Rookie Receivers Getting Extended Look

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press points out that with the injuries to the Johnsons, Dennis Northcutt, and John Standeford Detroit has had to rely heavily on the rookies and longshots to fill out all of the practice reps. Phil Zaroo tends to do a nice job providing the play-by-play from practice, and reviewing it we see a lot of names that were - for the most part - unfamiliar to Lions fans prior to this summer. Gronko, Williams, Butler, Gronko, Fowler, Sippio, Gronko (I think Phil likes writing "Gronko"), and so on. No Calvin Johnson, no Brandon Pettigrew, and only an occasional Kevin Smith mention on a draw or flair.

There's some upside to this. The coaching staff is really getting an opportunity to evaluate these guys and will have an outstanding feel for whether they have NFL potential or not. The extended reps will directly impact which of these guys gets offered spots on the practice squad, or possibly makes the roster. Furthermore, their learning curve is accelerated. Where we might normally expect slow improvement and slow whittling down of the group as preseason progresses, the added reps will allow the coaches to make more accurate evaluations earlier in preseason and will give the team more flexibility with their roster moves.

The downside of course, is that the quarterbacks are not building synchronicity with the receivers who have locked up roster spots. I'm not sure how important this is, particularly since Bryant Johnson is working his way back and Calvin Johnson has already built a relationship with Culpepper and started one with Stafford. Provided that these guys can get back to full contributions in practice soon there should be no lingering impact from their time lost.

From Pasche's article:

Coach Jim Schwartz has gone through the same drill at the tight end position, which has been hit by injuries, too. “It happened at tight end, because of the injuries, we had (Dan) Gronkowski who was able to get some more reps. And those (receivers) have gotten quite a few,” Schwartz said with emphasis on the word quite. “They’ve had to tough it out. I think in the two-minute yesterday, you saw Kenneth Harris made some really good plays. They’ve all stepped up in individual ways. It’s given them great opportunities really. They’re going to have to take advantage of them on Saturday,” the coach added.

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