How will Eric Ebron affect opposing defenses?

Posted May 14, 2014

Sirius NFL Radio hosts Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan dig deeper into what Eric Ebron’s role in the Lions offense could mean to opposing defensive coordinators.

The NFL is a league of matchups. The No. 1 job of every offensive and defensive coordinator in this league is to find the most favorable matchup on every play and exploit it.

Whether you like the Detroit Lions' selection of Eric Ebron No. 10 overall or not, the rookie tight end will create those matchup problems.

Eric EbronTE Eric Ebron (Photo: AP Images)

Sirius NFL Radio hosts Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan dug deeper into what exactly Ebron’s role in the Lions offense could mean to opposing defensive coordinators.

In Ebron, the Lions have a versatile weapon they can play in-line, split out and move around via motion to utilize his unique size and speed for matchups.

“If I go regular personnel, one tight end, two running backs and two wide receivers, a defense is going to stay regular. It’s what we call regular personnel,” said Miller, who played quarterback for six years in the NFL with the Steelers and Bears.

“Meaning if (the defense) runs a 4-3, it’s going to be four down lineman, three linebackers, and of course, their four secondary players.

“Now if I go Detroit personnel, which is two tight ends, one running back and two receivers, now the defense has to make a decision. They have to decide, ‘Are we going to stay regular defense or are we going to go 4-4 personnel (four down lineman and four linebackers) because you just brought in an extra tight end.”

Where this gets tough for the defense, however, is that Ebron isn’t your typical tight end. Ebron is more of a big, physical, fast receiver who happens to play tight end.

“It’s really the old Shannon Sharpe problem,” Kirwan, who’s a former NFL coach and personnel department staffer, interjected.

Kirwan said most of the time defenses would stay in regular to counter a two tight end set on first down.

“If I go up there and see, ‘Oh they’re staying in regular personnel. Hey guys, explode. Ebron, you’re out at the hash now. You’re the slot receiver. Let’s go Calvin Johnson on the outside to X spot,’” Miller explained.

“Now that defense is going to have to walk out that linebacker, because if they don’t, and they rotate up a safety, now I’ve got single high (safety) and Calvin Johnson is going to kill you if I see single high safety.”

Scenarios like that, according to Miller, are going to put a lot of defenses in a bind.

Ebron is too fast for a linebacker and too big for most safeties and slot cornerbacks.

“Every time you have a hybrid tight end, you win on paper,” Kirwan added. "Every time."

Kirwan said the Lions could be in a situation a lot of times this year when they see three-safety (or big) nickel packages and a lot of zone defense because of his skill set.

Miller then threw another potential wrinkle into the mix if the Lions decide to employ a no-huddle offense featuring Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Reggie Bush. He says it would be a nightmare scenario for opposing defenses.

“They are going to no-huddle the wazoo out of people,” Miller said. “Can (a defense) substitute? I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure on these defenses in the NFC North with what they’re going to be able to do with this Eric Ebron guy.”

Kirwan likened it to a “classic Bill Belichick offense.”

“When he had (Aaron) Hernandez and (Rob) Gronkowski, they were an incredibly dangerous no-huddle team, and you couldn’t be right (on defense)," Kirwan explained. "(The Lions) have a quarterback and have Calvin and you should be a no-huddle team, and shame on you that you haven’t been before now, but with a hybrid tight end (Ebron) and an in-line blocking tight end (Pettigrew), that’s still more of a receiver than a blocker. And oh, that’s Reggie Bush back there. I don’t even think it has to be complicated.”

The biggest take from Miller and Kirwan’s six-minute discussion on the topic of the Lions offense is that they have so many more options now with Ebron in tow. Defenses are going to have a very tough time covering all the matchups, especially in the no-huddle.