NFL Nation: Brandon Pettigrew

DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the Detroit Lions' 34-17 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
  • Pettigrew
    Pettigrew
    Tight end Brandon Pettigrew was benched for a quarter against the Buccaneers for what Lions coach Jim Caldwell called an unspecified violation of team rules. The Lions started Joseph Fauria in Pettigrew's place, but Pettigrew entered the game at the start of the second quarter and played the rest of the way for Detroit.


    "It was punishment for something that I did," Pettigrew said. "It was a quarter of play that I cost the team. It's over with."
  • George Johnson laughed for a second when he was asked whether he felt bad for Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown, who was sacked six times and hit 14 times by the Lions. He said that, yeah, he did feel a little bad for McCown after it was all over.


    "We want to win just as bad as them so you can't feel too bad," Johnson said. "But at the end of the game I can feel bad for him."
  • Wide receiver Corey Fuller was seen on the field exchanging jerseys with Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald. While I was unable to ask Fuller the reasoning after the game, the two were at Kansas together at the same time before Fuller transferred to Virginia Tech.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Eric Ebron hasn't played football in a month. Now he'll be in the starting lineup.

The Detroit Lions are starting the rookie tight end on Sunday against Arizona after usual tight end Brandon Pettigrew was listed as an inactive as he continues to deal with a foot injury. Ebron had missed the Lions' last three games with a hamstring injury of his own.

Both he and Joseph Fauria will be active, along with Kellen Davis, who has played for Detroit in the past two games.

Ebron has 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown this season, the most of any Detroit tight end.

The Lions are also officially without running back Reggie Bush. Joique Bell will start in his place.

It is the second straight year the Lions have had a surprise inactive at Arizona. Last season, defensive tackle Nick Fairley was surprisingly inactive for Detroit against the Cardinals. He won't be active again this season as he continues to deal with a knee injury.

Lions inactives: QB Kellen Moore, RB Reggie Bush, RG Larry Warford, DE Larry Webster, WR Ryan Broyles, TE Brandon Pettigrew, DT Nick Fairley.
DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions20-16 win over the Miami Dolphins.
  • Raiola
    Even though the Lions entered Sunday at 6-2 and in first place in the NFC North, center Dominic Raiola believed beating the Dolphins was “the most of a must-win game that I’ve ever been a part of. We needed to win, and that’s what we did.” Asked why he felt like that, he said, “The difference between 7-2 and 6-3, it sounds different. It sounds better. But it’s big.”
  • Tight end Brandon Pettigrew once again played on an injured foot but was the only injured Lions tight end who actually played Sunday. He said his foot “is a little banged-up, but that’s part of football. Everybody out there is banged-up.”
  • The Lions gave their game ball Sunday to Army specialist Andrew Martin, who was also part of the coin toss. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Martin is being deployed to Korea and “we certainly wanted to give him something to remember in regard to this particular game.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Caldwell was still a bit coy Friday morning when assessing his situation at tight end with the Detroit Lions.

Pettigrew
Pettigrew
Maybe he didn't want to give away too much about whether Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron would be playing Sunday against Miami. Or maybe he is still in a position where he just doesn't know.

But all three tight ends practiced again Friday, at least giving them a shot to have a full complement of offensive starters for the first time since the first week of the season. He is hopeful, though, at least one if not two of those three players will be available.

"Hopefully," Caldwell said. "In particular when you're dealing with injuries, as you all well know, every single day is a little bit different because they may practice one day but it depends on how they feel the next day, what kind of load that they took on.

"So every day is kind of a monitoring situation to see how they do the next. So we're in that phase right now."

Caldwell wouldn't say Fauria is the most likely candidate to be ready, although he has been the only one of the three to practice every day this week.

The one guarantee for Detroit is, if needed, Kellen Davis should be good to go since he was kept on the roster and is the Lions' only truly healthy tight end. Handicapping it otherwise, I'd say Fauria is a decent bet to play, followed by Pettigrew and then Ebron.

It is entirely possible the Lions end up with Fauria, Pettigrew and Davis all available on Sunday, but nowhere near a guarantee at this point considering both Fauria and Pettigrew are dealing with tricky ankle and foot injuries.

The only Detroit player not at practice Friday was defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who is not playing after a knee injury.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Joseph Fauria practiced for the first time in six weeks Wednesday and a day later seems to be continuing improvement as he aims for a return from his sprained ankle.

