The Detroit Lions added rookie tight end Eric Ebron and have Joseph Fauria, one of their offensive stars from 2013 returning. At the position, this is an excellent start.
Yet, between Ebron and Fauria, there’s one name that still continues to get lost: Brandon Pettigrew, he of the hefty newly minted 4 year, $16 million contract which he signed this offseason to remain a member of the Detroit Lions.
Pettigrew, at age 29, has been one of Detroit’s most consistently inconsistent performers. He makes enough catches to remain a vital member of the offense, yet drops enough passes at key moments to frustrate fans and coaches alike over the course of a season.
This season, with the young Ebron in the mix and Fauria entering only his second full year in the NFL, the Lions are counting on Pettigrew to be a leader and mentor for their team at the position, and have seen that side of him develop well so far this offseason.
Thursday, as minicamp concluded, Jim Caldwell sung Pettigrew’s praises within this particular department. “He’s able to provide some information and direction. He challenges them (Ebron and Fauria). He does a great job, I think, in that role. He has experience and knowledge,” Caldwell said.
As good a leader as Pettigrew may be, the most important thing he must do is improve his own game. According to Pro Football Focus and courtesy of their chart referenced in a February piece, Pettigrew hasn’t improved upon his drop rate. In 2013, it was 8.89%, which was down from 13.24% in 2012. Despite that, in his career, he’s still dropped a glaring 11.53% of passes thrown his way. Additionally, Pettigrew has six career fumbles continually dogging him.
Those numbers helped make Pettigrew’s re-signing, especially when combined with the selection of Ebron in May, particularly confusing. Clearly, though, the team beleives in his ability to turn things around, likes his leadership and is counting on a better season from Pettigrew in a featured role.
No matter what kinds of advantages Pettigrew may bring to his young peers, he should be judged mostly by his ability to get the job done on the field. Leadership might make for a nice story, but touchdowns and key catches, the bread and butter for a tight end, are the only thing that should now matter when all is said and done.
Credit Pettigrew for taking a positive approach at his crowded position instead of pouting or becoming despondent due to the addition of a young talent like Ebron and the continued development of Fauria.
Still, if the former doesn’t catch the football and manage to hang onto it while it’s within his grasp, either one of the latter names might end up stealing more targets when all is said and done, especially in the red zone.
In a results-driven business, results are all that matter, no matter what the contracts say or what role a player might play off the field. If his numbers slip, Pettigrew could find that out the hard way next season.