By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – The Detroit Lions wide receivers have established a go-to cliche to describe the growth of second-year player Corey Fuller, who played on the team’s practice squad last season.
The difference between his play then and now, they say repeatedly, is night and day.
“I wish I could have seen Fuller last year because I hear he’s night and day,” Golden Tate said. “He’s become a great athlete on this team, on special teams and obviously at the receiver position. He’s been making a lot of big plays, and we are to the point where we look for him. When we need a big play, we’re going to set up Fuller to make that play.”
Calvin Johnson expressed a similar sentiment, and so did Kris Durham.
“Just on the speed of play, you can tell he’s getting more comfortable,” Durham said. “He’s working actually really hard at getting in and out of his breaks and just becoming more physical when the ball’s on the way. He’s catching the ball really well, and it’s night and day between last year and this year.”
Fuller said the progress comes as a result of his offseason work.
“Over the summer, during the spring, I tried to work on everything, even sprinting, like straight-ahead sprints, to help me get off the line quicker, releases, catching the ball, everything,” Fuller said.
Improvement aside, Fuller faces an uphill battle to survive the impending roster cuts.
At wide receiver, Durham and Kevin Ogletree have more experience, and Jeremy Ross can catch passes and serve as the team’s primary return man. Between pass-catching running backs – Reggie Bush and Theo Riddick in particular – and a diverse trio of tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron, there are already plenty of potential targets for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Nevertheless, Fuller said he has become more sure of his abilities throughout the offseason. He hauled in the 21-yard, game-winning touchdown pass in Detroit’s first preseason game and snagged a 15-yard pass in the team’s second preseason game.
“I’m very confident,” Fuller said. “Coming into training camp at first I was very confident, scored the first game, that helped me out a little bit more, the last game I had another catch, got tackled at the [one-yard line], could’ve scored another touchdown, and it just keeps on building, so I’m very confident right now.
“I don’t really get too many reps with [Stafford],” Fuller added later. “I’ve gotten a lot more this time, this year, than I did last year, but just to work with the ones is pretty big to me, so I’m happy with that.”
Though Fuller said he feels confident, he is not necessarily more comfortable than last season about where he stands.
“Last year I knew I was raw, I knew they were probably going to put me on the practice squad,” Fuller said. “This year … my main goal is to make the 53, and then I feel like, if all else fails they’ll put me on practice squad or I’ll go somewhere else, but it’s still something that you still think about every day.”