MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Did Joseph Fauria meet his expectations last season?

Posted Mar 31, 2014

Catching touchdown passes is an obvious skill and it’s part of what made Fauria a fan favorite, along with his personality and his end zone dances

Joseph Fauria can look back at his schedule of a year ago and compare it to how he is able to enjoy one of the hidden perks in his advanced status of rookie-turned-veteran.

Fauria could rest this offseason. He’s not resting on the laurels he achieved as a rookie with the Lions that were off the charts compared to what was reasonably expected of him as a tight end prospect who was not one of the 254 players – 16 of them tight ends – taken in the 2013 draft.

Fauria has benefitted from the rest and recuperation that are vital for players to recover from the grind of the NFL season. That’s especially true for most rookies such as Fauria, who spent the offseason after his career ended at UCLA working out in an effort to launch a pro career.

Fauria can relate on most levels what the prospects of this year’s draft class are going through.

In a recent visit to Detroit to meet with the new Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff, and take care of personal business, Fauria reflected back on his training schedule of last year. He attended the combine in Indianapolis  but did not participate in physical drills because of a hip injury.

That left him working out for his pro day to enhance his draft status.

“I’d be finishing my rehab and starting to run after the combine,” Fauria said. “I remember how hard I trained.”

Fauria had measurables that scouts look for in a tight end – size (almost 6-8 and 259 pounds), production (20 TD catches, with 12 his senior season) and great hands.

He still went undrafted, which is likely to remain a sore spot with him for the rest of his career, but understands the scouting process from both sides – teams looking to add talent, and players auditioning for jobs.

“All sourness aside,” he said with a healthy dash of irony as he hustled through Metro Airport to catch a return flight home to Los Angeles, “it’s necessary. Just understand the concept that it was you last year that was the guy trying to take someone else’s job, trying to establish yourself.

“Now, someone’s coming for your job. It’s just a crazy concept.”

Fauria shouldn’t have to worry about anyone taking his job. He had 18 catches last season, with seven going for touchdowns.

Did he meet expectations?

“Whose expectations?” he said. "If anything, it was below my expectations. I establish goals and expect a lot out of myself. I know I’m capable of a lot more than what I showed on the football field.”

There is a flip side to questions about hits and misses in the draft. In terms of two free-agent rookies who had substantial playing time and starts with the Lions last year – Fauria and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle – the question is how teams missed taking them in the draft.

Even though players don’t get drafted, the scouting process does not necessarily miss them. All teams, the Lions included, sign free agents after the draft based on their scouts’ reports.

Joique Bell, Ashlee Palmer, Don Muhlbach, David Akers and Shaun Hill all were members of last year’s Lions team who have built substantial pro careers without being drafted.

In his visit to Detroit, Fauria met briefly with Caldwell. Under NFL rules, coaches are not allowed to talk specifics about football in the offseason. Fauria heard enough to get the feeling that he will be more than a red-zone specialist under Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

“It was just be prepared to have an expanded role in making this Detroit Lions team, a winning team,” Fauria said of his conversation, however brief.

From a physical standpoint, Jason Arapoff, the Lions director of physical development, says Fauria should be refreshed when the official offseason conditioning program begins April 7. Rookies do not get much of a break from the end of their college season because of the demands to get ready for the NFL.

“It’s really not the fault of a young athlete leaving college and going to the NFL,” Arapoff said. “The schedule dictates their level of activity. It’s a long haul. They have more than a year of activity without an extended break.

“They’re pretty ground up, physically. Joe learned, like every athlete, that there’s a huge value to rest.”

For the Lions, there’s also a huge value to having a big tight end who can catch the ball.

At the NFL annual meeting in Orlando last week, Caldwell expanded on the potential for expanding Fauria’s role and taking advantage of his physical skills.

“He’s a unique physical specimen,” Caldwell said. “He’s got some unique qualities and talents. The big thing is, there are some things he can do every down. There are some things he can do in passing downs.

“We have to make certain we put him in the best position to excel.”

Catching touchdown passes in an obvious skill. It’s part of what made Fauria a fan favorite. Along with his personality and his end-zone dances.

Brandon Pettigrew will be the every-down tight end, but there is room for Fauria to do more than play in the red zone.

“If you say to me, do I think he’s one of those guys that you put him in a bunch of point-of-attack runs and heavy run-oriented situations, I think you’re misusing him in terms of his talents,” Caldwell said. “The guy is athletic. He can run. He can jump. If you take him and pigeon hole him in one area, I think that’s unfair.

“I think he’s talented enough to play on every down, but I also think he’s a specialized talent that you have to make certain that you put him in the best possible situation.”