The Nate Burleson injury is devastating to the playoff hopes of the Detroit Lions. The Lions have spent the last few years looking for a secondary receiver to take the heat off of Calvin Johnson. Burleson had been that guy so far this season, helping the Lions get off to a 2-1 start.
Burleson was just what Detroit needed, grabbing a total of 19 balls in the first three games. He didn’t find his way to the end zone, that’s Johnson’s territory, but he was the possession receiver the Lions have been lacking the last few years.
Now that Burleson will be on the sidelines indefinitely, Detroit will again struggle to find ways to punish teams for double and even triple-teaming Johnson. That, along with a constantly underachieving defense, is what kept the Lions from living up to their potential last season.
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, along with running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, will have to step up in Burleson’s absence. Expect Pettigrew to be asked to keep safeties honest over the middle and the running backs to keep linebackers from bracketing Johnson on the underneath routes.
2013 was shaping up to be a breakthrough year for the Lions. The division isn’t as tough as it’s been in the past few years, and if they could steal a win or two against the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, they would have a chance at grabbing the NFC North title.
Now that Burleson is gone, that seems like a long shot. We don’t know how long he will be out, but a broken arm is a tough injury for a wideout to come back from and certainly not one he can play through.
His loss is a huge one for a team and an offense that was on the right track so far this year.
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