Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson broke his arm in a car accident early Tuesday morning. The injury will require surgery. According to reports, alcohol was thankfully not involved in Burleson’s accident.
From the police: “Alcohol was not a factor, seatbelts were utilized and airbags were deployed.”
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) September 24, 2013
He will be lost for the immediate future, leaving a huge hole in the Detroit receiving corps. Burleson is coming off a game where he caught six passes for 116 yards. I noted in the team report card (link) that his footwork looked better than it has in a long time.
With Patrick Edwards already hobbled with an ankle injury and Ryan Broyles having torn both ACLs in consecutive years, the depth chart is perilously thin.
The Lions have few attractive options. Broyles can take over Burleson’s role in the slot, but the team is very sensitive to overworking the youngster and risking further knee complications.
If Edwards is able to return right away, he offers speed to handle Burleson’s outside role, though there will be a drop-off.
Sixth-round pick Corey Fuller could be promoted from the practice squad, though he is a very different style of player from Burleson. Fuller did not look ready for NFL action during his limited exposure in the preseason.
Fellow sixth-round pick Theo Riddick is probably the best in-house option. Although Riddick is listed as a running back, he played some wide receiver at Notre Dame. Riddick also showed off the route running skills Sunday, getting behind the defense on a sideline route which Matt Stafford overthrew.
Preseason standout Matt Willis remains a free agent. He was highly productive in the exhibition season, catching nine passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Immediately after the news broke, Twitter went abuzz with speculation that the Lions should trade for Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Stunning. Lions will need to find a receiver ASAP. I know his character is a huge question, but it’s time to call on Josh Gordon.
— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) September 24, 2013
Cleveland is reportedly shopping the talented-but-troubled second year wideout.
Cleveland fielding offers for and open to trading WRs Josh Gordon and Greg Little. At least one team has made a quality offer for Gordon.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 22, 2013
On the surface Gordon appears a fantastic fit. He is coming off a monster game against Minnesota, catching 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Fill-in starting quarterback Brian Hoyer targeted him a stunning 19 times.
His field-stretching speed and athleticism to make the tough catch in traffic would certainly benefit Detroit. The Lions have desperately sought a player like Gordon to complement Calvin Johnson for years.
Yet Gordon possesses significant baggage. He has already been suspended twice in less than two years for substance abuse issues. Gordon missed the first two games of the 2013 season for testing positive for a banned substance over the summer.
His issues predate the NFL, as he missed an entire college season at Baylor as well.
It’s important to remember why the Lions have a hole at the #2 wide receiver position. That role was supposed to be filled by Titus Young. Detroit used a second-round pick on the Boise State wideout in 2011. In doing so, they ignored some pre-existing character flags.
That gamble on Young infamously backfired. A series of misadventures followed, and Young is now embroiled in serious legal difficulties that quickly ended his football career.
While comparing anyone to the mentally troubled Titus Young is dangerous, Gordon is essentially on the same plane as far as the NFL is concerned. With his next incident, Gordon will be suspended for at least one year. That is a risk the Lions cannot afford, no matter how desperate Jim Schwartz is to win right now. The ghosts of Titus Young, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers loom large.
Again, I’m not saying Josh Gordon is any of those troubled souls; every situation and person is unique. But Gordon has not earned the right to the benefit of the doubt. Not yet.
Other trade options are very limited, though Tim Twentyman reports the Lions are indeed looking.
The #Lions have talked with multiple teams this morning regarding receivers available for possible trade, according to sources.
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) September 24, 2013
Teams like San Francisco and Baltimore have had pressing needs for slot receivers for months now and have not made any moves. That demand drives up the asking price, if any teams are even legitimately shopping any wide receivers. It’s a seller’s market, and Detroit can ill afford to pay the premium.