Lions player to watch

The Lions plan to play a lot of two-tight end offense and make defenses decide how to stop them. Their newest tight end, Tony Scheffler, is expected to be a big part of that game plan.

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN TRAINING CAMP

  • Tight ends Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew: Some wondered why the Lions decided to use a first-round pick on a tight end (Pettigrew) in 2009. The decision to trade away a starting linebacker (Ernie Sims) for another tight end (Scheffler) also raised a few eyebrows this spring.

    But the master plan will be in plain sight in August as the Lions' new-look offense leans heavily on the ability of the tight ends — and Scheffler in particular — to create mismatches for opposing defenses. And while the additions of receiver Nate Burleson and running back Jahvid Best add two more playmakers to the mix, the two-tight end sets clearly will be a big part of things.

    Scheffler is an athletic, 6-foot-5 target who thrived in Mike Shanahan's offense in Denver, catching 89 passes for 1194 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007 and ‘08. And the Lions are hoping he'll find similar success in Scott Linehan's offense as the former Western Michigan standout returns to his hometown.

    "It's just moving around, creating mismatches — something we kind of got away from last year in Denver," said Scheffler, who joined fellow 2006 draftees Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in leaving the Broncos after Josh McDaniels took over there. "Coach Linehan is gonna find the guys that can win in situations and he's going to get them in those situations."

    Asked what Scheffler might bring to the Lions' offense in 2010, coach Jim Schwartz said there's no "might" about it.

    "It's what he's going to bring and what he's already done and how Scott is using him," Schwartz said. "Tony is a 6-foot-5, hybrid wide receiver, he can run 4.5, he has got great hands ... and you can see in his play out here he just has a really good feel for the passing game, spacing and those kind of things."

    Scheffler was slowed by a foot injury early in offseason workouts this spring, but he came on strong and was among the standouts during OTAs and a mandatory minicamp in June.

    "You have to treat him like a wide receiver when you flex him out wide or even from a tight-end spot," Linehan said. "We're gonna be in two-tight end sets a lot, and that's one reason why he's here. It gives us that dimension. And I'm real excited about adding him because he changes the game. He's a problem for the defense, he's a guy that puts points on the scoreboard and he's a great target for a great quarterback."

    That quarterback — last year's No. 1 overall pick, Matthew Stafford — certainly likes what he sees thus far, both from Scheffler and the possibilities the multiple tight-end looks bring.

    "It just makes defenses declare what they're going to do," Stafford said. "If they're going to play nickel against you, then you're going to run the football. If they play base (defense), then you've got good matchups with your tight ends and you can go to the passing game and expose it. If you've got guys that are athletic enough to block and run and catch then it puts defenses in a bind as to what kind of personnel they're going to put out on the field."

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