Lions have ‘unique’, ‘dangerous’ tight ends

With the addition of Eric Ebron, the growth of Joseph Fauria and the reliability of Brandon Pettigrew, the Lions have one of the league’s best tight end groups and can leverage them for offensive success in 2014.

The Detroit Lions created some controversy when they drafted tight end Eric Ebron with the No. 10 pick in last May’s entry draft.

Many pundits and fans were critical of the team adding a tight end rather than addressing areas they felt were greater needs.

Whether you love or loathe the pick it has undeniably strengthened the team’s tight end corps while arguably equipping the Lions with one of the best units at that position in the league.

The trio of Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Ebron are a diverse and highly skilled group.

“I’m good friends with E, he’s awesome,” said Fauria. “He’s doing great right now. Him, myself and Brandon are going to be a force to be reckon with. I don’t think they make them like us three in one tight end room. I think it’s really dangerous, I think it’s going to be something to look forward to this season.”

It’s not just Fauria that’s excited about the group’s potential. The person getting them the ball also recognizes the talent within the group.

“It’s a pretty unique blend. Obviously Eric is the new guy on the block, he’s got a ton of speed and athleticism,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “Joe has had a really good offseason I think, catching the ball great, obviously his size is a huge advantage. Pettigrew does it all, jack of all trades. We ask him to go out there and run routes, he wins and catches it, we ask him to block, he locks guys down. He’s a super intelligent player and a guy who is there every Sunday, which is a nice thing to have.”

The tight end position isn’t one that commonly excites fans. It isn’t often held in the same regard as the other skill positions on offense but the production out of the position is something that can’t be ignored.

Last year, six tight ends caught more than 70 passes and 10 caught at least 60 – proving that they can be important offensive weapons. They were particularly lethal in the red zone, as three of the league’s top seven TD reception producers were tight ends. Also consider that the top producing tight end in terms of receptions, yards and touchdowns was Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints. The Lions new offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, spent the last seven years with the Saints before coming to Detroit.

Of course, it’s not just catching passes, it’s the general matchup problems that make tight ends effective. Linebackers struggle to cover them and defensive backs can be easy assignments when blocking.

Still, blocking is the perceived weakness of the bunch. Pettigrew is strong in that regard but Ebron wasn’t drafted for his ability to block and Fauria didn’t particularly excel in that area last year.

For Fauria in particular, blocking is a vastly improved part of his game.

“Whether it be my weakness – or my weaknesses per say – which would be blocking and getting open in the open field but also mastering what I’m great at, which is the red zone,” said Fauria. “I’m just trying to be a tight end that can be on the field at all times, not just when defenses see me, they’re like ‘oh, he’s getting the ball, that’s a red zone guy’. There has to be a different type of way I can be viewed so I’m a threat everywhere.”

With Fauria’s improved blocking – which has been evident in practice -the Lions have a group of tight ends who can catch, who can block and who can create matchup nightmares for the opposition.

They also have diverse personalities. For example, Fauria will often celebrate his touchdowns with elaborate dancing. Don’t expect that to rub off on the new guy.

“I don’t dance, I just score and give it to the ref,” said Ebron. “If you watch tape in college, I don’t dance, that’s Joe.”

“I don’t dance, I just score and give it to the ref,” said Ebron. “If you watch tape in college, I don’t dance, that’s Joe.”

Despite the different skill sets and personalities, the group has maintained a strong level of camaraderie.

“We’re just all for each other. We’re not here to match each other, we’re here for the team, we’re team oriented and we want to win. That’s what makes us bond.”

Don’t expect this group to breakdown if the ball isn’t coming their way, either. They want to win more than they want personal accolades.

“We’re not worried about it, as long as we’re winning, as long as guys are doing their part, we could care less,” said Ebron.

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