Detroit Lions second-year wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has reportedly impressed Lions coaches and staff so far in training camp. Ogletree knew headed into 2014 that competition at the wide receiver position in Detroit would be fierce, and that in order for the veteran to make the final 53 man roster, he was going to have to step his game up.
Conditioning became his focus during the offseason. He didn’t worry about his route running or his hands – both of which have been reliable in the past – before. He wanted to get his own heart rate up to keep his chances for making the team up as well.
“You can get really far if you’re in better condition than the guy across from you on third down, you know,” Ogletree said. “Two minute drive, late in the game, if you’re feeling better, if your legs are fresher, blood vessels are opened up a little bit more, you train for that.”
That hard work has paid dividends already. Just nine days into training camp in Allen Park and Ogletree has already taken the early lead over his competition for the Lions No. 3 receiver spot along side Pro Bowler Calvin Johnson and the newly acquired Golden Tate.
The Lions made it a priority to bring Ogletree back to the Motor City, re-signing him and Joique Bell on day one of free agency during the offseason, (the day before signing Tate). Returning to the Lions was also a priority for Ogletree.
“I knew that this was a place that a receiver would beg to be at with Matthew (Stafford) and the rest of the guys we have on offense,” Ogletree said. “Just to have a role on this offense would be the best thing I could ask for.”
Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who places an emphasis on sure-handed receivers, seems impressed with him early and confident enough to move the 6-foot-1 Ogletree both inside to the slot and outside. In his career, Ogletree has a decent drop rate, dropping only 4.3 percent of his targets. That career number is the same as the NFL average in 2013.
The Stafford/Ogletree connection reportedly began to materialize last season when Stafford threw the wideout “the most perfect pass of his career”.
During drills on Thursday, the two continued to build on that chemistry when Stafford threw one of his prettiest passes in camp, hitting Kevin Ogletree in stride on a deep route down the sideline. Darius Slay was in coverage and was only a half step behind the receiver, but couldn’t get a hand on the ball as the pass arced just beyond his fingertips into Ogletree’s waiting arms for a touchdown.
The tandem wanted to prove it wasn’t a fluke, connecting for another deep score, this time in seven-on-sevens.
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As always, Go Lions!