Allen Park — Following the Detroit Lions' second preseason game, the team's wide receiver depth chart remains as unclear as ever beyond the starting trio of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola.
There is an array of contenders, generally young with limited pro experience, but with varied skill sets and body types. Each have had their moments on the practice field, but none have established the desired consistency the team needs from its fourth and fifth options in the wake of veteran Jermaine Kearse's season-ending injury.
If the starting group manages to stay healthy through the course of the regular season, the potential impact of the depth lessens. But counting on health in the NFL is a fool's errand. Golladay missed extensive time as a rookie, Amendola has been sidelined at least one game the past four seasons and Marvin Jones is coming off his second season-ending injury in five years.
So who will emerge from the next tier of contributors? Will it be one of the players returning for a second season with the Lions — Chris Lacy, Andy Jones or Brandon Powell? How about rookie Travis Fulgham, or his college teammate Jonathan Duhart? Does free-agent addition Tommylee Lewis fit into the equation? Will the newcomer to the carousel, Jordan Lasley, have enough time to make an impression? Or is the solution not on the current roster, waiting to plucked off the discard pile from another team when cuts are made early next month?
The Lions have about two weeks to sort it out. At this point, one of the few commitments coach Matt Patricia will make is special teams will play a significant role in the team's decision-making process.
“That’s also the dual-role players that you have to have on your roster, that can go in and perform on offense and also special teams-wise," Patricia said. "I think that group of guys that has been competing understands that. It’s been interesting to see those guys and evaluate them in both areas."
That bodes well for Lacy and Andy Jones, who have previously established special teams experience. Lacy has been getting in work as a punt gunner, one of the more important special teams roles, making a tackle on Saturday against the Texans.
Special teams also doesn't hurt Duhart, who has played more snaps with the units (21) than any receiver this preseason.
But for someone like Powell, that part of the evaluation could prove to be detrimental. He's taken 10 special teams reps through two games, primarily as a return man. If he doesn't win a return job, what role can the 5-foot-8, 188-pounder still offer with the groups?
Powell's buoyed by the second key factor Patricia and the Lions are looking for, versatility. The team has been working him in a variety of alignments and packages throughout training camp, trying to find ways to utilize his short-area quickness.
It also doesn't hurt that Powell leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and first downs.
Regardless, it appears this competition is coming down to the wire. And the auditions will continue Friday, when the Lions host the Bills in the third preseason game for both teams.