Lions hope Ebron is matchup nightmare

May, 8, 2014
May 8
11:50
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Eric Ebron made something very clear Thursday evening a few minutes into his first chat with the Detroit media.

He is not Jimmy Graham. So if you're hoping for Jimmy Graham, it's not happening just yet. Except that he expects to be used like Jimmy Graham was used in New Orleans by new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

"I don’t have no similarities to Jimmy Graham," Ebron said. "I mean, he's a different type of tight end than I am. Very possessive tight end. He’s a great tight end, but I don’t really think I have any similarities to Jimmy Graham."

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron
AP Photo/Craig RuttleEric Ebron will add another dimension to Detroit's already-potent passing attack.
Of course, if he can end up close to what Graham became for the Saints in his career, the Lions would have made the correct call going with offense with their first pick.

This is the hope Detroit had when they selected him. Not that he would become Graham, but that he possessed some of the same qualities the All-Pro has.

"From a skill position player, I think we've got two really good receivers in Calvin [Johnson] and Golden [Tate]. I think the tight end position, who runs like Eric does, because we have two pretty good tight ends as it is," Lombardi said. "But he’s got a different skill set and that just adds a whole new element to your offense, a tight end that can run like that.

"That maybe you can take advantage of a little bit more easily than you can another receiver."

Much like Ebron, neither Lombardi nor general manager Martin Mayhew wanted to make the obvious comparisons to Graham, but Lombardi indicated they plan to use him in a similar way to how New Orleans used Graham.

And Lombardi figures they can move Ebron all over the field, both in the slot and outside in order to keep teams confused and in an effort to free up Johnson and Tate downfield and Reggie Bush and Joique Bell underneath.

It could lead to an exciting offense for Detroit if it all works out as the Lions now have an advantageous offensive situation.

Teams won’t focus on him first when they think about Detroit. Teams might not focus on him second, either, since Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are both pass-catching options for the Lions. So he understands the potential for the Lions’ offense this fall.

That was the thinking behind Detroit going with Ebron over an option on defense.

"It'll give other teams hell, I hope," Ebron said. "Enough hell so that we win the game."

The Lions hope they've finally found the right combination of mismatches that they insist they can have to be a successful offense in a division where the rest of the teams focused on defense in the first round.

"It creates difficulties, especially a guy like Eric, who is well over 240 pounds, that can run extremely well," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "So what it does indeed do is force the defense to make a determination on how you want to play him. Brandon [Pettigrew] is on one side and he is on the other, how are you going to treat him?

“Are you going to treat him like a tight end and leave a linebacker in the game which creates a mismatch in terms of the passing game or are you going to put in a smaller defender which also creates some problems in terms of him being able to leverage that particular player and also in a blocking standpoint and our run game, running in that direction would give us some advantages. Eric on the strong safety will also create some issues as well. All the guys in this league can run but he creates an unusual matchup.”

So Ebron becomes a matchup nightmare for opponents on the best day of his life, both personally and professionally. Not only did he become a top-10 pick in the NFL draft on Thursday, he also got engaged earlier this morning.

Near the top of the Empire State Building, to his girlfriend Brittany Rountree. So not a bad day for Ebron. Not a bad day at all.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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