LIONS INSIDER

Position Preview: Tight Ends

Posted Jul 18, 2013

Twentyman says big decisions loom for the Lions on the tight end front

Training camp continues to creep up on us with the rookies reporting Monday and the veterans just four days later on Thursday.

When it comes to the tight end position, the Lions have some new faces and a few tough decisions to make when it comes to the roster.

We continue our series of looking at the roster position-by-position with a look at the tight ends.

ROSTER (5)

NameHtWtAgeExp.College
Joseph Fauria 6-7 255 23 R UCLA
Brandon Pettigrew 6-5 265 28 5 Oklahoma State
Tony Scheffler 6-5 255 30 8 Western Michigan
Matt Veldman 6-6 255 24 2 North Dakota State
Michael Williams 6-6 270 22 R Alabama

2012 STATISTICS

NameGmsRec.YdsAvg.LngTDs
Joseph Fauria (college) 14 46 637 13.8 36 12
Brandon Pettigrew 14 59 567 9.6 24 3
Tony Scheffler 15 42 504 12.9 57 1
Matt Veldman (w/Jax) – Did not play in game –
Michael Williams (college) 14 24 183 7.6 22 4

BY THE NUMBERS

9: The number of receptions in 2012 for Brandon Pettigrew on plays of 3rd down and 8 or longer, which led the team. Pettigrew was targeted 15 times and made nine catches on third and long. Calvin Johnson was targeted 17 times and made eight catches.
73.9: Percent of the time the Lions targeted tight end Will Heller last year and he made the catch (17 catches on 23 targets). That percentage was 57.8 (59 on 102) for Pettigrew and 49.4 for Tony Scheffler (42 of 85).
118: The total number of catches made by Lions tight ends last year out of 435 total completions, or 26.9 percent. The 117 completions Stafford threw to tight ends was second most in the NFL behind Tony Romo.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

The good: Over the last three seasons, Pettigrew has totaled 213 catches for 2,066 yards. Over that span, he’s set team records for catches (83) and yards (777) by a tight end in franchise history.
The bad: During that same three-year span, Pettigrew has dropped 23 passes, according to Stats, LLC. In 2012, the jump in his fumble totals was a bit alarming. In 2010 and 2011, Pettigrew didn’t fumble once. Last season, he fumbled four times and two of those were lost in crucial situations in losses to Tennessee and Houston.
The fix: Some fans may get down on Pettigrew for some of the drops, but those same fans would miss him if he was gone. He’s a three-down tight end, which means he can do it all when it comes to receiving and blocking. That type of tight end is diminishing as the position has become  specialized over the years. Pettigrew lost 10 pounds this offseason and says he's rededicated himself to fundamentals under new tight ends coach Bobby Johnson.

QUOTE SHEET

"I’m real critical on myself. Just paying more attention to my weaknesses. I think I definitely took a step back last year. I was kind of dinged up a bit, but you’re still expected to make a play. It’s time to get back to what we built (in 2010 and 2011)."

-- Brandon Pettigrew on his approach to the 2013 season, which happens to be a contract year.

Brandon PettigrewTE Brandon Pettigrew

THE DEPTH CHART

Pettigrew is securely entrenched as the No. 1 tight end on this team and is expecting a big 2013 season with defenses having to focus on Johnson, Reggie Bush, Ryan Broyles and others. Pettigrew has been a security blanket for Stafford the last four seasons and is a big target across the middle of the field.

Scheffler's biggest asset is his versatility as a receiver. He’s fast enough to take his hand out of the dirt and stand up in the slot, which is something the Lions have done with him in the past. The alarming stat with him was seeing his touchdowns dip from six in 2011 to only one last year.

Heller was not retained in free agency, which means the third tight end spot is wide open. It really comes down to what the Lions are looking for to fill that spot. Do they want a blocking H-back type? If so, TE Michael Williams, whom the team drafted in the seventh round in April, is a perfect fit.

What about other receiving options? Both Joseph Fauria and Matt Veldman are big-bodied, soft-handed tight ends. They lack a little something in the blocking department, as does Scheffler, but they can make plays in the passing game.

Veldman was going to be Jacksonville’s third receiver last year before tearing his ACL in the preseason. He’ll be in the mix come training camp.

We’ll have to wait and see if Fauria or Veldman can push Scheffler for a roster spot and whether Williams becomes the new H-back with Riley Reiff taking over full time at left tackle.

The Lions have some decisions to make at tight end come the end of August.

2013 POSITION PREVIEWS