In the shadows of Calvin Johnson's massive frame and even bigger numbers, another Lions receiver is starting to emerge as a big play threat.
Rookie Titus Young, a second-round draft pick in April, has quietly strung together two impressive performances. The former Boise State standout nabbed four catches for 51 yards in last Sunday's come-from-behind win over Minnesota, none bigger than his leaping, 17-yard grab in overtime.
The play helped set-up Stafford's now renowned 40-yard lob to Johnson. Young made a similar 15-yard grab in the fourth quarter when Detroit faced a second-and-13, leading to Jason Hanson's game-tying field goal.
He has nine catches for 140 yards in the last two games, averaging 15.6 yard per catch.
The 5-foot-11 Young's contributions have created another outlet for Stafford, and headache for opposing defenses, which already struggle containing Johnson and number two receiver Nate Burleson.
During the team's blowout win over the Chiefs in the previous week, Young snared a 43-yarder from Stafford on a third-and-24. The drive culminated in a touchdown for the Lions, who went up 17-3 and never looked back.
“He’s a young player and still has a ways to go, but he made some really big time catches," said coach Jim Schwartz earlier this week. "He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s got really strong hands and he’s fearless going across the middle.
"He’s at full extension going out to catching balls and not (making) body catches. That ball is sticking to his hands. He’s blocked really well too. He’s 175 pounds, but works really hard blocking."
While Schwartz said the team expected Young to produce, his immediate impact wasn't a certainty. After a hamstring injury left Young sidelined for the bulk of training camp and preseason, his grasp of coordinator Scott Linehan's offense and ability to sprint were both relative unknowns.
He played but didn't produce in the team's season opener, but two previous outings have the ball club excited about their third receiver -- something they've lacked until recently.
"We expect those things from him," said Schwartz. "He missed a lot of time. He’s still playing catch up in some ways, but he’s going to make a lot of plays for us this year.”
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