"Feeling good, you know," Fauria said. "Just trying to get out there as soon as possible."

Fauria
Fauria
Fauria didn’t indicate how close he is to playing or what is still keeping him from being able to practice fully, as he was limited Wednesday. Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell didn’t expand much on Fauria’s health or status, but did say he looked "all right" during practice Wednesday.

One of the things Fauria noticed, though, was a change in the Detroit offense from when he was injured during an off-field accident with his dog between Weeks 3 and 4 and the one he returned to this week.

Most of that, he said, is due to the Lions’ continued injuries at tight end, where Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron and Fauria have all missed at least one game. It has led to some challenges for Detroit offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

As injuries piled up with Detroit’s tight ends, it made watching that much more difficult for Fauria.

"I’ve never had this big of a time period of missing football," Fauria said. "Especially at this level. With my success last year and wanting to add on to that, it took quite a halt. It’s tough mentally, and it’s tough like that. This is a challenge that I will overcome and I will get better from it, and I can’t wait to be out there as soon as possible."

The biggest challenge for Fauria is returning to the field. For Lombardi, it is planning on how much he could potentially use him and how he would use him.

"You want to have some things if he’s ready, but not be dependent on him," Lombardi said. "That’s the hard part. When you’re like 'all right, he’s going to do these 10 things, major part of our game plan. No one else can really fill that role' and then he’s gone in the first quarter.

"You’re like, 'Uh-oh. We’ve got to come up with some plays here.' So you just got to have some plays for him but not be dependent on him."

Prior to Detroit’s multiple tight end injuries, the Lions weren’t throwing the ball to their tight ends all that often. Combined this season, Lions tight ends have 22 receptions for 220 yards and one touchdown.

More telling, Lions tight ends have been targeted a total of 42 times this season -- 20 for Ebron, 13 for Pettigrew, six for Fauria, two for Kellen Davis and one for Jordan Thompson. Overall, tight ends have been targeted by Matthew Stafford on 14 percent of his 299 pass attempts this season.

Part of that, though, has been due to the injuries and the rotating players at the position. Stafford has had less time with them and therefore less of a comfort level. If there is anything in the Detroit offense that has been a surprise this season, it is how the tight ends have been used because of Lombardi’s background in New Orleans with Jimmy Graham.

He indicated, though, that production from the tight ends might soon change.

"Certainly the plays were called that if he was open, we’re hoping to throw it to him," Lombardi said. "I think we threw it to (them) and maybe we just didn’t complete as many as we were hoping to.

"But listen, I think this will be a tight end-friendly offense. Especially when those guys get back, I think you’ll see the growth."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After having the bye week off, both wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush returned to practice for the Detroit Lions on Monday, possibly a sign they will both be ready to go against Miami next Sunday.

Bush
Bush
Johnson
Johnson has not played since aggravating his high right ankle sprain in Week 5 against Buffalo, and Bush missed two of the past three games with an ankle sprain of his own.

Also back at practice were the recently activated Kyle Van Noy and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, back from suspension.

Only four Lions players missed practice: tight ends Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

The Lions also made a plethora of practice squad moves Monday, signing tight end Jordan Thompson, cornerback Trevin Wade and defensive tackle Roy Philon. They also cut tight end Ifeanyi Momah from the practice squad.

Bios on new practice squad players:

TE Jordan Thompson: Thompson was cut by the Lions on Saturday after two games with the team. He was targeted once and dropped the ball, having it hit off his hands for an interception. He is a long-term project for Detroit at long-snapper.

CB Trevin Wade: Wade, from Arizona, was drafted by Cleveland in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. Between Cleveland in 2012 and New Orleans in 2013, Wade played in 15 games, making 11 tackles. He also appeared in both of the Saints playoff games last season, making two tackles.

DT Roy Philon: Philon, who went undrafted out of Louisville, has spent time with Pittsburgh and Chicago since May.
BAGSHOT, England -- The Detroit Lions’ banged-up skill position players continue to take turns sitting out practice.

 While Calvin Johnson practiced for the second straight day Thursday -- the first time he’s practiced on back-to-back days since before Week 3 against Green Bay -- the Lions were still without their top three tight ends and a top running back on Thursday.

Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, Eric Ebron and Reggie Bush all sat out the portion of practice open to the media at Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa on Thursday. The three tight ends did not practice Wednesday, either, while Bush’s absence Thursday is somewhat of a surprise.

