Heading into the 2014 season, it appeared that there were at least two positions groups that could prove dominant. One was the defensive line, a unit led by the now departed Ndamukong Suh and ranked as the NFL’s stingiest rush defense. The other unit with the potential to terrify opposing coordinators was the tight ends. Things didn’t go as planned.
A year ago the Detroit Lions had recently re-signed 5-year starter, Brandon Pettigrew, returned Joseph Fauria, and drafted Eric Ebron 10th overall to help change the offense. Hopes were high, but by the time January rolled around and following a heartbreaking playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it was clear that something needed to be done about the tight end situation.
Pettigrew, though plagued with untimely drops throughout his career, had averaged 63 catches a season in the previous four years. In 2014, he caught just 10 balls and was used primarily as a blocker on a team that didn’t block well for anyone – for that he’s getting $4 million a year. Fauria, an undrafted free agent rookie from UCLA broke onto the scene with seven touchdowns, making him a certified red zone weapon in 2013. In 2014, he played in seven games and caught only six passes before a foot injury ended his season.
And finally Ebron, the man that was compared by many to Jimmy Graham, and drafted ahead of pro bowlers Zack Martin, Aaron Donald, C.J. Mosley, and Odell Beckham Jr. – he didn’t have the best rookie campaign. The highly touted target caught only 25 balls for 248 yards and a score. He also registered official drops on over 13% of the passes thrown his way.
Apparently Martin Mayhew, likely sharing the fanbase’s ire, tried to add some depth on Friday when the Lions, along with nine other teams, attempted to claim Tim Wright off of waivers. Wright, who was traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the New England Patriots in August, found himself on the waiver wire last week after only one season in Foxborough. As fate would have it, Wright is now back in Tampa Bay.
So the Lions will move forward for now with Pettigrew and Ebron atop the depth chart. Fauria has yet to return from injury, and the team has added veteran David Ausberry, who was at best a role player during his four years in Oakland. To quiet the fans, Ebron needs to shed that (likely premature) bust label early, Pettigrew needs to be worked back into the gameplan, and Fauria must prove he is more than a flash in the pan. If these guys can’t accomplish those things, the Lions are going to continue to struggle in the middle of the field.