleson. This makes sense considering that the Oklahoma product seems to fit better in the slot. Semantics really don't matter here. Whether Broyles plays in the slot or outside, he will be Stafford's second-favorite target at receiver outside of Johnson.
That will lead to what promises to be a breakout season for the young man. If healthy, you can expect Broyles to challenge the 1,000-yard plateau and quiet the skeptics who believed he was a wasted pick.
Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist at Bleacher Report.
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