Allen Park — If the Lions run their offense like the Saints, second-year receiver Corey Fuller could have the inside track to a roster spot.
The Saints, the team for which Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi coached the past seven years, typically had a receiver on the roster whose primary role was as a deep threat.
In 2012, Joe Morgan averaged 28 snaps per game for the Saints and had just 10 catches in 14 games.
But those 10 catches went for 379 yards, an absurd 37.9 yard average, and three touchdowns. Last year, Robert Meachem averaged 27 snaps per game and had 16 catches for 324 yards, a 20.3 yard average, and two touchdowns.
Fuller, a sixth-round pick in 2013, still has work to do as a route runner, but with his 4.4 speed, he’s the best candidate to be a situational deep threat in the Lions’ offense, if they choose to have that weapon in their arsenal.
“If so, that’s fine,” Fuller said of that possibly being his role. “I can just run straight and hit it.”
In training camp Friday, Fuller showed his potential when he beat cornerback Chris Greenwood on a go route for an easy catch during a 2-minute drill with the second-team offense. Fuller made another fantastic catch on a go route Wednesday night at Wayne State’s Adams Field when he high-pointed a ball along the sideline against cornerback Cassius Vaughn.
“I still need to work on everything — stretching the field, catching the ball, confidence, top of the routes,” Fuller said. “Same way as when I came in last year. It’s just this year I’m more confident and ready to compete.”
Fuller’s confidence, especially with his hands, has shown early in training camp, and he said his teammates have praised his improvement since last year’s camp. Fuller was released after camp and spent the season on the practice squad.
“I’ve been hearing, ‘You were night and day from last year,’ ” Fuller said. “Guys say it’s amazing what a year can do for you.”
Coach Jim Caldwell said Fuller has looked good so far, and he anticipates the second-year player will continue to improve.
“He’s been making some plays,” Caldwell said. “I think you can see out here that he’s catching the ball well. Oftentimes that’s what maturity does for you.”
For Fuller to make the team, he’ll likely have to beat out a veteran, and it will take a strong performance during the exhibition games.
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are locks on the roster, and Jeremy Ross is too, because of his return ability. Ryan Broyles is expected to make the team because of his untapped upside, and unless the Lions keep six receivers, Fuller, Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree and rookie TJ Jones, who has yet to practice because of a shoulder injury, likely are competing for the same job.
Ogletree has been playing well as the No. 3 receiver with the first-team offense and has enough speed to be a deep threat, too.
At 6-foot-2, Fuller is an inch taller than Ogletree, but speed has been more important than size for the Saints’ complementary receivers.
And Fuller isn’t thinking about how the roster will shake out just yet.
“Right now I’ve just got to keep playing the way I’ve been playing and things will work out,” he said.
Fuller is still learning the position after playing just two years at Virginia Tech.
Before walking on with the Hokies, Fuller spent two years on the track team at Kansas as a sprinter, triple jumper and long jumper.
To learn the position, Fuller said he’s listened to anything his coaches tell him.
He’s also paid close attention to anything Johnson does, whether it’s in practice, the weight room or classroom.
“I watch everything he does closely — under a microscope,” Fuller said. “He’s very helpful. Anything I have a question about, I ask him and he’ll give me his two cents.”