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Lions training camp position previews: Wide receivers

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Jeremy Ross

This is the third in a series of position previews ahead of the start of Lions training camp on Monday.

WIDE RECEIVERS

After struggling to find a true second receiver to threaten defenses alongside Calvin Johnson, the Lions finally found a worthy No. 2 in Golden Tate last season.

With Johnson and Tate both coming off 1,000-yard seasons, the Lions look to have one of the top receiver duos in the NFL for 2015, but there are still questions about who can contribute behind them.

Last year, Jeremy Ross finished third among receivers with 24 catches for 314 yards, and Corey Fuller was fourth with 14 catches for 212 yards. While targets are hard to come by with Johnson and Tate on the field, Johnson's absence in three games created opportunities, but neither Ross nor Fuller took full advantage.

Now, Ross likely has to win the return job to stick on the roster, but his struggles in the second half of 2014 opened the door for another player — likely rookie running back Ameer Abdullah — to win those duties.

Entering his third season, Fuller's speed makes him the best option, besides Johnson, to be a deep threat in Joe Lombardi's offense, but he'll have to make strides to be more than that.

This is also a make or break training camp for Ryan Broyles, the 2012 second-round pick. He claimed to be 100-percent healthy last year, which means the coaches simply didn't like his skills enough to play him more than five games.

Veteran Lance Moore could be the possession-type receiver working the short and intermediate routes, but the 31-year-old struggled in Pittsburgh last year. The forgotten man might be TJ Jones, a sixth-round pick last year who missed all of 2014 with a shoulder injury, but he has good hands and sub-4.5 speed.

Even though receiver depth could be an issue again, the Lions hope the emergence of tight end Eric Ebron, combined with their running backs' receiving skills, can create an overall improved passing game.

Roster locks: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Corey Fuller.

Bubble: Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross, TJ Jones, Lance Moore, Andrew Peacock, Greg Salas, Jarred Haggins (R), Vernon Johnson (R)

Roster spots: Five or six

Top camp competition: The fourth and fifth, and potentially sixth, jobs are completely up for grabs. Jones and Broyles have upside, which should help, but the experience of Moore and Ross could appeal to coaches. Peacock is a sleeper candidate due to his strong hands.

Rookie outlook: Vernon Johnson has a big adjustment coming from Division II Texas A&M-Commerce, while Haggins had just 21 catches during four years at Florida State. If either can impress on special teams, practice squad could be an option.

Breakout candidate: Fuller. He'll likely be running a lot of go routes again, and catching a few long balls would boost his stats significantly.