With news that the Detroit Lions signed Jed Collins to a one-year deal, the fullback officially becomes a part of the team’s offense once again.
Not since the days of Tommy Vardell and Corey Schlesinger has Detroit had a lead blocker helping guide the way in the backfield. Collins, though, is less of a plow horse than Schlesinger and Vardell were, and should make a major difference in the passing game. That means Lions fans should abandon their previous definition of the position.
How much of a difference will he make, though? And where might Detroit choose to use Collins? If his history with the New Orleans Saints and new Lions’ offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is any indication, Collins should be a versatile weapon out of the backfield not to be forgotten in the passing game.
During his short career, Collins has been an interesting statistical anomaly of sorts at his position. Usually, the fullback has a defined role on a team, which is to not expect much inclusion in the passing game, lead the way for running backs while chipping in during goal line situations.
Collins, though, has more career touchdowns through the air (4) than on the ground (3). He’s collected more passing yards (174) in his career than rushing yards (49) and has caught 81 percent of passes thrown his way. The system he played within that allowed those numbers arrived in Detroit, meaning Collins should be able to see similar success with the Lions.
Situationally, the Saints would often utilize Collins most on first and second down. According to Pro Football Reference, 41.7 percent of Collins’ pass plays came on first down and 47.9 percent on second down, compared to just 10.4 on third. With regard to yardage, the Saints tossed the ball Collins’ way most (66.7 percent of the time) with 7-10 yards to go. Quite often, New Orleans was content to gamble with Collins on early downs and see if he could pick up chunks of yardage.
Within New Orleans’ system, Collins got lost amongst other play makers Drew Brees had at his disposal. The Saints could be looking deep for Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston or Lance Moore, or looking to throw to Mark Ingram or Pierre Thomas out of the backfield. The defense may find a way to limit them while forgetting about Collins, which led to positive yardage and the ball moving down field. With all the Lions weapons, Collins can have an identical impact in Detroit.
What’s the moral of the story? At 6-1, 255, Collins is not the traditional NFL fullback Detroit is used to. Given he was a tight end in college, he’s a flex-back that can also contribute significant results in the passing game and act as a safety valve for Matthew Stafford out of the backfield on first and second down.
Adding Collins to an already potent offense won’t make many headlines, but considering his success within Detroit’s new system and the players he’ll line up with, the move could prove itself quite intelligent come fall.