Lions looking for catches from unproven WR TJ Jones

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Wide receiver TJ Jones spent his rookie season on the physically unable to perform list due to a shoulder injury.

Allen Park — The Lions didn't draft a wide receiver this year for the first time since Martin Mayhew took over as general manager in 2009, and the team might be hoping an unproven sixth-round pick from the previous year can add something to the offense for a second straight season.

Last year, Corey Fuller became the No. 4 wide receiver after spending his rookie season on the practice squad. In 2015, TJ Jones will have an opportunity to contribute after spending his rookie year on the physically unable to perform list.

"He's been fully released, obviously, from the doctors' end of it, and he's healed up quite nicely," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Friday. "I think he's still working himself in a position where's got all of his girth back because you do lose a little bit with some inactivity, but he's been working hard at it, he's gaining and he's making strides."

The 6-foot, 185-pound Jones has become the forgotten man in the Lions' receiving corps after missing all of training camp and his first year. During organized team activities, he aggravated a right shoulder injury — an AC sprain — that bugged him at Notre Dame, and he underwent surgery in June with hopes of recovering by training camp.

But when camp began in late July, the Lions placed Jones on PUP to let him recover. He said last season that he felt healthy enough to play by the second preseason game, but then, doctors discovered he had a nerve injury related to the surgery.

Jones kept rehabbing with hopes of being activated from PUP, but when the deadline came in November, the Lions kept him on the injured list for the whole season to give his nerves more time to heal.

"They're unpredictable just in terms of the healing process," Caldwell said of nerve injuries. "It takes a while for sometimes those nerves to improve. Everybody's different. It just depends on the individual. Sometimes they take a little longer than you'd like, sometimes they heal rapidly, but in his particular case he came along, improved gradually, and now he's at the point where it's not giving him any real difficulty."

The Lions will open training camp this summer with only their top-two wide receiver spots set with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Jeremy Ross was the No. 3 receiver last year, but winning the return job again is his best way to stay on the roster. Fuller was the No. 4, but had just 14 receptions for 212 yards and one touchdown.

In addition to Fuller and Ross, Jones, Ryan Broyles, Andrew Peacock and Skye Dawson will compete for playing time behind Johnson and Tate.

"We expect (Jones) to kind of just keep rising, and he's been doing a good job," Caldwell said.