Can Detroit Lions’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell get the most out of his new tight ends? We take a look back at Bevell’s history with the position.
This offseason, the Detroit Lions made two major changes to their offense. First, the Lions added longtime NFL offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to their coaching staff. And two, Detroit upgraded their tight end depth chart with the signing of former Pittsburgh Steeler Jesse James in free agency and the drafting of Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall selection in the first round.
Bevell, who is known for producing some of the league top rushing offenses with legendary running backs like Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch as chess pieces, figures to do the same for second-year rusher Kerryon Johnson in Motown.
But there is certainly the underlining hope that the Lions could see unprecedented production out of their tight end position as well. It couldn’t get worse than last year with the now former trio of Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo, Michael Roberts topping the tight end depth chart in Detroit. They posted a combined 43 receptions for 450 yards and four touchdowns for the Lions in 2018.
With several new faces in the locker room this upcoming season, will there be a tight end revolution in the Motor City? To try to discover that answer, let’s look to the past. Under Bevell as offensive coordinator, here are the leading statistical tight ends for each of his seasons in the NFL so far …
Offensive Coordinator – Minnesota Vikings (2006–2010)
2006 – Jermaine Wiggins – 46 recs, 386 yards, 1 td
2007 – Visanthe Shiancoe – 27 recs, 323 yards, 1 td
2008 – Visanthe Shiancoe – 42 recs, 596 yards, 7 tds
2009 – Visanthe Shiancoe – 56 recs, 566 yards, 11 tds
2010 – Visanthe Shiancoe – 47 recs, 530 yards, 2 tds
Offensive Coordinator – Seattle Seahawks (2011–2017)
2011 – Zach Miller – 25 recs, 233 yards
2012 – Zach Miller – 38 recs, 396 yards, 3 tds
2013 – Zach Miller – 33 recs, 387 yards, 5 tds
2014 – Luke Willson – 22 recs, 362 yards, 3 tds
2015 – Jimmy Graham – 48 recs, 605 yards, 2 tds (11 games)
2016 – Jimmy Graham – 65 recs, 923 yards, 6 tds (Pro Bowler)
2017 – Jimmy Graham -57 recs, 520 yards, 10 tds (Pro Bowler)
Bevell hasn’t always had the most talented tight ends to work with during his run in the NFL as an offensive coordinator. But when he did get a Pro Bowl-level talent in Graham, it resulted in 18 receiving touchdowns in three seasons. It could be argued that Shiancoe deserved a Pro Bowl nod in 2009 as he posted 19 touchdowns in a three-year span himself.
Also note that during his time with the Vikings, Bevell had the use of tight end/fullback Jim Kleinsasser, who was one of the best run blockers in the NFL at the time. That’s certainly a role the Lions’ drafted the versatile Hockenson for.
In the end, I believe we can safely say that Darrell Bevell has had success using tight ends in his system in the past. Although possessing talented players at the position is an obvious precursor. And in Detroit this upcoming season, Bevell appears to have his most talented group of tight ends yet.