With Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Corey Fuller locked into their roles, the Lions hope others make the roster decisions easier.
"You need to see some guys separate from the pack," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Right now, there's a pretty good logjam in there where a lot of guys kind of look the same and are performing well.
"But let's see if someone's got something a little bit different, something out of the norm, something that will set themselves apart from the rest of the guys."
The Lions kept six receivers to start last season, but cut Kevin Ogletree early and spent most of the season with five. Most weeks, the fifth option — Ryan Broyles — was inactive, so there's a chance the Lions keep four receivers, especially with tight end Eric Ebron and the running backs potentially being thrown the ball more.
The likely scenario is the Lions keeping five receivers, and choosing two players competing for a job will be difficult.
The Lions could go with experienced players like Lance Moore, Greg Salas or Jeremy Ross, who worked as the No. 3 receiver last year. Ross isn't as secure in his job this year because the Lions have options in the return game. But Ross had the best performance last week against Washington, with four catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.
"I think he's been playing well," offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said of Ross. "He's a guy that is a physical blocker, and dependable when he's running routes. ... He's right there in the mix."
The Lions could choose players with more upside like Broyles or TJ Jones, a sixth-round pick in 2014 who missed his rookie season with a shoulder injury. Jones flashed some skills in the first exhibition against the Jets with a 15-yard catch and a 24-yard punt return. He also had punt returns of 20 and 14 yards negated by penalty.
"It's been nice to see him out there this year," Lombardi said. "He's certainly made some good plays in practice and made a couple good catches in the games, so he's a player that we feel highly about."
The other two receivers on the roster — Andrew Peacock and Vernon Johnson — fall more into the developmental category and are candidates for the practice squad.
Through two exhibitions, Salas' five catches for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Jets have been the best performance, but much of that production came against the third-string defense.
"You're dealt the cards you are, and you make do with them," Salas said. "That's all you can do."
After watching practice the past month, Salas said he knows the competition is close because he sees all the receivers making plays, which in turn motivates the others to respond with plays of their own.
Although the best players should make the team, having any similar traits to Johnson or Tate could help the back-end receivers. Last year, the Lions essentially anointed Fuller as Johnson's backup and Broyles as Tate's.
"I think it's important because it kind of keeps you in the same realm from a schematic standpoint when you have guys that you can plug in and they can still carry on," Caldwell said. "But it's tough to duplicate what Calvin does; it's tough to duplicate what Golden does."