Bush had said both Tuesday and Wednesday he is not 100 percent, but plans to play Sunday in Wembley Stadium against the Atlanta Falcons.

If Bush does not play Sunday against Atlanta, it would mean more carries and touches for Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. Riddick sat out last Sunday’s game against New Orleans with a hamstring injury.

Right now, the healthy Lions’ tight ends are Kellen Davis and Jordan Thompson. Both were signed within the last week, although Thompson was promoted from the practice squad.

In good news for the Lions, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah returned to practice after missing Wednesday so he would appear on track to play against the Falcons.
DETROIT -- Earlier this month, Corey Fuller insisted he could do more. He was playing behind Calvin Johnson then, barely the target of any of Matthew Stafford’s attention and resigned to running the deep go routes and posts he had been assigned.

His job then was to pull a defender down the field so Stafford could find Golden Tate and others on shorter routes.

[+] EnlargeCorey Fuller
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsCorey Fuller's first career touchdown catch was a meaningful one for Detroit on Sunday.
Then Johnson’s high ankle sprain became more of an issue and Fuller was put into a much larger, more diverse role. The deeper routes he had to run turned into a fuller route tree, with slants and hitches and the full gamut of plays he learned.

He insisted, at some point, he would do more. That more came Sunday afternoon, with the Detroit Lions five yards from a come-from-behind win over the Saints.

Fuller, lined up on the right side, ran toward the back of the end zone. Initially, rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste hung with Fuller as Tate was doubled by the Saints. Then, Jean-Baptiste, playing the first defensive snaps of his career Sunday, let him go as Fuller rounded his route toward the middle of the end zone, tucked in the back.

“He’s 1A,” Stafford said. “Golden was in there, too, but they doubled Golden. He had done such a great job all game, they put a little double-team down there, a little bracket. Corey had to go outside, beat a corner and he was just trailing on the baseline, saw the double team on Golden and put a ball where I thought Corey could go up and get it and get both feet down.”

Stafford threw the ball as Fuller headed toward the middle of the field. He jumped up, extended his arms and caught the ball. Then he controlled his body enough to make sure both feet landed in bounds before he fell out of the end zone for the game-winning 5-yard touchdown.

“I know I don’t get called much,” Fuller said. “I’m just here to help any way I can. Matt threw a great ball, the line blocked perfectly and all I had to do was come down with it. I had to do the easy job.”

It was a job, though, that he had never had to do before.

It was the first touchdown of Fuller’s career and only his ninth career NFL catch. It was the second week in a row Fuller had five targets and his three catches tied a career high. His 44 yards were the second-best numbers of his career.

As he said, he knew he could do more. He just had to wait for it.

“He’s put in so much work in the past year to get where he’s at,” Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew said. “He deserved that.

“He deserved every bit of that.”
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DETROIT -- On Saturday evenings, during the team’s final meeting of the night before a game on Sunday, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell ends those sessions with the same message every time.

Above all else, win. No matter what.

It’s a simple message, really. But too often in the recent past for the Lions, it has been the opposite. This used to be a team that would give away fourth-quarter leads and hand victories to opponents. This was a team last season that held leads in the fourth quarter of almost every game in the second half of the season and found ways to lose time and time again.

This is part of why Caldwell is here, because of those collapses. So with four minutes left Sunday against the New Orleans Saints and the Lions needing two touchdowns to win and an offense struggling without Calvin Johnson, they needed Caldwell’s message to somehow resonate.

They needed a spark to resurrect an offense that was built to have many weapons to endure in the face of injuries, not to collapse when Johnson wasn’t in there.

“Just hard finding good rhythm,” tight end Brandon Pettigrew said. “These defenses are putting together great game plans as well, so it’s tough to kind of get through that sometimes.”

The Lions are hoping the double-digit deficit turned 24-23 win over the Saints in the last 3 minutes, 52 seconds is the ignition for the rest of the season.

Facing third-and-14, Matthew Stafford threw the ball up to his hot receiver, Golden Tate. And 73 yards later -- 65 of them from Tate after the catch -- a Lions offense that gained 187 yards through three quarters had a touchdown, a belief and that offensive spark.

“That play he made on that long touchdown is as good a play as I’ve seen in a long time,” Stafford said. “Just to catch it at a standstill, basically I just threw him a ball up. He was hot. He was calling for it. Wanted it.

