Lions' Billingsley, Lee make case for No. 5 receiver

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
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Lions receiver Jace Billingsley led the team with seven catches for 80 yards in Thursday's exhibition finale.

Detroit — Behind Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin and TJ Jones, the Lions’ fifth receiving spot has been open for debate.

With most of the starters sitting out Thursday’s 31-0 exhibition finale win over the Buffalo Bills, undrafted rookies Jace Billingsley and Jay Lee made their case to at least be considered in the discussion.

Billingsley had a team-high seven receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown, and Lee finished with six receptions for 78 yards and a score.

Both Billingsley (5-foot-9, 189 pounds) and Lee (6-2, 211) played from start to finish and took full advantage of the extended reps. Lee played all but three offensive snaps in the game and was a standout in the first half, hauling in a 2-yard touchdown pass from rookie Jake Rudock on a fade route shortly before halftime.

Billingsley showcased his shiftiness and ability to elude tacklers in the open field, taking short pass from Rudock on a third-and-9 and turning it into a 47-yard gain – thanks to a key block by Lee – in the third quarter. Billingsley later ended the drive by slipping behind a Bills defender and making a one-handed 10-yard touchdown grab on a third-and-goal.

“When you ask me about those two guys I can just tell you…both guys caught the ball well, ran with it, made some things happen after they got it in their hands,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “They certainly showed ability and some run-after-the-catch, but they can also get open. They can create separation, both in a little different way. Bigger guy, bigger body type, smaller, quick guy that can get open.

“Those guys, what we’re concerned with more so than anything else is guys that can make plays for us.”

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Lee proved that early on in training camp and in the team’s mock game, while Billingsley struggled to stand out. But Billingsley made strides as the preseason progressed and said he felt he had a legitimate shot at making the roster during organized team activities in the spring.

“I came in and I knew it would be tough for me coming from a small school (Eastern Oregon), small size, all that,” said Billingsley, who finished the preseason with a team-high 12 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

“I never really thought about it in that way when I was here. Coaches always say it doesn’t matter if you’re drafted, undrafted, where you come from, you’re going to have the same opportunity as everyone else. So I took that to heart and done the best I’ve can.”

With Saturday’s 53-man roster cuts looming, Lee and Billingsley hope they’ve made it a hard decision for the Lions’ front office and that their best is enough to land them a spot on the team, or at least practice squad.

“I mean, everybody wants to have a job at the end of this whole thing, so however you can state your case is what you got to do,” said Lee, who had nine catches for 94 yards in the four exhibitions.

“You just go in tomorrow and do what we have to do. Obviously, it’s a waiting game, so you got to be patient and hope that you’re still here by next week.”

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

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