Detroit Lions tight ends, running backs, and fullbacks
The Detroit Lions tight ends and fullbacks are truly two-way players, they need to block and catch the ball. Their blocking is perhaps the most important role in Bevell’s offense, which relies on play-action, downfield passing and requires blockers to give Stafford time to execute his fakes and let receiver routes develop.
Former first-round pick T.J. Hockenson is an all-around talent at tight end and is in the same mold as All-Pro San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle; both men attended the University of Iowa.
Hockenson is the middle-of-the-field threat, capable of getting vertical down the seams and using his body to wall off defenders and is deceptively quick in-and-out of his breaks. He is a huge key to the Detroit Lions passing game growing along with the health of Marvin Jones. Traditionally, the second year of a tight end’s career produces the single biggest leap in statistics of any year for the position and we wrote about that back in June, link below.
Behind Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta, Hunter Bryant, and Matt Sokol are vying to fill what is likely to not exceed three spots on the final roster. Nauta and Bryant are more of the hybrid, “move” tight end which has traditionally been called things like an “H-back.” Essentially they are part tight end and part fullback.
The fullbacks, Nick Bawden and Luke Sellers are fairly traditional lead-blocker types that offer little as receivers. Depending upon how they look, we could see a scenario where zero fullbacks are kept and four tight ends are; one move tight end and two traditional in-line tight ends would be sure things with the last slot going to the best next player. T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James are almost assuredly a lock to make the final 53-man roster.
Bawden has appeared in ten games in his two years, all of them during the 2019 campaign. He is on the bubble this year, although we are not sure that Sellers is his main challenger. Nauta, rookie Bryant, and Bawden are all likely battling for one or two spots available after Hockenson and James.
Lastly, the running backs have been addressed by multiple draft picks, none more important than second-round pick D’Andre Swift. Swift has garnered comparisons to every great runner from Georgia and people in Detroit are excited to have the most talented player there since Barry Sanders. Of course, Kerryon Johnson is still there, and trying to stay healthy after knee injuries have stalled his promising start.
Where the Detroit Lions have really beefed up their reserves is behind the two high draftees, though. Ty Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Jason Huntley, and Wes Hills offer specialized speed and power skills that give the Detroit offense weapons to choose from. Scarbrough is a power, between-the-tackles thumper, while Huntley and Ty Johnson are speed backs.
Aside from providing a credible threat out of the backfield as ball-carriers, Swift, in particular, has a lot to offer as a receiver and is as dangerous as a pass-receiver as he is a runner. Kerryon Johnson has shown good hands, too, running flares and flat routes to complement the passing game when he is in the game, as well. These check-down options should help Stafford to take fewer sacks and be more efficient as a passer.