ALLEN PARK -- In order for the Detroit Lions to improve on a 10-6 year that saw them reach the postseason for the first time since 1999, they will have to experience growth from within.
Two players that figure to offer the most potential growth are wide receiver Titus Young and defensive tackle Nick Fairley – each entering their sophomore campaign.
Both players figure to be complementary pieces in positions of strengths, with the opportunity to have a significant impact.
Young proved to be an effective NFL receiver as a rookie, hauling in 48 catches for 607 yards and six touchdowns.
The undersized but speedy receiver seemed to become more comfortable during the second half of his rookie season, where he scored five of his six touchdowns.
His comfort level has increased even more as he prepares for his second season.
“I would definitely say I feel more comfortable,” said Young. “Even with just the schedule, just knowing that I have practice early in the morning and camp and knowing I have all these different meetings.
"I would definitely say it’s cool because I know what is to be expected. When I get on the field I know how certain players on my team are going to play me. Now I actually have some NFL film I can look at and compare and get better.”
Last season, despite being the team’s number three receiver, Young lined up on the outside, opposite of Calvin Johnson, when he got on the field. The team figures to repeat this strategy, keeping wide receiver Nate Burleson in the slot.
Like Young, Fairley may not start every game he plays in but will have the opportunity to contribute.
During his rookie campaign, Fairley flashed exciting potential but was inconsistent as he battled through a foot injury he suffered in training camp.
Fairley has proclaimed himself to be “100 percent and ready go” and has looked solid in the early stages of camp.
He just needs to ensure he can keep it up.
“Nick looks good,” said defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. “We’re depending on him. For a defensive lineman, you usually take that big step from year one to year two. He has special athletic ability, especially for a big man.
"He can run and he can move and he has long arms. He has all the tools. I think as we go forward we’ll see him have more consistency. That’s probably the biggest thing when moving from a rookie to a second or third year player. I think Nick has the ability to do that.”
Fairley knows he can have an impact on the game and is comfortable doing so while coming off the bench.
“Just coming in and just helping the team all I can,” said Fairley of his expected role. “It’s my job to come off the bench and make a lot of plays and just come in and give guys breathers and that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Lions believe they are capable of building on an exciting 2011. In order for the team to take that next step forward its young players must do the same.
That will start with Young and Fairley.