ALLEN PARK -- At roughly the mid-way point of training camp – with two preseason games in the rear view mirror and two remaining on the horizon – the music is still playing as 90 players circle 53 chairs.
The Detroit Lions
– like every other NFL team – are currently in an evaluation stage, determining which players will make the final roster. Developing from this are fierce competitions between many players vying for few spots.
One of the most interesting battles for the Lions has been at wide receiver.
The Lions are set atop the depth chart with superstar receiver Calvin Johnson
as well as effective and versatile veteran Nate Burleson
. Rookie Titus Young
is also guaranteed a place on the 53-man roster. Return specialist Stefan Logan will also make the team, although he has been practicing as a running back and could take one of those roster spots, potentially leaving one more at receiver.
This leaves the Lions with a maximum of two spots available at the receiver position. The problem? There are three players in serious contention. Or at least there were.
The Lions brought in veteran receivers Rashied Davis
and Maurice Stovall
, while having third-year pro Derrick Williams
on the roster. Williams, who the Lions drafted in the third round in 2009, was a large disappointment during his first two seasons. Heading into training camp, expectations were low for the 25-year-old. However, Williams surprised and looked very strong early in camp, catching almost everything thrown his way. He’s even been taking reps with the No. 1 offense at times.
But when it came to game day, Williams demonstrated the same lack of production the Lions have grown frustrated with.
In the the exhibition opener against the Bengals, Williams dropped two consecutive Drew Stanton passes before finally corralling two others. In Friday's win against Cleveland, he dropped a touchdown pass from Stanton that killed the team's drive.
Enter Davis and Stovall, both versatile players who have one thing that Williams has yet to acquire: the trust of the coaching staff.
“I'm really happy with both those two,” said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “They have different styles and play different positions but they are pretty versatile… I was happy to see Maurice (Stovall) step up last week and have a good game on offense for us. He’s a bigger receiver obviously his size is his strength and I really think he’s one of those guys that can use that in the passing game. But he’s really a good blocker, I was happy with his game.”
Linehan also went on to praise Davis.
“Rashied is just a guy that does it all,” said Linehan. “He can play in the slot, he can play outside. He gives a great look to the quarterback, He’s one of those guys – at 32 or whatever he is – that goes full speed and gives the quarterback an open receiver most of the time.”
“Those are two guys I think that are going to be really good additions for our team, assuming things continue to go the way they are.”
Can Williams stop "things from going the way they are” and insert himself back in the battle?
It will be interesting to see what he gets done against New England on Saturday, but regardless, is another two weeks enough for him to surpass Davis and Stovall?
Williams should be safe from the first round of cuts on August 30th, which will bring the roster from 90 to 75. So, he still has an opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff.
However, the song is approaching its conclusion and the last melody will soon be sung. The Lions will have to trim the roster to 53 on September 3rd and at that point, it appears, Williams will be left without a seat when the music stops.