(Allen Park) – In the off-season, the Lions were looking for a tight end to play in the West Coast offense. They needed a player that had good receiving skills along with the ability to block. What they found was a former wide receiver that was a second round pick that had a total of 91 catches in his four year NFL career, with a career high in catches in 1999 with 40 for over 400 yards with the San Diego Chargers.
But Mikhael Ricks has only been a tight end for only one season, which was last year with the Chiefs where he served as a back up to All Pro Tony Gonzalez. But all that is going to change this season with Detroit, where Ricks will have a chance to start at tight end -- a position that is night-and-day from receiving duties.
"Having to bulk up, having pass and run block responsibilities, just be able to go in and not just be a receiver to where I can just block and the defense can't adjust every time I come in, to have a nickel package," said Ricks. "I can block, so they can leave a regular defense in and I try to run pass routes on that."
Ricks has bulked up and is 6-5 and 255 pounds, although one of the concerns coming into camp was whether Ricks could be effective on the line as a blocker.
"It has improved from mini-camp, that was my big notch -- that I couldn't run block -- and things like that, and I had to just to a point where we where in practice where I could put pads on and get my hands (on the defense)," said Ricks. "Basically I think I have stepped up to where I need to be and hopefully I can get better at that."
The Lions really like his ability and think that if he can improve on his blocking, which he has been, he could be a huge weapon for this team.
"He's coming along beautifully, he's big, athletic and fast for the tight end spot," said Head Coach Marty Mornhinweg about Ricks.
One crucial part of the West Coast offense is the tight end position and last season David Sloan had a very solid year and Ricks, who is a better receiver than Sloan, is looking forward to playing in the West Coast offense.
"(I) love it, it is a great thing for a tight end, you can catch anywhere from 50 to 60 balls. Anytime you can catch a short pass and just open up the game. I think for a tight end or anyone that is a good pass route running kind of like Az Hakim this is a good offense to be in," said Ricks.
Thus far in training camp, Ricks has shown the ability to block and he has been one of the better pass catches that the Lions have overall. He has very good hands and if he has the ability to block consistently, and keep the bulk that he has been able to gain, the Lions will have a very good starting tight end. But the blocking ability is the key.