The Detroit Lions are counting on three players to make up for the loss of receiver Nate Burleson.
Second-year pro Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles take a big step up the depth chart at receiver. And tight end Tony Scheffler should get more chances to catch passes from the slot.
”Anytime somebody goes down, someone has to step up and I just happen to be the one that has to step up for the team,” Young said Wednesday.
Detroit added depth by signing former Cleveland Browns receiver Brian Robiskie when it placed Burleson on injured reserve with a broken right leg.
Young and Broyles made the most of their opportunities while the Bears – like all of Detroit’s opponents – focused their efforts on preventing Calvin Johnson from making big plays after Burleson was hurt in the Monday night loss at Chicago.
Young had six receptions for 81 yards. Broyles made the first three catches of his career for 51 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford in the 13-7 loss to the Bears.
”Nate means a lot to us and will continue to in the future, but one of the few bright spots coming out of that game was the fact that Titus had a little bit of a breakout game and Broyles got his first catch, got his first touchdown,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. ”We’ll spread that around. We’re not just going to plug one guy into Nate’s role. It’s going to be Titus in some ways and Broyles in others. It’s going to be Tony Scheffler in other ones.
”There will be increased opportunity for those guys.”
And a job for Robiskie.
He was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars last month. He made 39 receptions for 441 yards and three touchdowns over three seasons in Cleveland. The Browns drafted him in the second round in 2009, 36th overall, and he had only one relatively productive season. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound receiver caught 29 passes for 310 yards and three scores in 2010, when he started 11 of 14 games.
”We’ve seen him for a couple of years, looked at him when he came out in the draft,” Schwartz said. ”He’s got good size, very good technique, got a little bit of experience.
”Hopefully we can get him up to speed right away.”
If all goes well with a trio of receiving options, the Lions shouldn’t need Robiskie to do much Sunday at home against Seattle.
Young, drafted 44th overall last year, showed promise during his rookie season with 48 receptions for 607 yards and six TDs.
His most memorable moment from this year was behind the scenes, punching teammate Louis Delmas when the veteran safety wasn’t looking during an offseason workout. Young apologized for his actions, but bouts with immaturity seem to slow him down. He has been held to only one catch in three games this season, two in another, to go along with two games in which he had six receptions. In all, 17 receptions for 204 yards and only one score after seven games isn’t the kind of production he or his team expects.
”Titus will make plays, I know that,” Johnson said. ”And, I think Broyles gained some confidence in the last game. That was good for him.”
Broyles was only targeted once in four games before catching three passes that gave the Lions first downs, including a TD with 30 seconds left against Chicago.
By design, the Lions have brought him along slowly. Broyles tore a ligament in his left knee last season as a senior at Oklahoma. That’s why he was still available in the second round of the draft, going 54th overall despite breaking the NCAA for career receptions and ranking among leaders in career yards on punt returns. Broyles finished college with 349 catches for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns along with 1,194 yards and two more scores on punt returns.
Schwartz said the team hasn’t considered him an injured player this month, letting him practice with occasional limitations.
”We just view him as one of the other guys,” Schwartz said.
Scheffler has been the other guy at tight end for Detroit behind Brandon Pettigrew; he had more of a shot last season to make plays in the passing game. Scheffler hasn’t scored on any of his 11 receptions after he had a career-high six TD catches last year and 71 catches in his first two years with the Lions.
The 6-5, 255-pound tight end is quick and fast enough to line up in the slot, giving Stafford another option when he drops back and doesn’t see Burleson running a route for the rest of the year.
Notes: Johnson (knee), DE Cliff Avril (back), CB Jacob Lacey (concussion), LB DeAndre Levy (hamstring), DE Ronnell Lewis (not injury related) and S Amari Spievey (concussion) did not participate in Detroit’s walkthrough on Wednesday. Young (knee), Delmas (knee), CB Dwight Bentley (shoulder), TE Brandon Pettigrew (knee), LB Stephen Tulloch (knee) and DT Corey Williams (knee) were limited in a light workout Schwartz hopes will make the team fresh during a short week.