“I gave him a chance on a ball and he came back, caught it and he did the rest. It was pretty impressive.”

The Lions' defense saw that and started pressuring Drew Brees even more on the chances it could get. On a third-and-9, the offensive spark turned into a defensive play. George Johnson pressured his man from the side and forced Brees off rhythm. His pass to Marques Colston ended up intercepted by Detroit safety Glover Quin.

Johnson said the Lions knew at some point Brees was going to have to hold the ball a split-second longer to make a play. It led to the pressure and the pick.

And Caldwell’s message of believing took hold even more: Above all else, win.

With 3:10 left and 14 yards and an extra point between a loss and an improbable victory, the Lions ran four times, passed twice and received one pass interference call. Then, five yards from the end zone on third down with 1:48 left, Stafford saw Tate bracketed by the Saints and Corey Fuller breaking toward the middle of the end zone.

Fuller started in Johnson’s place Sunday, and in the biggest spot of his career Fuller made a play reminiscent of his mentor. He leaped, controlled his body and got both of his feet down. It was the definition of a role player with a massive play.

“It was a toe-touch,” Pettigrew said. “That’s real Calvinish. I’m not taking anything away from him, but that was pretty good. That’s pretty good.”

That is an offensive spark completed for a team in desperate need of one -- for one day and for the rest of the season.

“Games in this league are crazy,” Caldwell said. “You don’t know exactly how they are going to turn out.”

Down 13 with under four minutes left and no Calvin Johnson -- no, no one could have seen this coming at all. Except maybe Caldwell with his message: Above all else, win.

The Film Don't Lie: Lions

September, 23, 2014
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A weekly look at what the Detroit Lions must fix:

The New York Jets have one of the top rushing defenses in the NFL and have proven to be able to rush the quarterback well out of its 3-4 defense. When the Detroit Lions head to suburban New York City on Sunday, they’ll have to fix their lingering issue at right tackle if they are going to have a shot this week.

According to Pro Football Focus, the combination of Garrett Reynolds and Cornelius Lucas gave up a quarterback sack, a quarterback hit and two hurries on Matthew Stafford against Green Bay and Julius Peppers last week. That’s an issue the Lions are going to have to fix with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and outside linebackers Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace lined up against the right tackle. PFF also said both graded in the bottom 20 percent of pass blocking efficiency last week.

The Lions can solve this in one of three ways. The easiest would be hoping starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle -- who plans on practicing Wednesday -- improves enough from his calf strain to rejoin the lineup Sunday.

If he can’t go, the Lions can either commit tight end Brandon Pettigrew to the right side of the line next to Reynolds or Lucas to provide extra help, although that could hinder some of Joe Lombardi scheming with the rest of Detroit’s offensive pieces.

The other option is to either stick with Lucas or Reynolds to let him build chemistry with right guard Larry Warford throughout the game instead of playing both players, turning the position into a potential turnstile for the Lions' offense and Jets' defense.

