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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Detroit Lions position battles: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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Shae Brophy
Born and raised Michigander. Former mixed martial artist, currently attempting to figure out how to golf without embarrassing myself. Very passionate Michigan sports fan. Wolverines, Red Wings, Tigers, Pistons and Lions. Life is good as a fan of Michigan sports!

As the NFL pre-season continues along, there are sure to be surprise performers, as well as performances that don’t live up to expectations. All of these performances lead to the culmination of the final roster.

We’re still three weeks away from the conclusion of the preseason, but the question that follows all 32 teams through the early portion of the return of football is simple: what will my team’s roster look like?

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We here at DSN have the same question, therefore we’ll be breaking down each position battle for the Detroit Lions, as well as projecting what the final roster will look like. This will be done in eight separate portions: quarterback, receiving core (including tight ends), running backs, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, and special teams. This publication will feature the battle for roster spots in the receiving core.

This publication will feature the battle for roster spots in the receiving core.

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CANDIDATES

Wide receivers: Golden TateMarvin JonesKenny GolladayT.J. JonesJace BillingsleyJared AbberderisKeshawn MartinMichael RectorDontez FordDez StewartNoel Thomas

Tight ends: Eric EbronDarren FellsMichael RobertsCole WickTim WrightRobert TonyanKhari Lee

Wide Receivers

There are most definitely a few locks in both of these positions: Tate, Jones, and Ebron. Golladay is as close to a lock as possible as well, considering both the expectations coming into the season and his two touchdown performance in the preseason opener. After that, the race at wide receiver is a lot more open.

T.J. Jones, a 2014 sixth round draft pick, may finally be breaking through. He has been used sparingly in his time with the Lions and did not make the team coming out of camp in 2016. After making good on the team’s request to add weight in the off-season, he was removed from Sunday’s pre-season opener after a 22-yard catch on their first drive, which may be a telling sign that the team is expecting him to be around for the long haul this season.

Billingsley, an undrafted free agent signing after the 2016 draft, was on the practice squad last season. He had two catches for 30 yards on Sunday and has received compliments from fellow teammates such as Golden Tate. He was the team leader with 12 catches for 146 yards during the pre-season last year and seems to be a fan favorite to land a spot on the roster this year.

Abberderis, who had a couple of catches for 18 yards on Sunday, signed with Detroit in January after being cut by the Green Bay Packers. He has appeared in 14 games in his NFL career, catching 10 passes for 119 yards. He is in the mix for a roster spot.

Martin, who was signed in March, is making the most of his opportunity. He caught all three of his targets on Sunday, for a total of 20 yards. He is a little ways down the depth chart though, and probably a long shot to snag a spot on the final roster.

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Rector, Ford, Stewart, and Thomas all appear to be nothing more than camp bodies, despite Ford’s touchdown in Sunday’s game.

FINAL PROJECTION

The Lions will likely keep five receivers, and in my estimation, those receivers will be Tate, Marvin Jones, Golladay, TJ Jones, and Billingsley. The race for the final receiver spot is interesting though, and could very well change by the end of the pre-season. Keep an eye on Abberderis and Martin, as those two are going to make this battle a very tough one.

Tight Ends

Ebron and Fells seem to be the two locks at this position. Fells inked a one year contract with Detroit in March, and is widely regarded as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.

Roberts, who had four catches for 34 yards on Sunday, has the opportunity to develop into a red zone threat. An undrafted free agent, Roberts caught an astounding 16 touchdowns last year alone at the University of Toledo.

Wick was with the team for a six game spell last season, when he caught two passes for 18 yards before finishing the season on injured reserve. He is considered as more of a blocking tight end and is likely to be a regular special teams contributor.

Before tearing his ACL last May, Wright projected to contribute especially in the Lions’ passing game. Since his big rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he hasn’t really done much. But, he could be kept around to spell Ebron in the team’s aerial attack.

Lee and Tonyan are likely just camp bodies.

FINAL PROJECTION

Behind Ebron and Fells, there is plenty of potential. Sadly, potential doesn’t mean anything until it is realized. Because of this, I see the Lions keeping four tight ends to start the season. Ebron, Fells, Roberts, and Wick. While Tim Wright could make it an interesting race for the last spot due to his experience, it sounds like the team is intrigued by the potential that Cole Wick brings to the table.

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