Joe Fauria -- or better known as "Big Joe Fauria" or "Touchdown Joe" here in Detroit -- made quite the splash during his rookie season for the Lions in 2013.
The undrafted free agent tight end out of UCLA was second on the team behind
Fauria turned out to be a terrific after-the-draft find for the Lions and is he's expected to play an important role in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system.
Lombardi knows a thing or two about good tight end play. He worked with All Pro tight end Jimmy Graham in New Orleans during Graham's first four years in the league.
Lombardi says he's brought the Saints playbook with him to Detroit and that's something that immediately got the attention of Fauria last week.
Joseph Fauria(@BigJoeFauria) February 7, 2014
"I'm fully aware of what that means and I do know who Jimmy Graham is," Fauria said in a phone interview with detroitlions.com.
"I have a similar background to (Graham) with basketball and similar height and the way we play. I'm not calling myself Jimmy Graham, but I strive to have the kind of production he has. I think I can contribute very similarly to how he has with the Saints."
That's a lofty goal for Fauria heading into his second season.
He was an important red zone target for the Lions last year, but the next development in his game is to be more of a factor over the other 80 yards of the football field. He finished the year catching 18 passes for 207 yards with those seven touchdowns.
Graham, who came into the league faster and more agile based on NFL Combine comparisons, had 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season, his fourth in the league. As a rookie in 2010, Graham had 31 catches for 356 yards and five touchdowns.
Fauria said he's talked to new assistant head coach/tight ends coach Ron Prince a couple of times this offseason and said both of them have high expectations for his play in 2014.
"I told (coach Prince) I wanted to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL," Fauria said. "I think anything less than that is reaching low. I told him I wanted to make plays and help this team out."
Fauria is training at Velocity Sports Performance in Irvine, California this offseason with the focus of becoming a more polished all-around player.
"My trainer asked me what I wanted to focus on and I told him, ‘everything,'" Fauria said. "He was like, ‘Not speed? Not strength? Not size?'
"I think it's kind of silly that guys want to fine-tune one or two things. I want to fine-tune everything. We'll see if I can do that these next few months before the season.
"Whether it's the old adage that Joe Fauria can't block -- which I think people that actually watched the season know I can now -- or I'm not fast enough or can't run routes, I just want to keep getting better at all of that and work on my own style of play. I want to be a jack of all trades but I also want to be master of what I can be master of."
Fauria's role could increase exponentially if the Lions and free agent tight end
No matter what happens with Pettigrew, or if the team drafts another tight end, Fauria is expecting to play a bigger part in the offense in 2014.