Detroit Lions: The Time Is Now for Ryan Broyles to Step Up

Travis WakemanCorrespondent IIOctober 13, 2013

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 22:  Ryan Broyles #84 of the Detroit Lions reacts after a second quarter first down catch while playing the Houston Texans at Ford Field on November 22, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Over the course of the 2012 NFL season, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford put the ball in the air 727 times. This season, he's on pace to throw it well over 600 more.

Of those 727 passes, wide receiver Calvin Johnson was targeted 205 times.

Johnson was sidelined during last Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers and, according to the Sporting News, he will be a game-time decision this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Johnson is the best receiver in the NFL when healthy and a huge part of what the Lions do on offense, but it's time for someone else to emerge as a viable threat.

The Lions have a plethora of weapons on offense, but none of them are consistent. On the season, the Lions are averaging 26.2 points per game, but with Johnson out, they managed just nine against the Packers.

It's time for someone else to become a threat week in and week out for this team and that player needs to be Ryan Broyles.

Broyles had a stellar college career at Oklahoma, setting the FBS record for career receptions with 349. That led to the Lions using a second-round pick on him in 2012.

Though injuries have hampered him early in his career, the 25-year-old still has a very bright future. Broyles, not Nate Burleson, is the next best option behind Johnson.

Broyles is a quick player who has terrific hands. As a slot receiver, he can make defenses pay. So why has he only caught five passes this season?

The team really needs to work on finding a way to make Broyles a bigger part of the offensive attack, especially if Johnson is going to be slowed by his knee injury.

Stafford completed just nine passes to wide receivers against Green Bay. That number needs to be much higher against Cleveland.

Cleveland will come into the game ranked No. 7 in the league against the pass. But if offensive coordinator Scott Linehan can draw up some plays that leave Broyles matched up against a linebacker going across the middle, Detroit could find plenty of success.

While the Lions maintain a winning record at 3-2, they won't go very far with more performances like they had against Green Bay.

Detroit needs another player that they can trust and rely upon. If he can stay healthy, Broyles is the best candidate to fill that role.

Broyles can still go down as one of the best finds of the 2012 draft and he can still be a key contributor for the Lions for years to come.

However, it's time for him to show the skills that made him a star at Oklahoma. Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium would be a great place to start.