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Jeremy Ross’s Offensive Versatility Should Help Him Win Detroit Lions’ Return Job

December 3rd, 2013 at 4:55 PM
By Max DeMara

'Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings 2012/09/30' photo (c) 2012, kdoebler@att.net - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
On Thanksgiving, a case of one man's trash being another man's treasure seemed to manifest itself once more. Jeremy Ross showed flashes of brilliance for the Detroit Lions in the return game and versatility on offense, which helped stun the Green Bay Packers, the very team which had recently released him.

Ross, filling in for Michael Spurlock, showed a much better and more consistent burst on special teams. In the second quarter, Ross had a pair of nice returns for Detroit. The first was a 30 yard scamper out of the end zone which was rendered irrelevant because of a Matthew Stafford interception. The second was a 35 yard punt return setting up Reggie Bush's touchdown run to give the Lions a lead at halftime. Then, a nice 13 yard burst near the end of the third quarter helped set up Detroit with another short field which produced Joique Bell's decisive score. Though a 60 yard return was wiped out thanks to a holding call, that did nothing to diminish Ross's complete performance all afternoon.

The moves haven't been limited to special teams. When Ross has seen game action, he's done good things for the passing game. Thursday, he was rewarded with his first touchdown as a Lion when Matthew Stafford fired a five yard pass to Ross to tie the score at 10-10, and after that, Ross was used on an end around which went for 24 yards. In other weeks, Ross has played a key role, catching big passes in a road triumph over Chicago, making him appear to be a versatile, Swiss Army knife-type weapon, a role which Spurlock has not been able to play.

Famously, before he was picked up by Detroit, Ross was made a scapegoat in Green Bay after an early season muff led to the Packers' loss in Cincinnati. Usually, it's the Lions getting burned by such players. One week, someone who had made a critical error for Detroit is released. Later in that season or soon within the next one, that same player is quickly burning the Lions, making them pay for their error in judgment. The Packers had more depth at wide receiver which made Ross expendable, though, and likely liked Micah Hyde as a returner more. That doesn't mean Detroit didn't mine some gold at the expense of their rival. Much like Bell, Ross's arrival has been unheralded, but seems to be a case of a player landing in the right place at exactly the right time.

Spurlock has been given time to become the complete answer himself, but he never truly enjoyed a performance which allowed fans and coaches to assume he was the guy. Ross, however, might have finally had his Lou Gehrig-Wally Pipp moment on Thanksgiving Day. Had John Madden still been in charge of giving away six legs of a turkey, rest assured Ross would have likely gotten one for his impactful, impromptu contributions all over the field.

The rest of this season, the Lions must provide Ross with the primary chance to continue to excel both on return duty and within the offensive game plan. As Ross has already proven, when someone is quietly given a second chance, the dividends can be great. Detroit, in need of a special teams pick-me-up forever, should strive to help Ross make those dividends even greater the rest of 2013.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

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Tags: Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jeremy Ross, Joique Bell, Michael Spurlock, NFL, Scott Linehan

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