The Detroit Lions were defeated 13-7 by the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 7. The loss drops the Lions to a record of 2-4. Despite the close score, the Lions were never really in the game and failed to get any offense going until the fourth quarter once again. The Lions defense did have some bright moments with several sacks and a blocked field goal. One of the key players on the Lions offense, Nate Burleson, left the game with a leg injury.
It has been reported that Burleson suffered a broken leg and will miss the remainder of the season. This could force the Lions to run the ball more, utilize Calvin Johnson more, or count on an emerging player to step up into the role. My vote goes for rookie Ryan Broyles filling the latter.
Broyles recorded his first career NFL reception on Monday night and ended the contest with three catches for 51 yards. Broyles also scored the only touchdown of the game for the Lions. The twenty four year old was drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Lions with the 54th overall pick. Many Lions fans questioned the move, because the team needed secondary players, and Broyles was also recovering from an ACL injury that kept him out of his senior season in college.
The former Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver is the all time receptions leader in NCAA FBS history. Broyles was a two time All-American. In his college career, he caught 349 passes, but ended his senior season prematurely when he suffered an ACL injury on November 5th.
Broyles had a strong preseason for the Lions and looked like he would be able to play in the 2012 season. When the Lions drafted him, they immediately expressed their desire to be patient with him and allow him to fully recover from his ACL injury. Broyles was rarely used in the season first five games. However, when Burleson left the game, Broyles came in and stepped up to the plate and caught three of four passes thrown his way.
The speedy record breaking receiver is the perfect fit for the Lions three man receiving sets. With teams focusing on Johnson, Broyles can play the slot or line up on the ends. Broyles has an ability to get open and was drafted for a reason by this Lions team. With Burleson approaching the end of his career and becoming an injury risk, the Lions could turn to Broyles for full time if this part time challenge is well received.
Another option for Burleson’s replacement will be Titus Young. Young was the Lion’s current number three receiver in an offense that uses a lot of three receiver sets. The former Boise State Bronco caught six passes for eighty one yards to lead the Lions in receptions and yards Monday night. Young passed the 200 yard mark on the season after the game against the Bears. In last season, Young had forty eight catches for 607 yards, along with six touchdown catches.
Prior to his injury, Burleson had caught one pass for 16 yards, after being targeted three times. It was on that catch that Burleson appeared to have his right knee buckle when landing to the ground. Burleson, had twenty six receptions for 224 yards prior to Monday night. Burleson was a big part of the Lions emerging offense last season. The number two receiver for the Lions had seventy three catches for 757 yards in 2011, while also catching three touchdown passes.