Allen Park — For Jace Billingsley, he expects his second go-round to be less stressful than the first.
An undrafted rookie last year, the Detroit Lions receiver impressed with his playmaking ability during his first preseason, leaving him on the cusp of winning a job. But a team-leading 12 catches for 146 yards and two scores wasn’t enough as the Lions opted to carry just four receivers into the regular season.
This year, with cuts coming this weekend, the shifty slot receiver out of Eastern Oregon has put himself in position to make the team once again. Through three games he’s hauled in eight balls for 104 yards and added six more yards on an end around. Additionally, he’s in the mix to return punts, bringing his lone effort back 19 yards in last week’s game against the Patriots.
“I feel like I’ve done well, especially compared to last year,” Billingsley said. “Little things I needed to improve on, I have. I still need to keep working, working to get better every day, but I’ve improved in phases other than offense, playing a little different positions. I’m excited about it and I’m going to try to finish it off strong.”
Billingsley finished the preseason strong last year, catching seven passes for 80 yards and a score. He’s built good chemistry with backup quarterback Jake Rudock and is looking for another exclamation point on this exhibition slate.
“Jace has gotten better since last year,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He works so hard. A guy that’s made a transition from a running back to a receiver in this league is hard to do, but some of that helps him in terms of just his ability to run with the ball after he gets it in his hands.
“He’s coming along and we’re certainly pleased at what he’s been doing for us.”
While he waited to hear about his fate last year, Billingsley admitted there was stress. This year, not so much. He’s going to approach Saturday’s cut day like any other, with a plan to be back to work the next day.
“It’s an interesting day, but I know you can’t stress about it,” he said. “It’s not going to change the outcome and I know there are people going through a lot worse things than finding out if they’re going to make an NFL team or not.”