Lions still determining what they have at tight end

Posted Jul 3, 2013

Charlie Sanders says Brandon Pettigrew is one of the top 3 or 4 all-around tight ends in the NFL

When it comes to the tight end position for the Detroit Lions, there's Brandon Pettigrew and then the rest.

That's not a knock on Tony Scheffler, Michael Williams, Joseph Fauria or Matt Veldman, it's just that Pettigrew is the only true all-around player of the bunch.

Brandon PettigrewTE Brandon Pettigrew

Detroit Lions assistant director of pro personnel Charlie Sanders called Pettigrew one of the top 3 or 4 all-around tight ends in the NFL in a upcoming alumni roundtable on

Pettigrew is an above-average blocker and has 59 or more receptions in each of his last three seasons, including a club record 83 for a tight end in 2011.

Sanders, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, has some credibility in this department. He certainly would know a thing or two about good tight end play.

Sanders was one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL from 1968 to 1977, earning seven Pro Bowl nods during that span.

Pettigrew is an every-down player at tight end for the Lions. After him, the Lions are very specialized. Scheffler, Fauria and Veldman are good receivers but lack consistency as blockers.

Williams, who the team drafted in the seventh round in April, is an above average blocker but lacks some as a receiver.

"Every one of them brings a different something," Sanders said.

It's not out of the realm of possibility for the Lions to keep four tight ends on the 2013 roster, but it's probably more likely the teams keeps three, which they've done the last couple seasons.

The interesting decision for the Lions will come down to how they want to fill their H-back role.

"That's a title that carries a lot of different characteristics," Sanders said of the H-back role in the Lions offense. "Is he an H-back that you want to use as a receiver like (James) Casey from Houston? He's an H-back, but they used him more in the passing game. Maybe do some whamming.

"You have the H-back that's built like a fullback. You can call him what you want, but he's going to be a lead blocker type guy.

"It depends on the package Scott (Linehan) has for them. But they all bring different qualities. The problem you have is you have Pettigrew and then all the rest."

If the Lions want their H-back to have the same role it did last year, when offensive tackle Riley Reiff played it as an extra blocker, then Williams seems to have the edge.

"To me, the one that fits what we were doing last year more than all of them is Williams," Sanders said. "To do what Riley (Reiff) did. That fits us."

The Lions know what they have in Pettigrew, who just so happens to be on a contract year. They hope to have the rest pretty well figured out by the end of training camp in August.