LIONS INSIDER

Pettigrew wants to be more of a big-play threat in 2012

Posted Jul 31, 2012

When the Lions were struggling to field a consistent run game at times last season, they relied heavily on tight end Brandon Pettigrew and slot receiver Nate Burleson to be an extension of the run game. Pettigrew had a career-best 83 receptions last year and Burleson racked up a personal single-season high with 73.

“I'm an extension of the run game,” Pettigrew said Tuesday. “When the run isn't going too well, I'm usually filling the void and getting that 5-yard pass. That kind of helps and picks it up making it 2nd and 5.”

But Pettigrew is hoping to have more of an impact down the field this season making bigger plays. He ranked 28th among all tight ends with at least 30 catches last year with a 9.4 average yards per catch. Only Randy McMichael of the Chargers had a lower average (9.0). His seven catches of 20-plus yards or more ranked 19th among tight ends.

“I have had my chances down the field and I haven't always made that big play and I think for me that's what's going to separate me and make me that big time player,” Pettigrew said after practice Tuesday.

Pettigrew has been a terrific security blanket in the middle of the field for quarterback Matthew Stafford. He’s amassed 154 catches for 1,499 yards and nine touchdowns over the last two seasons. But it's rare that Pettigrew's name is ever mentioned in the same conversation with the Rob Gronkowski’s, Jimmy Graham’s and Vernon Davis’ of the NFL -- considered the game’s elite at the position.

“(I’ve) definitely got goals to make it to the Pro Bowl,” Pettigrew said. “I've been trying but you got tight ends in the league that are really doing it, they're putting up a lot more touchdown numbers.

“Gronkowski's absolutely killing the game right now. That's just the challenge for me to step up my game and make that extra play and make the big plays.”

One of the aspects of Pettigrew’s game that sometimes gets overlooked is how effective he is as a blocker. He’s worked himself into a well-rounded overall player since the Lions took him in the first round (No. 20 overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft.”

"Pettigrew’s a very good player for us and he has improved every single year,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “There’s still things he can improve on to be a better player regardless of where his stats are. As long as we’re happy with him in the scheme and we’re producing on offense –we’re putting the ball in the end zone – it doesn’t matter who’s scoring or who’s catching the ball.”

For what it’s worth, Pettigrew has been one of the favorite targets of Stafford early on in training camp. He’s even been a more noticeable presence down the field making receptions.

“You’ve seen everything he does," Schwartz said. "He’s caught a lot of balls down the seam and deep passes and different things like that. I just think with him you’ll see it done a little bit better. You know, a little bit more consistent.”