ALLEN PARK — Missing Titus Young? Really?
The Detroit Lions started their offseason workout program this week with one less wide receiver than they had last season.
Young is gone, leaving a vacancy at wide receiver that has not been addressed in free agency, but could be a target in the draft (not likely in the first round).
Still the Lions have plenty of wide receivers not named Calvin Johnson on the current roster. They’re just not so sure what each brings.
Veteran Nate Burleson is back, coming off a broken leg. Ryan Broyles, who is coming off his second ACL surgery in two years, likely won’t be ready for the start of training camp.
“It’s an opportunity. We’re a team that likes to spread it out and likes to have a lot of skill guys and wide receivers on the field and it’s an opportunity for some of those guys,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said on Tuesday. “We’ve got young guys on this team, we’ve got guys that have something to prove and this is the time of year that you have an opportunity to make a move if you’re one of those guys.
“OTA’ s and mini-camps coming up in the next few weeks and you can really show what you’re made of. I know we have guys that are motivated to do that. I’m excited to see what they bring,’’ Stafford added.
Here are guys currently on the roster who will compete for a roster spot:
— Mike Thomas, who the Lions got in a trade with Jacksonville last season. He played in nine games with one start, finishing with five catches for 28 yards and a touchdown along with six runs for 58 yards. He spent three and a half seasons with the Jaguars with a career-high 820 receiving yards in 2010.
— Kris Durham, who played with Stafford at Georgia, is one of the more intriguing wide receivers on the roster. He was elevated from the practice squad for the final four games in 2012, starting three of them. He had eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. His one-handed 27-yard reception at Green Bay was a beauty. He played three games with Seattle in 2011.
— Brian Robiskie who played in a half-dozen games with the Lions in 2012 with four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.
— Devin Thomas, who played at Michigan State, retired when he couldn’t make the Chicago Bears roster last summer. He’s back. In 2011 he played 16 games with the New York Giants with three catches for 37 yards.
— Patrick Edwards made a splash at training camp last summer, but the numbers weren’t on his side so he was signed to the practice squad. In mid-October he was placed on practice squad injured reserve with an unknown injury. He was undrafted out of the University of Houston.
— Terrence Austin (who played in 18 games for the Washington Redskins in 2010 and 2011), Troy Burrell, (Wayne State), Lance “Vanilla Gorilla” Long (a local who had 20 catches for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009) and Chastin West (who played in a dozen games for Jacksonville in 2011).
Stafford, entering his fifth season, says there is no blueprint for what kind of wide receiver would be the perfect complement to Calvin Johnson.
“I think with what we have on the roster right now I would say somebody that can stretch the field. I think in the NFL more and more today that everyone is looking for that,’’ Stafford said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re playing opposite of Calvin Johnson or not. You want somebody that can run and this is a game about speed and that’s one of the things.’’
Stafford said they’ve found ways to make it work with all sorts of different guys.
“I trust the guys upstairs that we’ll make the right decisions and get the right guys in here and then its on us and the coaches to make sure we get everything right,’’ Stafford said.
During the first two weeks of the offseason workout program the players aren’t allowed on the field per the collective bargaining agreement. That’s a process which will be followed by 10 days of OTAs (organized team activities) in May and June.