Lions Camp Report: Day 12

August, 11, 2014
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The biggest news of the day, as covered here earlier, is Nick Fairley appearing to run with the second team. Fairley wouldn't talk about it. Jim Caldwell said it wasn't necessarily the second team -- although any defensive unit without Ndamukong Suh is likely not the first group -- and Fairley's replacement, C.J. Mosley, was pretty buttoned up in his answers. The one obvious thing was Fairley did not appear happy after practice. Considering how much attention was paid to him during the offseason and the team did not pick up his contract, this has to be at least a mildly discouraging sign for the Lions and something worth monitoring. Also worth monitoring -- Fairley's weight. He doesn't look quite as svelte as he did during the spring. The Lions are going to need him to be successful this season, there is not much question about that.
  • In non-Fairley news, Detroit added music to its practice Monday afternoon to help prepare for crowd noise as the Lions head to Oakland for their second preseason game Friday. There wasn't a ton of it -- three songs including what sounded like “Planet Rock,” the 1982 classic by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force. Caldwell said the players are allowed to submit playlists for practice with one caveat: No profanity. “Obviously it creates some distraction for you. We were trying to do the same thing basically with the music,” Caldwell said. “One day here we had a Motown session. We have different music to try and accomplish the same thing. What we're trying to do is simulate crowd noise so they can't hear. They have to communicate a lot louder with one another. If it happens to be something that they like, they tend to catch the rhythm of it. But some things, obviously, I'm not quite certain what songs they were.”
  • Matthew Stafford's interception-free streak during training camp ended with a thud of the hands Monday afternoon, as a ball from Stafford tipped off the hands of Brandon Pettigrew and right into the waiting arms of cornerback Bill Bentley, who might have had a pick-six had the Lions been wearing pads. The play was immediately followed up by another interception, this one from Dan Orlovsky that tipped off a leaping receiver's hands.
  • Ryan Broyles had the offensive play of the day, jumping in the air to catch a ball thrown by Orlovsky. It showed just how much better Broyles feels now than a season ago, when he was still rehabilitating his torn ACL. Talked with Broyles a bit after practice about his mindset and where he is right now, so look for that Tuesday.
  • There were some new faces missing from Lions' practice Monday. Larry Warford was not at practice at all -- and MLive reported it is an illness. I did not spot Ezekiel Ansah at practice. He may have been there, but the media's angle during indoor practices cuts off part of the closer sideline. He remains on the active PUP list. TJ Jones also remains on the active PUP list. Don Carey missed practice as well. When asked why he was out he said, “Everything's everything, baby. I'll talk to y'all later.”
  • Actor Jeff Daniels showed up at practice Monday.
  • The Lions return to practice Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET for a practice closed to the public but open to invited guests.

Lions Camp Report: Day 2

July, 29, 2014
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • One of the players making a big early impression in a position of competition is wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Tucked in a tight battle with Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross and Corey Fuller for receiving spots behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, Ogletree has spent time with the top unit both days as the No. 3 receiver. This comes on top of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi singling him out during the spring as someone who impressed him. Ogletree has speed as well as the ability to make catches both over the middle and the sideline. Johnson, meanwhile, called Ogletree “smooth” when discussing him Tuesday.
  • An interesting thing occurred during individual periods Tuesday. Instead of working on their own, the Lions split their tight ends up between the offensive line and with the pass-catching receivers and running backs catching passes. So Brandon Pettigrew, for instance, was working with the line blocking while Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron were catching passes. This, Pettigrew said, was different than how the Lions operated under former coach Jim Schwartz.“We rotate and go down there during periods,” Pettigrew said. “We have five guys here, why not split it up and have some guys down there and some guys down here.” Pettigrew sees this as not only helping his blocking fundamentals, but an aid to Ebron and Fauria as well.
  • It’s early, but the kicking situation is going to be something to watch. Detroit hasn’t done many pressure field-goal situations over the first two days, but the Lions did have both Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio attempt a 49-yard field goal under pressure in the final moments of practice. It did not end well and went counter to their supposed strengths. Freese had the distance but missed wide left. Tavecchio was right on line -- but about a yard or so short. It’s only one day, but this is going to be a major thing to pay attention to throughout the next few weeks.
  • It would appear the Lions are going to give both Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle an equal shot at right tackle. Hilliard worked with the first team during the first practice Monday and Waddle received the first-team snaps Tuesday. We’ll have more on the offensive line Wednesday, but this appears to be the one true spot up for grabs on what is otherwise a fairly strong front five.
  • The Lions have managed to have fairly short practices the first two days, wrapping up in well under two hours. Some of it might come from the team still practicing without pads, but Lions safety Glover Quin explained the reason for the shorter practices is kind of simple: The team has plays they want to run through and things they need to accomplish. If they limit mistakes and run through the plays at a good pace, they finish quicker. It’s a long way from the marathon practices of the past, although practices should get longer once the team goes into pads.
  • Ownership made its first public appearance at camp Tuesday as Martha Ford, the wife of the late William Clay Ford Sr., attended practice. Ford gained controlling interest in the team after her husband’s death in the offseason. Also visiting practice Tuesday were some of Michigan State’s football coaches, although head coach Mark Dantonio was not spotted, as he was in Chicago for Big Ten media days.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – There is now one day left.

The Detroit Lions finished up the second day of their mandatory minicamp Wednesday and it was probably the most balanced day the team has had during their sessions. After the first two weeks of open practices where the defense was dominant and the last couple of practices where the offense has been better, neither group seemed to take over the practice.

