Bob Quinn admitted that last offseason didn’t work out as planned. Despite every effort they made to sign any of the top available tight ends on the market, they were thwarted at every turn. In the end, it became a matter of just signing anyone that was still breathing.
Obviously, that wasn’t enough.
Now this year the Lions signed the top available tight end in free agency, Jesse James, and selected the best one in the draft, T.J. Hockenson, before doubling down in the seventh round and selecting former Georgia Bulldog tight end Issac Nauta in what appears to be a steal.
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Suddenly the Lions have a full tight end room and it looks very much like when it comes time to cut down the roster for the regular season this fall that there will be one or two pretty good players at the position who will be cast adrift.
That’s a sign of progress on the depth chart.
Last year the Lions ran plays out of a two tight end set only 12 percent of the time. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why. They were desperate to find one player at the position to contribute, much less using two on any given play.
This year it’s a given there will be plenty of two tight end sets. New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell likes to run the ball and that means we should see lots of tight ends. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be completely out of the blue to see them line up with two on the line of scrimmage and another at H-back as well.
The point is this, the tight end position has gone from being an understudy on life-support to getting a starring role. Sure they will block for Kerryon Johnson plenty, but they will also be used extensively in the passing game and stretch opposing defenses every which way as well.
James has reliable hands and is a good effort blocker. Hockenson is an exceptional blocker with even better hands than most of the receivers in this draft. That means the top of this position can be on the field in any given situation causing mismatches for opposing defenses.
So what is the Detroit Lions offensive identity for the 2019 season? The more tight ends the merrier. It’s really that simple. Darrell Bevell will utilize his much deeper tight group to hopefully make everything better on offense. From the ground game to the passing attack.
This offseason’s tight end extravaganza may not have been completely what the fans wanted, but it could ultimately be the key to turning around an underachieving and disappointing offense.