Year by year, the Detroit Lions just seem to have certain positions that can’t catch any breaks.
In 2013, it was the receiver spot with Calvin Johnson being lost for stretches, Nate Burleson sustaining a tough injury early in the year and Ryan Broyles having the clamps put on another year of development. During years past, the defensive backfield has been dinged up multiple times.
This season, the tight end position has been the bearer of Detroit’s injury frustrations. Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron have all been lost at times. In several games, the Lions have been forced to go with tight ends off the street including Jordan Thompson and Tuesday signee Kellen Davis.
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After one touchdown Sunday and what looked to be improving health, Fauria could be back on the mend again, forced to try and heal an injured ankle. Davis, who has been around before, likely comes back as veteran insurance for the spot.
Ironically, the only man left who’s played a consistent role is Ebron, the rookie who’s been slow to develop after lofty expectations to start his career. Since his own injury problems and inconsistency early, Ebron has quietly started to come on recently. After an uninspiring eight yard performance against the Buffalo Bills, the rookie hasn’t gone under 20 yards receiving in five consecutive weeks. Modest, yet steady production.
Ebron hasn’t scored since week four, but has remained consistent in the number of targets he’s seen. As more passes continue to get caught, Matthew Stafford will be more inclined to use Ebron, and his confidence will only grow. Without Fauria around and Pettigrew showing new gaps in leadership, it needs to. At this point, Ebron could be Detroit’s last consistent hope for production at the position.
Knowing this, it’s up to Ebron to take it upon himself and continue his positive development. Fortunately, in spite of plenty valleys amongst peaks, he hasn’t lost the right mindset. That should help down the stretch as the Lions desperately look for a way to get more from their very talented tight ends.
It’s up to Ebron to take it upon himself and continue his positive development.
In a way, the team is fortunate to be 9-4 without having major contributions from the vital spot all year. Entering the season, it was figured that between Pettigrew, Fauria and Ebron, there would be a fight for touches and touchdowns. Now, all of them are simply fighting to stay upright and play.
This circumstance stands to benefit Ebron the most. Considering his pedestrian production after being selected with the 10th overall pick last May, he’s become a lightning rod for criticism from fans. The only way out of that hole is to produce, and given the lack of other healthy, stable options, the timing could be right for Ebron to finally do just that.
During the weeks ahead, watch for the Lions to feature more and more of Ebron as he adjusts to his role in the NFL. Considering the depth chart at his position, the youngster needs to step up and rise to the occasion for a very needy offense.
Doing so now would help both Ebron and his team immensely.