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Lions' finally find reliable third receiver in Boldin

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions' Anquan Boldin pulls in a reception in front of Bears' Jerrell Freeman on a offensive drive late in the fourth quarter on Oct. 2.

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have been searching for a reliable third wide receiver for years.

It looked like it was going to be Titus Young, but he flamed out in spectacular fashion. Ryan Broyles, another second-round pick, could never shake the injury bug. Last year, veteran Lance Moore provided a solid, but far from spectacular stopgap.

Detroit obviously had bigger issues at receiver this offseason, with the retirement of Calvin Johnson, but signing Marvin Jones, the top free agent on the market, helped ease that production loss. Still, it left the Lions without a clear third receiving option.

The team added a few veterans in Andre Caldwell, Andre Roberts and Jeremy Kerley (later traded) to compete with youngsters Corey Fuller and TJ Jones. But on the eve of the opening of training camp, the team worked out a deal with Anquan Boldin.

One of the most productive receivers in NFL history, the 36-year-old Boldin is in the twilight of his career, but that hasn’t stopped him from bringing some added stability to Detroit’s passing game.

While Marvin Jones and Golden Tate have been up and down to start the season — mixing in big performances with some off days — Boldin has been steady operating out of the slot. He’s had at least three receptions in every game, and four or more in five of those contests.

Lions down 4 starters, Pettigrew not ready

His 29 catches through six games matches Moore’s production from a year ago, and Boldin’s steadiness in the red zone, three scoring grabs, has been a needed security blanket for quarterback Matthew Stafford while tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron deal with injuries.

“He’s an unusual guy who has unusual habits and he has been gifted with a body that’s durable,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Oftentimes I refer to him as a big man in a little smaller man’s body because he’s got thickness, a girth and toughness to weather the storm in terms of injuries. Oftentimes he dishes out a little bit more punishment than he takes.”

After 13 seasons, split between Arizona, Baltimore and San Francisco, Boldin has transitioned smoothly to his new surroundings, but admitted he’s still in a learning phase with Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.

Meaning, he sees brighter days ahead for the offense.

“Sometimes it takes time for teams to gel,” Boldin said “I still don’t think we’ve played a complete game yet. That’s still our goal as a team, but we’ll get there.”

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers