WR Nate Burleson, Free agent
HT: 6-0, WT: 197, Born: 8-19-1981, College: Nevada-Reno, Drafted: Round 3
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Nate Burleson was brought in to be the team’s third receiver. However, with Josh Gordon’s suspension for the entire season, the other Cleveland receivers have been jolted up the depth chart – perhaps to places they’re not capable of filling. Burleson hasn’t been a successful top receiver in his career, topping 1,000 yards just once – back in 2004. He’ll be 33 by the start of the season, not typically the age at which a player develops new skills and grows into a star. Despite increased opportunity due to Gordon’s absence, Burleson’s production probably would have been higher with Gordon in the fold.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - Burleson saw plenty of playing time against the Vikings. The veteran was active early in the game on short routes, making contested catches on multiple occasions. He nearly scored on a catch that showed great chemistry with Stafford, connecting on a back shoulder target that the defensive back ushered Burleson out of bounds near the goal line.
Week 2 - Burleson, along with Reggie Bush, was the most active receiver for Detroit in the opening quarter. He was an extension of the run game with receiver screens, short slants, and an attempted reverse, which was stuffed in the backfield. Like in Week 1, it was rare that Burleson gained separation when covered or made a play after the catch. What Burleson did do well was haul in contested catches. Despite appearing covered on multiple occasions, Burleson was able to make plays with the ball in the air albeit for short yardage. On Detroit’s final drive, Burleson had two receptions on short slants and on both occasions he was unable to shake free for additional yardage or the first down.
Week 3 - Burleson had his third straight game of six or more receptions to open the season. Even with Ryan Broyles active this week, Burleson was the primary outside receiver and targeted often on a variety of routes. While Burleson saw many short targets prior to this game, he was open down the field against Washington’s suspect secondary. With safeties shifting to Calvin Johnson’s side of the field, Burleson beat single coverage on a crossing route before halftime for a 40-yard gain. In the fourth quarter, Burleson simply got lost by defenders for another long gain into the red zone. With Brandon Pettigrew struggling as a possession target, Burleson has regularly benefited from being a reliable target for Stafford in the passing game. With Johnson seeing regular double coverage, Burleson is an integral part of the offense.
Week 12 - Burleson was back in the lineup after an extended absence and showed well as the possession receiver of choice for the Detroit passing game. Stafford looked for Burleson early and often with five receptions including a wide open slant for a red zone touchdown in the first half. Burleson had no rust to his game as he identified zone coverage with ease and had the burst to beat man coverage at times. With Kris Durham struggling, Burleson projects to have plenty of playing time as one of the few reliable weapons on the Detroit offense down the stretch.
Week 13 - After a strong return from injury last week, Burleson did not see a target this week against Green Bay. Kris Durham was more involved as a secondary target and the running game was at the forefront in the blowout victory.
Week 14 - Burleson had a quiet day, highlighted by dropping a wide open slant in the final minutes and Stafford missed him with a wild throw, a potential 20-yard gain on another play. The Detroit passing game lacked timing in the snowy conditions and there were not many passing attempts to go around. With two games in the Detroit dome over the next two weeks, Burleson will have a much better chance for improved play.
Week 15 - In addition to his possession work in the short passing game, Burleson found yards after the catch on two occasions against the Ravens. On one occasion, Burleson ducked under multiple defenders’ tackle attempts for additional yardage. On another, Stafford led Burleson perfectly over the middle with a floating pass against pressure for a big gain. On the final drive, Burleson was the closest receiver to Stafford’s off-target interception that ultimately thwarted the Lions comeback attempt.
Week 16 - With a limited Calvin Johnson, Burleson was unable to recapture some of his early season productivity this week. Two non-descript short receptions, one of which that came up well short on a third-and-long defined Burleson’s day. He also threw in an offensive pass interference penalty, negating a big gain in the second quarter.
Week 17 - Burleson was the best chain-moving receiver for Detroit against Minnesota this week. His quick out routes were complemented by a juggling catch on a deep out route in the third quarter for his longest gain. His lone error was a pass bouncing off his hands on third down as Detroit struggled to find any offense late in the first half.