Fauria proving he's more than just a red zone threat

Posted Aug 14, 2014

The second-year tight end out of UCLA is putting the work in to be a better rounded player in 2014.

Joe Fauria spent 10 minutes after practice Wednesday running extra routes for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the rest of the quarterbacks.

He then sought out equipment assistant Clay Coleman to fire football’s at him while he worked on catching them away from his body for about another 10 minutes.

The second-year tight end out of UCLA is putting the work in to be a better rounded player in 2014. In fact, he's been putting it in the work for some time now. He attacked the offseason with the idea of improving his route running and his blocking and that work seems to be paying off.

Joe FauriaTE Joe Fauria (Photo: Detroit Lions)

While tight ends Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew receive most of the attention and the scrutiny in Lions camp, Fauria has quietly had himself a really good training camp so far.

“He’s been having a real fine camp,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “One of the things that he and I had a little discussion about back during the offseason was that he was challenged by the fact that he thought that everybody kind of pigeonholed him as an individual that was just good in the red zone. That he’s deficient in blocking and things of that nature.

“He set out to prove all the skeptics wrong in that regard because he’s been blocking well. He’s working at it. He’s a linear guy, he’s pretty tall, but he can bend his knees. Obviously, we know what he can do in terms of pass catching. That height is something that you can’t teach and he’s got good hands. He really does provide a natural threat to the opposition.”

Fauria is a natural fit in Joe Lombardi’s offense because of his height and his hands. He’s played out wide, in the slot, been a motion man and has even lined up in the backfield at times. He’s not going to run past a lot of defenders, but he has great body control and terrific hands and the quarterbacks are getting comfortable throwing the ball up high to him and on the back shoulder. There hasn’t been a practice that's gone by where Fauria hasn’t made at least one flash play.

“I’m just trying to string good plays together, whether it’s blocking or catching or whatever,” Fauria said. “I also have to accept failures and mistakes as obstacles to overcome to get better.”

Fauria said one other thing he’s focused on this year is not letting off-the-field issues distract him, whether it’s family, friends or the media.

“As of right now, I’m just working on myself,” he said. “Realizing the outside can get to you a little bit if you let it get to you. It can eat at you.”

Fauria stormed onto the scene last year as an undrafted rookie catching seven touchdowns and becoming one of the most popular players on the team for his touchdown celebrations.

There was always talk about his perceived limitations, however, and he admits he let it get to him.

”We have to realize how to handle that so it doesn’t get in the way of our job,” Fauria said of the outside noise.

It appears turning the noise into motivation has worked for him. He appears to be a better in-line blocker than he was this time last year and also flashes much more playmaking ability outside of the red zone.

We all know what Fauria can do inside the red zone, and the Lions will utilize him heavily inside the 20-yard lines, but he’s making a case that he can be a player who contributes on the other 80 yards of the field. He's also playing special teams.

“We’ve had several practices where I’ve been able to showcase to (coaches) that I’m reliable elsewhere and in other phases of the game besides the red zone and running routes,” said Fauria, who has three catches for 12 yards in the preseason opener vs. Cleveland.

“I am a receiver first, however, but I don’t want to suck at anything. None of us in that tight end room want to suck at anything. We want to be reliable in all facets. Even though we have our strengths, we have to be reliable in every facet.”