Johnson
That might be a good sign for the Lions that the offense is catching up to the defense even if both sides of the ball were without key contributors. Here are some thoughts, notes and observations from the day.
  • A decent amount of players missed practice Wednesday. Wide receiver TJ Jones, cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker Stephen Tulloch were not spotted at practice. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), guard Rob Sims, wide receiver Golden Tate (shoulder), wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, running back Mikel Leshoure and running back Joique Bell (knee) all sat out practice. Ansah, Tate and Bell were expected. Sims has missed team drills all offseason, as had Glover Quin, who only worked in individual drills Wednesday.
  • Jason Jones appears to be slowly moving back to health. He seemed more active Wednesday than he has during past open practices, including working some with the first unit. He is still coming back from a ruptured patella tendon suffered last season, but he will be a contender for the closed defensive end spot in the fall opposite Ansah on the defensive line.
  • Player of the practice: For the second straight day, it is Calvin Johnson. Any question about Johnson’s health are now gone. He was once again the best player on the field and caught everything around him. He appears to be completely over his injuries and has his timing with Matthew Stafford down once again. He beat any cornerback the Lions lined up against him during 1-on-1 periods and on one play leapt over DeAndre Levy to catch a pass that he ended up running in for a touchdown.
  • During those 1-on-1 drills between defensive backs and receivers, the receivers clearly won the day. They had at least six completions to start the drill, including Kris Durham reaching out to make a difficult catch in front of Darius Slay. Corey Fuller also beat Aaron Hester on a post route that was pretty impressive.
  • Sequence of the day: Two impressive plays in a row. First, safety James Ihedigbo jumped a route from Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew to break up the pass. It was a great break on the ball by Ihedigbo. Stafford followed it up, though, with a perfectly threaded ball to Patrick Edwards into a small window over safety Don Carey. It was the best throw Stafford made on the day.
  • Carey is starting to really emerge as the probable third safety, although this is not unexpected. He once again filled in for Quin during team drills and has been a decent presence back there. In the secondary, Jonte Green is the one player who doesn’t seem to be getting as many reps as one might think.
  • As they did Tuesday, Rodney Austin and rookie Travis Swanson both took first-team reps at guard and center. While Austin worked some at center Tuesday, Swanson was there Wednesday. In some ways, this is a test from Jim Caldwell to see if both of them can play both guard and center, something imperative for a reserve interior lineman. With Sims out, Austin has spent the majority of spring working with the first team at left guard.
  • This is getting repetitive, but Theo Riddick continues to be impressive. He seems a little faster than last season and might have improved more than anyone else on the roster from last season. He is putting himself in position to have a real role in this offense this season after being primarily a backup in 2013.
  • Written about Eric Ebron’s drops here a bit, so worth noting when he makes the type of catch the Lions drafted him for. He extended on what looked like a poorly thrown ball to stretch in front of safety Isa Abdul-Quddus to make the grab before hitting the ground. It is one of the best catches he has made in the open practice setting this spring.
  • With Tulloch not in attendance, Tahir Whitehead took a lot of the first-team snaps at linebacker next to Levy. He was pretty active there. While he is primarily a special-teams standout – he’ll end up having a roster spot because of his special-teams play – that the Lions staff inserted him there behind Tulloch would appear to indicate he is having a pretty good spring. After practice, Caldwell cited how Whitehead controls the movement of other players in that space as one of the reasons they like him behind Tulloch.
  • Really good day for Sam Martin. The second-year punter had some help with the wind, but he crushed almost all of his punts. It is tough to see yard lines because of how the Lions’ outdoor practice fields are set up, but he said after practice one of his punts went over 80 yards and had a few go at least 70 yards. He said his shortest on the day was 63 yards. Strong day for him.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After the Detroit Lions hired Joe Lombardi earlier this season and the new offensive coordinator made it obvious he was going to pattern the team after what he learned in New Orleans, the thought of Jimmy Graham has been prevalent.

When the Lions spurned defense Thursday night to take tight end Eric Ebron in the first round of the NFL draft -- despite already having two capable tight ends on the roster, a fairly deep draft class at the position and major needs on defense -- it focused the team's dependence on the position even more.

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsEric Ebron gives Detroit the option of running more three-tight-end sets.
Then Lombardi mentioned something more interesting. When asked about the role tight end Joseph Fauria could still provide, he said he could envision the Lions lining up three tight ends on the field at one time. In the past, that type of package typically has meant a jumbo-type set designed for short-yardage or goal-line offense.

Not now. Not in Detroit.

