As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the wide receiver position.
The Lions are heading into training camp this year with their top three set at wide receiver. Calvin Johnson, who set the single-season receiving record last season, leads the way as arguably the best wide receiver in all of the NFL. Behind him on the Lions are Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles, who are both coming back from season-ending injuries. Burleson suffered a broken leg midway through last season, which in turn led to Broyles getting a bigger role in the offense until he suffered another torn ACL. Assuming both players are good to go for the start of the season, they will be the main receivers alongside Johnson.
There is a lot of uncertainty beyond the top three at wide receiver. Guys like Mike Thomas, Kris Durham and Patrick Edwards are back after being with the Lions last season, and all of them will try to make their case to be the team's fourth wide receiver. Then you have new faces like Corey Fuller, Micheal Spurlock, Devin Thomas, Terrence Austin, Cody Wilson and Matt Willis, who are also looking to make their mark and be a part of the rotation at wide receiver.
Another factor that is important with the bottom of the depth chart at wide receiver is the ability to contribute on special teams. In that regard, possible returners like Mike Thomas, Edwards and Spurlock could have an edge when it comes to making the team. And for covering kicks and punts, a guy like Devin Thomas may have the strongest background.
To say the least, training camp and the preseason will be extremely important for all of the players competing to make the team. With spots up for grabs, there is a real opportunity for guys to step up and solidify their case for being on the 53-man roster. Somebody's got to emerge from this group, and hopefully by the end of August there will be several strong candidates instead of several guys who were nothing more than camp bodies.
Need going forward?
The Lions could use a No. 2-caliber wide receiver to really bolster their top four at the position. However, there isn't much out there right now in terms of available free agents. Perhaps as teams start releasing players the Lions might be able to find somebody who could contribute, but this particular need is going to be tough to fill at this point in the offseason.