On Friday, the Detroit Lions released Chaz Schilens, the veteran they signed just before training camp to hedge against the injury rehabilitation and depth issues among their receiver group. With Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles apparently healthy, and Patrick Edwards generating significant training camp buzz, questions about the position seemed to be allayed.
Did those moves reflect confidence? Or did they suggest the Lions simply weren't satisfied with the makeup of the position? I'm beginning to wonder if it is the latter, a belief fortified by Jason La Canfora's report that that the Lions are making league-wide calls to check availability of starting-caliber receivers.
What exactly is going on here?
The first and arguably most important fact to remember is that Burleson and Broyles are both assigned primarily to the slot position, a new role for Burleson as he enters his 11th NFL season. (Thomas is also a natural slot receiver, but the personnel logjam there had him working mostly on the outside.)
With Burleson and Broyles working the slot, the Lions have been hoping that Edwards could lock down the outside spot opposite Calvin Johnson. Yet for all the glowing reports of his work in practice, Edwards hasn't done much in the first three preseason games. He has caught four passes for 16 yards, working mostly against first-team defenders, and in an instructive moment, he lost a battle for a ball in the end zone against New York Jets rookie cornerback Dee Milliner in the preseason opener.
If anything, Edwards has been matched by six-year veteran Matt Willis, a journeyman trying to make his third NFL team.
Johnson hasn't played much this preseason, accentuating these question marks. And we all know the Lions have a number of proven receiving threats at other positions -- from tailback Reggie Bush to tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.
But despite it all, it is beginning to looks like they don't have a No. 2 receiver -- a hole that jumped out from their roster all offseason. With NFL roster cuts looming, the Lions might have a chance to do something about it this week.
Note: According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' web site, the team released four more players Sunday morning and have five left to go to meet the NFL's requirement of 75 by Tuesday. Those released were: defensive end Ronnell Lewis, receiver Cody Wilson, cornerback Myron Lewis and safety Chris Hope. Lewis was a fourth-round draft pick last season but got only one snap on defense. Hope's release suggests the Lions are comfortable with the health of starters Louis Delmas (knee) and Glover Quin (hip).