Jim Caldwell on Ryan Broyles: 'He did show, obviously, he had recovered from the injuries.' (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — The competition for the final wide receiver spots on the Lions’ 53-man roster came down to the wire, and coach Jim Caldwell explained Monday why the team chose to keep Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree and Corey Fuller.
With Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate as the top two receivers, Jeremy Ross as the returner and rookie tight end Eric Ebron as an effective No. 3 receiver, the other three receivers might have limited opportunities to produce. But they showed enough potential for the Lions to keep six receivers.
Kris Durham, the No. 2 receiver last season, became the odd man out when roster cuts were announced Saturday, but he signed Sunday with the Tennessee Titans.
Broyles, a second-round pick in 2012, made it impossible for the Lions to cut him after consistently impressive performances in the exhibition games. In four games, he had 11 catches for 144 yards, including nine first downs.
“He did show, obviously, he had recovered from the injuries that he had previously, showed his explosion, nice hands, spatial awareness, had a good sense of what we’re trying to do from an offensive standpoint,” Caldwell said. “He was productive, and that’s what you look for.”
Broyles suffered season-ending leg injuries each of the past three years, including his senior year at Oklahoma, but has looked healthy in recent weeks.
Fuller was also productive with six catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the exhibitions and showed his ability to stretch the field with his speed. The Lions drafted Fuller in the sixth round in 2013 and he landed on the practice squad last year, but he’s shown significant improvement as a route runner and catcher.
“I think it was quite evident the guy made plays,” Caldwell said. “He’s growing, developing, he’s got speed, he’s got length and he’s hungry.”
Ogletree, who’s entering his sixth NFL season and second in Detroit, seemed the safest best to make the team despite his lack of exhibition production — two catches for 16 yards. Throughout training camp, Ogletree played with the first-team offense in three-receiver sets and has an ability to play inside and outside, something that attracted the Lions to Tate this offseason.
“He’s got the kind of savvy you’re looking for in particular playing inside,” Caldwell said. “He can also double and play outside as well, so he has some versatility there. And I think he’s a guy that can catch and run with it, which is important.”