In this edition of tight end confidential, we take a look at arguably the most athletically gifted tight end group, the Detroit Lions as they check in at #9..
The Lions have two of the more physically imposing tight ends in football. It’s just a shame they don’t get them more involved in the offense. With a head coach like Jim Caldwell, who knows the value of a weapon at tight end from his days with Peyton Manning, you would think there would be more targets for the position. One could also argue that the reason those targets have been low is because the Lions have been force-feeding recently retired receiver Calvin Johnson.. But with Johnson now out of the equation, Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron have a chance to be more prominent in the Lions offensive gameplan.
Pettigrew set a career high in touchdowns (5), receptions (83) and yards (777) in 2011; his third season in the NFL. But over the last four seasons he has seen those numbers drop precipitously. Last season he set career lows in receptions (7) and yards (67) but he also set a career low in another statistic, games played. He only laced them up right times last season. Over the previous two seasons he has battled injury and has only competed in 22 of a possible 36 regular season games. That is almost an entire season lost to injury. But there is no denying the talent when healthy, which he seems to be. He has the ability to stretch the field, work between the hashes, go over the top of defenders, and block for runners. He’s a three-down tight end.
Ebron is essentially a wide receiver playing tight end. As a receiver, he is definitely a threat and a defensive nightmare. His speed makes him an option to take the top off a defense, and his big frame allows him to work intermediately. He’s too fast for safeties and linebackers, and far too big for corners. The crazy part is that he’s going into his third season in the NFL and he is only 23 years old. If you put that into perspective, his teammate Pettigrew was 24 when he broke into the league. Last season, Ebron was fourth on the team in receiving behind Johnson, Golden Tate, and Theo Riddick. He still managed almost 50 receptions over 500 yards and 5 touchdowns. As he continues to grow as a blocker, it will only make him more valuable and allow him to see more time on the field.
Johnson’s 150 targets last season, and all the production that comes with it, will have to be absorbed elsewhere. And if the Lions want to put more wins on the books, these two guys should take a large portion of those. Pettigrew should get back to form and Ebron should continue to elevate as both their roles grow in the post-Megatron era. This will be a dangerous duo in 2016.