Every week during the season, we’re debating the biggest talking point from the week before about the Detroit Lions.
Lions’ Toss-up, Week 3: The Lions lost Nate Burleson for a long period of time Tuesday morning, when he crashed his car trying to save some pizza and broke his arm in two places. We wish we were kidding. Regardless, does the team need to make a trade for a bona fide number-two receiver now? If yes, who should the team target? If no, what direction should the team go to compensate for his loss?
Andrew Tomlinson: Obviously the loss of Nate Burleson leaves a big hole in the Lions’ offense, but this is why the front office has drafted so many wide receivers. In theory, all of their additions and draft picks should be able to pickup the slack for Burleson without any real drop off in production. That is in theory though, the Lions were already looking for a wide receiver even before the injury. Ryan Broyles just flat out finds ways to get open and Patrick Edwards has looked nice, but neither one of them can stay on the field.
If Kris Durham can play at a consistent high level, something we have yet to see, the Lions might turnout okay with both Joique Bell and Reggie Bush moving the ball well out of the backfield. Ultimately though we know this is the Lions and they are going to probably have to waste draft picks acquiring someone, if I were them, I’d go after Keenan Allen or Quinton Patton in an effort to get more depth, but stay young.
Chris Burke: They don’t *need* to if everyone else plays the way they’re capable, because they can slip Ryan Broyles essentially into Nate Burleson’s main role — in the slot, opposite Calvin Johnson. If he can hold up there, and the Lions get increased production from TE’s Tony Scheffler and Joseph Fauria, they can negate the loss of Burleson inside.
The loss of Burleson outside, in two-TE sets, is where this hurts. Do they trust Kris Durham enough to play regularly? I’m not sure why they would at this point. So the Lions will have to get a little more creative. If there’s a trade to be had for a mid-round pick, or a player-for-player swap if someone wants to take a shot on Mikel Leshoure, then go ahead. (And a reminder that Detroit doesn’t have a fifth-rounder in 2014.)
Odds are there will not be much out there in impact guys — I’d put players like ex-Wolverine Junior Hemingway or the Browns’ Greg Little in the mix, but I’m not sure that level of player is an upgrade.
Max DeMara: Weren’t those responsible solutions nice? With that in mind, here’s where I veer off course and suggest the Lions need to do something bigger. Prior to the season, there were questions about if the team would get enough out of Burleson and Broyles to justify not making a move. Now, with Burleson gone for a long period of time (a 4-6 week recovery is generous for the strongest of people) how will the team truly compensate for the loss of their leading reciever? Broyles was in for less than 20 plays Sunday and is still recovering from surgery. Durham isn’t proven enough and Edwards hasn’t fully developed. That’s plenty of uncertanty, even though Bush occupies attention. What if he sustains another injury? Worse, what if Johnson inexplicably goes down? Then, the Lions are back to 2012 all over again, or much worse.
Given that Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz’s jobs might be on the line, they cannot afford to take that chance. Thus, the only natural course of action for a group needing victories is exploring a bigger move. They need to call on Josh Gordon, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt and any other disgruntled wideout on the market. While all of them have their issues, a new environment could spark a personal turnaround. Better yet, the move could help spark the Lions offensively, take the pressure off Bush and Johnson and allow Burleson more time to fully heal. Acquiring a player like Little should be the worst the Lions do.
The injury to Burleson prior to an important divisional game with Chicago and how the team responds might become the defining moment this season for Schwartz and Mayhew. Either Schwartz keeps the team on track and Mayhew makes the necessary moves, or they both allow the injury to help the season spiral off course and should then be held accountable. It’s as simple as that.