Lions WRs showing promise, even without Johnson

By NOAH TRISTER - AP Sports Writer
    2014-08-18 18:11

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - The Detroit Lions acquired Golden Tate to play alongside Calvin Johnson.

This week, he might finally have a chance to do that.

''I can't wait to get out there with him,'' Tate said. ''I just love playing the game. To get out there with the best receiver in the league and one of the best to ever play the game is going to be super fun.''

Johnson hasn't played in Detroit's first two preseason games, but that seems likely to change this week against Jacksonville. In Johnson's absence, the Lions still looked impressive throwing the ball last week at Oakland, and Detroit has several receivers who are creating competition for playing time.

Tate left Super Bowl champion Seattle to sign with the Lions after catching 64 passes last season. He figures to be Matthew Stafford's top target aside from Johnson, but there are signs the receiving corps could have more depth than in the past.

Even without Johnson on the field, Stafford went 9 of 10 for 88 yards against the Raiders. He completed a 28-yard scoring pass to Tate and added a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kris Durham. He completed passes to five receivers on three drives.

''A lot of guys got opportunities and they made the most of them,'' Stafford said. ''That's what we're looking for this time of year. Obviously we did some things that were positive on the offensive and defensive side of the ball early.''

Durham and Stafford were college teammates at Georgia, and Durham caught 38 passes for the Lions last season. Detroit is also hopeful that Ryan Broyles can stay healthy and contribute. Broyles ruptured an Achilles tendon last October - after he had come back from torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees.

''Every game he shows a little more who he is. He gains a little more confidence in his leg,'' Tate said. ''For him mentally to focus in and get himself better, after being let down so many times, and to come out here now and just ball out, says a lot about him and how strong he is mentally.''

The Lions also have running back Reggie Bush and tight end Brandon Pettigrew as pass-catching threats, and they drafted tight end Eric Ebron in the first round.

Wide receiver Corey Fuller, a sixth-round draft pick last year who has not played in an NFL game, is trying to make an impression as well. He caught the winning touchdown pass in Detroit's preseason opener against Cleveland.

He's trying to keep his goals and expectations simple as the exhibition season progresses.

''No mental errors, playing the best that I can play,'' Fuller said. ''Keep my pad level low, come out of my break, just little things.''

The third preseason game is usually taken the most seriously by coaching staffs, at least in terms of how much the starters play. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell indicated Johnson might finally make an appearance against the Jaguars.

''We plan to get him some work this week,'' Caldwell said. ''That's today that I'm telling you that. If toward the end of the week, something adjusts where we have to adjust here and there - and it could be that with a number of different guys, but we plan to get him some work this week.''

NOTES: Caldwell said DT Nick Fairley remains a reserve, although he gave no indication how long that might last. ''He's not starting right now, he's second team,'' Caldwell said. ''It's a long week. We've got a lot of work to do in between, and typically like most games, we'll take a look at where we are and make an assessment on that toward the end of the week.''


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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