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Detroit Lions have some depth behind Calvin Johnson at WR for a change

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ALLEN PARK, Michigan — After two injury-filled seasons, Detroit Lions receiver Ryan Broyles is ready to get going.

"I'm out here making plays," Broyles said. "I feel confident in what I've shown this preseason. It's just the beginning for me."

Broyles' confidence couldn't come at a better time. The 2012 second-round draft pick has been thrust into a position competition after an ACL injury shortened his rookie season, and a ruptured Achilles in Week 8 against the Cowboys ended his 2013 season.

Those injuries were partially responsible for Detroit's acquisition of free agent receiver Golden Tate during the offseason. Tate's arrival, coupled with Detroit's decision to draft receiving tight end Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick, meant that Broyles would have to fight to remain a Lion during training camp.

Broyles' response to the challenge of keeping his roster spot has been a solid one.

He leads all Lions receivers with eight catches for 113 yards in Detroit's first three preseason games, and his effort hasn't been lost on coach Jim Caldwell.

"The quarterbacks like him," Caldwell said after Detroit's third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "(Broyles) has an unusual knack of being able to split two defenders with speed and power. His hands are reliable. He's doing a nice job."

Broyles said the key to his preseason performances is the fact that he's been able to participate in nearly all of Detroit's training camp workouts for the first time in his career.

"This is the first time that I've gotten the full feel of the offense and rhythm with the quarterbacks," he said. "I feel like I'm in a good spot."

PHOTO: Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson smiles during warmups before a preseason NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field in Detroit, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson smiles during warmups before a preseason NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field in Detroit, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Broyles faces competition from a trio of receivers with experience in the Lions' organization. Kris Durham played in all 16 games for the Lions in 2013. At 6-foot-6, his height gives Detroit an extra option in multi-receiver formations.

Durham also has a close relationship with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford dating back to when the pair were college teammates at Georgia.

Veteran Kevin Ogletree was signed by Detroit in October, 2013, and has six years of experience as both a receiver and special teams contributor.

Ogletree believes that his efforts during training camp will be enough to remain with the team, but he admitted the competition to join Calvin Johnson, Tate, and return specialist Jeremy Ross on the roster has been difficult.

"It's very healthy to have this many guys that want to be great," Ogletree said. "Big decisions always happen around this time. It's the beauty of this game, but it's sort of the beast of it, too."

Second-year player Corey Fuller spent the 2013 season on the Lions' practice squad, and the former sixth-round draft pick is eligible to return there this year. Fuller, Durham, Ogletree and Broyles are all expected to receive extended playing time during Thursday's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills.

Just how many roster places the quartet are fighting for is unclear. That answer depends on the amount of depth Caldwell wants to commit to the position given that Ebron and tight end Brandon Pettigrew give Stafford additional receiving options.

Regardless of how many spots are up for grabs, Fuller said he understands just how important Thursday's game is to his career.

"It's my last chance to show coaches what I can do," he said. "Hopefully I can stick around."


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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: In this Aug. 22, 2014, photo, Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles runs after a catch against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a preseason NFL football game in Detroit. Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate have secure roles with the Lions, but there are other wide receivers hoping to make one good impression Thursday night, Aug. 27, at Buffalo. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
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