The Lions could use three tight ends all across the field. Between Lombardi's talk about the formation and the six tight ends currently on the roster, it's clear there will be more emphasis on the position overall.

"Listen, Joseph is still going to have a strong role in the red zone," Lombardi said. "There is nothing to say that we aren't going to have three tight ends on the field at some point."

In Lombardi's five years with New Orleans, where he was primarily the quarterbacks coach, the Saints played 141 snaps with three tight ends on the field at once, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They ran the ball 69 times out of that set and also completed 44 of 71 passes in those five seasons.

The team used it the most in 2013, for 49 snaps, scoring seven touchdowns when three tight ends were on the field. The Saints completed 16 of 32 passes with a three-tight-end look last season, good for 185 yards and four touchdowns. Interestingly, 100 of those yards were after the catch, likely signifying it wasn't only used in the red zone.

Ten of those 16 catches in the formation went to tight ends.

At the very least, drafting Ebron probably means the definitive end of the favored formation under then-offensive coordinator Scott Linehan last season, which was one running back, three wide receivers and Brandon Pettigrew somewhere on the field.

Now, it could be Calvin Johnson, Ebron, Pettigrew and Golden Tate lining up a bit of everywhere. So don't think Ebron will be primarily in the slot. At North Carolina last season, Ebron caught the majority of his passes lined up as a wide receiver.

"I never want to say primarily anything," Lombardi said. "He is going to line up all over the place and you are going to have to find him. That's kind of one of our goals in not wanting to be predictable for defenses.

"We don't want them to say, 'Calvin is always here, we know how to deal with it.' You just want to keep mixing it up so the defense can never really hone in on what your plan is."

Realistically, Detroit is not going to sit Ebron or Pettigrew very often -- not after drafting Ebron in the first round and guaranteeing Pettigrew $8 million of his new four-year deal. So the multiplicity of the Lions' offense in 2014 could give Detroit a crazy amount of options. It can use anything from two-back sets with Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, to three- and four-receiver sets, to sets with one, two or three tight ends at once.

This is probably why the Lions felt comfortable drafting offense so early at the expense of addressing the defense.

Detroit will likely cater its offensive plan to what Ebron can do once he arrives this week and starts working in rookie minicamp this weekend. Once the Lions see how well he runs, and how far away his blocking or in-line capabilities might be, then they can further assess his value.

If the team really does view him as what he was at North Carolina, which was a bulkier, taller wide receiver with a tight end designation, Detroit could place him anywhere on the field, much like they do with Johnson. It is also highly likely Ebron's role at the start of the season will be different from his role at the end.

He is still learning the position. He only really started playing football his junior year of high school, after he was offered a scholarship by North Carolina following a one-day camp he attended. So his room for growth is large, and as he improves, the opportunities for Detroit's offense are likely to multiply.

Don't expect Ebron to become Graham, though. He was adamant about that after he was drafted. While he might play a similar role in the Detroit offense as Graham does in New Orleans, it isn't fair to compare Ebron to Graham, a converted basketball player.

If you're looking for a clue of how he'll be utilized, and how the Lions might end up using their tight ends, New Orleans is a good place to start.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- With top cornerbacks, the top safety and top defensive tackle on the board, the Detroit Lions instead chose to add to their offense on Thursday night, selecting the draft's top-rated tight end, North Carolina's Eric Ebron.

Ebron
To find out more about Ebron, ESPN ACC blogger Andrea Adelson gave this scouting report on him.

"Ebron is essentially a glorified wide receiver, and became the biggest threat in the North Carolina pass game last season," Adelson wrote. "An ESPN.com first-team All-American, Ebron set school records for single-season receptions (62) and receiving yards (973), and career receptions and career receiving yards for a tight end. To further prove his threat in the pass game, Ebron became the first North Carolina tight end to lead the team in receiving since Mike Chatham in 1979 and 1980.

"There are some questions about Ebron, however. He is not known for his blocking ability, and he has also his share of dropped passes. North Carolina runs a high-tempo spread offense, so because the Tar Heels want to spread the field, Ebron was utilized more for his pass-catching ability. He is not your prototypical blocking tight end by any stretch. But if Detroit envisions using him as a complement to Calvin Johnson, Ebron could thrive."

Ebron becomes the sixth tight end on the roster, joining Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, Mike Williams, Matt Veldman and Jordan Thompson.

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